Levitating Shards of Glass (IV. Seagate) – Waldo Pardon

I stare at the Hello Kitty face. XTC has an amazing texture. The color is so artificially neon pink but then there’s little blends of darker powder and rougher edges. It’s just like a candy, holding it in my hand makes me understand that happiness can be found anywhere in the world, even though I know on this island it’s very illegal and I could go to jail for it. Probably not for just one pill, but still, I don’t wanna be in trouble with the CCP’s police. My bus is pulling up to the airport. I’m stressed – sweating. My underwear is wet, and my t-shirt too, because right before I left I was skinny dipping by the black rock at Repulse Bay, and since I didn’t have a towel I just used my clothes to dry myself. Anyways, without thinking much I just pop the pill and chase it down with some watermelon juice, I can’t bring it past security anyways and even if I had a legal prescription to hide it in I still wouldn’t wanna risk it. Terminal 1 is crowded. I’m anxious. If somebody notices my pupils are excessively large, or I’m sweating too much, they might snitch on me. But I know it’s fine. It’s just a weird vibe. I go through security, take out my laptop, Seagate disk and toothpaste. Everything else is still in Macau. Security is rude as always, telling me to take off my hoodie which is embarrassing because they’ll notice my clothes are soaked underneath. But I do it and they seem not to care. Afterwards I decide to wander around since it’s still an hour until my gate is announced. I look at stuff I can’t afford now that Naomi will probably sue me; ICW Schaffhausen watches, Boucheron necklaces, Hennessy Ellipse cognac… I couldn’t even afford it before all of this neither but I’m reckless. Sometimes I like to max out on my platinum card just to get extra excited when I see the money pouring in again. It’s like edging. Credit debt can act like increased tension before the orgasm. So I make some small talk with the store’s staff; do you live in Hong-Kong, do you like it etc… I know not to ask uncomfortable political questions about the Xinjiang genocides, bottled Tibetan glacier water, or American cartoons. Turns out the girl who works at Gucci lives in what she calls an “urban village” in Guangzhou. She drives down for 2.5 hours every day just to work at the airport. Sounds a bit to me like commuting from Rhode Island to New York City, because, if that’s what you really wanna do, Rhode Island probably doesn’t have a Gucci store neither. After wandering around in luxury fashion stores for about 30 minutes, I get hungry. The first thing I see is a large McDonald’s, which right now, seeing the state of ecstasy I’m in, seems ok by me. Egg sandwich, egg muffin, pineapple pie, french fries, Sichuan McWings, vanilla shake, filet-o- fish… They got so much stuff. I mean, eating here is terrible though. They don’t have separate kitchens, use the same gear for all ingredients. I shouldn’t do it. But I’m just so hungry and it seems impossible to eat anything else but extremely greasy, processed junk. It can’t be that much worse for your body than digesting synthetic drugs, besides, if I order something sans lactose I should be ok. So I order 9 chicken nuggets and a large coffee, then sit down. The MDMA is starting to affect me and I get uncomfortable about how euphoric I feel. I open the little box of nuggets and see the grease, dripping from the fried chicken skin. I smell the distant in-fried butter and milk powder in- fusing with processed meats. This is like primordial chaos. The smell is so much more intense, and the movement of the oil still spurting like a deteriorating mall-fountain is choking me. I take a quick, small bite, just to get it over with and have something in my system. Then the highest tower of Hong-Kong, depicted on a large frame next to my seat, seemingly jumps out of the picture and collapses right onto me. This isn’t good, it’s like I’m having some sort of panic attack. I need to puke, so I ask the person next to me if they speak English. They say yes, so I leave my backpack and ask if they can watch over it. Again, they say yes, and before I know it I race to the bathroom. I puke twice, one time very much and one time a little bit of black bile. This is definitely a relief. I feel much better, and the XTC is still somewhat in my system. I clean up my mouth with a towel and refresh my face, then go back out to the restaurant. My bag is safe, and so are my coffee and chicken nuggets. Probably I won’t finish them though. “Thanks.” I say to the person who was watching my possessions. They are putting on nail polish. I can’t tell if they’re a boy or a girl. They’re pretty, with long turquoise hair and sharp collarbones, black lustrous eyes.
