The people of Delta flight 528 hate me: the young mother of two, the older man in a faded yellow polo, the businessman glaring at me over his Blackberry, the lady who is who is either a forty-something with bad skin or a seventy-something with great skin. I have failed to charm the flight attendant as well, probably because I’m shoveling forkfuls of General Tso’s Chicken into my mouth. The aroma is driving everyone wild with desire. This might be more effective than that pheromone perfume that came out a few years ago.
I’m not sure why. This is not a noteworthy General Tso’s chicken, cited in a foodie forum, from some amazingly-authentic-yet-obscure Atlanta Szechuan dive. This is rubbery, airport, fast food, General Tso’s. It’s soggy, overbreaded, and coated in a sickly-sweet pepper flecked sauce. The accompanying fried rice exists only for texture; bubble wrap packs more flavor per square centimeter. And the mixed vegetables swim in a gluey gravy, although they are surprisingly crisp-tender.
But you’d never guess I wasn’t relishing every bite; and doused with a hearty helping of soy sauce, I actually might be relishing every bite. I’m ravenous. It’s been a gruesomely long day of travel and meetings, with nary a moment for a meal (shameful!). And there's not a lot of stupendous food choices in Concourse A of William B. Hartsfield International Airport. Then I realize: this is the kind of thing most people eat on a regular basis. I look around at the people who hate me, wondering if they’re jealous because of hunger or genuine food envy?
Then, a stroke of luck: someone has a peanut allergy and the flight attendant informs us, in a most confidential tone, that peanuts will not be served. A cloud of irritation hangs over coach class (I’m sure first class will be allowed to roll around naked in piles of peanuts if they choose.) and the community ire shifts from me, despite the lingering scent of General Tso’s legacy.
I finish my greasy meal, hunger sated. Next time, I’ll smuggle some good Southern cooking on board: maybe some saucy barbecue ribs or biscuits and gravy or crispy, crackly fried chicken. Maybe all of it. Because if they're going to hate me, I might as well give them something worth hating me over.