“Are you ok?” They ask. “No. I just puked.” I say.
“Why’s that? You got a food poisoning?”
“It feels like I did but I didn’t. I know for sure because I haven’t eaten for 2 days.” “So you won’t finish your nuggets?” They say. “No.” I say. “There’s something wrong with them.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. They’re regular chicken nuggets.” They shrug.
“I wouldn’t know, I haven’t eaten regular McDonald’s since, like, that one time in Florida months before my Bar Mitzvah. And now when I was watching the nuggets, I realized why; this is how all disorder in the universe was formed.”
“Chicken nuggets?”
“The frying oil and what flows together in it; buttermilk buns, pork ribs, nugget flour, bacon strips. I mean, really, I’m trying to eat it. I’m trying to be normal like everyone else, but then I see the entropy of the topological grease-patterns, and I notice only all-annihilating chaos.”
“So, like, it’s just the flavor that you hate?”
“I don’t hate the flavor. I love chicken nuggets. But I can’t think about the universe and how these were produced simultaneously, just to cater to everybody.”
“Nobody’s forcing you to think about the universe whilst eating McDonald’s.”
I laugh. “I always think about the universe.”
“What a special snowflake you are. There’s no difference between a eukaryotic cell and its nuclear envelope.” They’re being sarcastic about me but that’s ok. At this point I don’t think there’s any other way to be about me, the Spinozists always find a way to make themselves think they’ve won. “In the same way there’s no difference between a sad memory and the tear it produces?” I ask.
They shake their head. “What’s your name?” I ask.
“Nora Din.” They say, their oceanic hair glittering in the dark green McDonald’s lamp.
Nora seems to love the food here; they’ve at least 4 chili cheese buns, an apple crumble, Baja Blast Cheesecake, mega-bacon-fries, and a Sausage McMuffin’ on their plate. They’re drinking a boba tea. “Uh, so, I’m sorry if this is a dumb question; but what are your pronouns?” I inquire.
“I go by ‘she/her’ pro-nouns, I just started doing bumps of estrogen.” She smiles. Good to know.
“And you?”
“I guess I’m a boy, not taking any hormones or anything. My pronouns are he/him, or if/shem, or however you’d wanna say them.” I say. I still feel my stomach rumbling, like there’s two tectonic plates shifting and currently raw-dog fucking.
“So, if you usually don’t like the food here, why’d you order it then?” Asks Nora.
“I’m on XTC, which is why I’m doing things I don’t understand.”
“The best things happen when you do things you don’t understand.”
“I don’t know if that’s true.” I say, only to be reminded I haven’t introduced myself. “Anyways, my name is Aryeh Yosef.”
She looks at me with suspicious eyes. “Aryeh Yosef? Are you a writer, by any chance?”
My stomach turns once more. “Yeah…” I say.
“That’s such a fucking coincidence. I used to read your poems.”
“My poems? On the internet, you mean?”
“Yeah. I loved them. I mean, I still do.”
I’m going to punch my face. My poems were the worst stuff I ever did. I mean, they were ok, but they were nothing compared to how much better I write today. They were always about how much I understand the world and others don’t, whilst now I can only write about how much I don’t understand the world and others do.
“How’d you find them?” I ask, kind of taken aback.
“I have a friend who loves searching for obscure poetry blogs. Yours was one I checked regularly.”
“That’s so funny. I haven’t written poetry in a while though.” I blush.
“But you’re writing?”
“Well, no. Yes. I did write something.”
“Really? A poem? Can I read it?” Smiles Nora.
I laugh. “No, definitely not. I won’t even re-read it myself, let alone someone else.”
Nora raises her eyebrows. It’s weird to understand the way she looks. She’s beautiful but sad, sad but excited. She seems to be intelligent, but not to focus on it much. Her face is soft and sweet, but feline and stringent. Nora’s hair is sort of like one of these mermaid cosplayers; washed out and greasy, but curly and synthetically glistening.
“Then just tell me what your novel’s about?” She proposes. “Not in a million years.” I say, stretching my back. The stretch feels amazing – I notice how I’m still rolling hard on the MDMA. “How fast time passes only depends upon the way you observe it.”
I stare at the Hong-Kong clock next to us (4:43am), completely desynchronized with the Paris (10:22am), Chicago (2:49am) and Riyadh (12:01pm) clocks that are supposedly a complete set of four (or who knows, another free running clock of Tokyo or Honolulu might be hanging around). “Yeah, time’s all relative when you’re hanging out at an airport McDonald’s.” I smile. She laughs. There’s a weird vibe, but of course the XTC distills my emotions of reluctance and carefulness into redirected hope. Maybe if I tell her about the plot she’ll like it? Maybe if I tell her every detail about my book she will be obsessed with it, so obsessed that she ends up changing my mind and I don’t have to keep trying to destroy it and go through an entire judiciary trial? “Maybe…” I say. “Do you read often?”
“Books? Sometimes… But I don’t have much time to read. I’ve got a full-time job, you know.”
“So you’re not at all in the literary scene? Are you an artist or something?”
“No.” She says. “I work as an Error Correction Decoder at Google Quantum AI in California, although it’s definitely not what I want to do forever.”
“Seriously?” I say. There’s so many cute girls working in computer science right now. “So what’s your job specifically?”
“That’s a tough question. Specifically, I work with researchers on a compiler from abstract quantum circuits to TQEC structures, as well as to transform decoder prototypes into scalable reliable software. On a macro scale though, and more easily understandable, we make useful quantum computing tools available to the world to enable humankind to solve problems that would otherwise be impossible.”
“That sounds amazing. I mean, I don’t know anything about this stuff, except I got a guy fired from Google’s labs in Haifa because they showed me a super rare and secret circuit-based quantum processor.” I say. “So maybe you shouldn’t be talking to me.”
“Why would he show that to you?”
“It was just a sexual game that got out of hand.”
“That sucks for him, man. Did you apologize?”
“I did. I sent him flowers.”
I did sent him the most beautiful flowers I could find that day at my grandma’s house in Ramat Gan, but I never got a response. I’ve always been called insensitive by my ex boy- and girlfriends, but this time I was really trying hard not to be.
“Anyways, isn’t it sometimes weird to detect where the error lies and where it doesn’t?”
“It’s the hardest part of any system. How do you define an error? What does immaculate measurement mean, or fully accurate simulation? You make up the laws as you go. You watch things break and fall, and sometimes in this position you have to make a horrifying decision; have you actually watched something break and fall, or do you ignore it and not think for possibly a million years on how to redirect and fix it, until it comes back to haunt you?”
“Can I ask you something more specific?” I ask, slightly embarrassed. Nora nods softly. “Sure.” She says.
“How do you make such a difficult decision?” I ask.
“Based on what could be above me. The system should be designed as if the enemy is there, in that moment, watching you design it, and you’d still need to win against it.”
“How do you then keep things concealed?”
“You think what you think they can’t think.”
“Well, of course, but I think I just asked you the wrong question. Who is the enemy, then?”
Nora shrugs. She takes another sip from her boba tea and a first bite from one of 4 chili cheese buns. “If I’d tell you, you’d become one. But let’s say I try to hide things from even myself.”
I grin. “Same goes for you, if you want me to tell you about my novel.”
“Really? Why were you writing it in the first place, then? Don’t you want people to admire it, to ponder it and to analyze it? Or you just wanna destroy it in a million different cycles and always lose?”
“Sure, the money and the fame would’ve been cool. But most of all I wanted to make sense of the world.”
“That’s noble of you, but nearly impossible.”
“Yeah, but lest we forget, you said you were in the business of using quantum computers to solve problems that otherwise were impossible for humankind to solve, so why not solve that what seems impossible?”
“Sure. Why not? We can always try.”
“Anyways,” she says “I’ve become very curious about your work through everything you’ve said. I know you don’t want to talk about it, but this is another law of gravity; the more weight you give to it, the more it’s lifted up in conversation.”
I laugh. “You see, I know I’ll have to talk about it someday. I know I can’t live and pretend nothing happened, that I wasn’t writing a 555-page novel for the past 4 years. I know that. I know I can’t ghost it nor reroute and redirect it through a vacuum of inevitable waste, but in my dream the novel is just a state television screen.”
“How many words is it?” Nora asks.
“138.761 words.”
“And how many chapters?”
Oh G-d, I shouldn’t be saying any of this, but the drugs are absolutely forcing me to do it. “36.” I disclose.
“That’s a lot of chapters. Do they have titles?”
“No. They don’t. Trust me, it’s a very boring piece of writing. There’s some characters and there’s the main characters and there’s an object that is somewhat central, and then there’s the location of course; they’re all just going nowhere and somewhere, nowhere in life, somewhere on paper.”
“It sounds like, no matter your emotional attachment to the work, you’ve put a lot of work into it. You must feel some kind of way about its personalities, and the dialogues, and the poetics of it.”
“I do.” I admit. “But I feel much more about protecting myself, my family, my legacy, and my family’s legacy.”
“Where is it set, the story I mean?”
“New Jersey. It’s set in an aquarium in Passaic, which is 10 minutes from Newark and about half an hour from the city.” I’m going to tell the whole entire story now. I know myself. I’ve already screwed up when I took a pill and thought I’d be able to stay calm and collected eating breakfast by myself. I’ve never eaten breakfast by myself without ending up in serious trouble, and today is no different. I’ve seriously messed up.
“I want to hear more. I’m just curious! I promise.”
“Well…” I hesitate. The XTC is hammering my brain, raining and spewing its chemical seeds all over my pathetically weak limbic system. “Ok then.”
Nora smiles. She’s achieved something amazing; something incredibly unique and sad.
“So…” I begin; “it’s basically about a guy named Jared Grensfelder, who lives in Maplewood with his parents. He’s kind of a loser, you know. He’s 25, doesn’t have a girlfriend and only listens to stuff like electro-Breslov, Cocteau Twins and Yossele Rosenblatt. His twitter handle is “@AntiOrpheus”, he eats at Taco Bell every day and obsesses over Heidegger and his stockpile of Black Forest ramblings (which, ironically, he only reads in Hebrew), since Jared finds him to be the only philosopher who’s ever dreaded the irreversible passage of time as much as he does. He says; “one day, we too will be like poor fallen leaves”, “everything anywhere always looks the same”, and “I only wait for when there’s nothing left to wait for.” But there’s one thing Jared is extremely talented and well-skilled at, and it’s fixing glass. He works at a company named Melech Lichtenberg Glassworks & Co., which is owned by his maternal uncle whom lives in Newark. For 4 years he’s been fixing glass, and he’s gotten really great at it. Not hard; Melech Lichtenberg Glassworks is known to be the best glass-fixer in the United States of America, if not the entire world. Besides Jared, there are 10 to 20 other employees depending on how much business there is, but usually it’s always Jared. He’s kind of Melech’s favorite employee, of course, he’s expected to take over the family business when he’d quit. Jared hates it though, no matter how good he is at making glass, he can’t get much satisfaction out of it. He can’t get satisfaction out of much, anyways. Jacking off to Neon Genesis hentai, thinking about how he could make computer software dream. One day he gets a new job at the aquarium in Passaic; he’s content. It’ll take him 2 weeks to finish the assignment and it’s paying well, he’s been saving up to get his own place- and car. The task is to fix a tiny hole in an underwater glass tunnel that runs through the beluga whale tank. It’s consistently leaking a small amount of filtered saltwater, but the main problem is the pressure this hole is putting on both sides of the glass wall. It’s not a big deal, though; Jared has brought the best tools and experience with him. After all, he’s working for the best glass-fixer in the United States, if not the entire world. It’s an easy job. He shows Captain Batavia (who manages the Passaic Aquarium) the device they use to fix glass, which consists of three main parts;
1 – a built-in quantum tunneling microscope, which detects exactly where the (sub-)atomic error lies within the amorphous silica glass, that is sometimes called ‘the crowbar’.
2 – a quantum cascade laser, which emits photons at the far-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and is able to bring things like quantum dots and quantum wires to light, sensing with certainty that fixing the problem won’t cause a bigger one, that is occasionally called ‘the little boy with a short piece of rope’, although 2 or 3 out of 10 to 20 workers prefer to call it ‘the mucous nail.’
3 – an epitaxial protheses filament made of electrified sand, which in fact looks a 100% identical to glass but is much stronger than it, often called ‘the binder’.
The entire device together is named the ‘Old Gabe’s Milk-Giver’, since Old Gabe was Melech Lichtenberg’s great-grandfather, a Litvak, whom arrived at Ellis Island from Minsk, and was a very clever man who was pretty inventive with American technology. The device is a bit of a company secret, the clients and curious gossipers know about its existence but cannot see it- and even if they see the device by accident they certainly cannot touch it. First day on the job, of course Jared brought it with him, he knows how to work it like Apollo played the lyre, or Athena performed flute for her little army of pygmy owls. Old Gabe’s Milk-Giver is like his musical instrument of choice; when it’s time to use the binder, after 6- or 7 or sometimes 10 long days of assessing and experimenting with different generations of the mucous nail, he nearly gets a hard-on. It’s a genius invention, so genius that people outside of having used- or being able to use it will never, ever understand…”
“You’re saying all it does is cut glass, insert the device as a temporary filament for the hole, and let the vacant atoms that are now just gas slowly solidify as high-quality synthetic glass of electrically petrified sand?”
“Instead of replacing the entire glass structure, you can just fix a little hole or shattered bit in no- time. No need for everything to break – that’s in the past. And ‘the little boy with a piece of rope’ absolutely makes sure that everything is brought to light and the light is not too strong to break the glass again.”
“I see. So if I understand correctly, the story is based around this technology?”
I nearly snort. What? This is exactly why I don’t discuss my work with anyone else. There’s more misunderstandings than someone even genuinely listening. “No.” I say, the fuming smell of Nora’s pork loin McMuffin severely agitating my stomach. “It’s just a side-line thing. The entire narrative is structured around Jared in the glass tunnel. The glass tunnel in the beluga tank; with metal rigs that are so beautifully flowing into the Arctic-blue color of water like the positions of hydrogen atoms smeared out into 14 pairs of correlating rings, exactly formed like 15-Crown-5 crown ethers with formula (C2H4O)5. The vacuum separating oxygen and nitrogen from water is now risking total collapse, and it’ll succumb to the filtered saltwater that is presently inhabited by Bering Strait otters, harbor seals, sea stars, penguins and of course the one magnificent beluga whale. What can he do about it? He just wants to do his job. Until after his first day is done, and he’s already structured the placement of Old Gabe’s Milk-Giver around the hole, Captain Batavia suddenly shows up with some weird, sketch-ass sunglasses on (there’s no sunlight in the tunnel) and a leather briefcase. Jared’s kinda confused, “what is this guy doing?”, but when the Captain opens up his briefcase he notices piles and piles of U.S. dollars in cash. It counts up to one million. The Captain tells him that they are attempting to let the tunnel shatter and collapse in onto itself, so that they will receive funding from the owners for a new automatic control system, as well as then transforming the tank into an Open Sea exhibition with just one large rectangular window and a hanging bridge installed over the pond, that will radiate artificial sunlight with the same non-ionizing UV emissions as a summer day in Western Alaska. Jared is confused. It’s all just on paper, he guesses, that he had to come over and attempt to fix it but even with the device it couldn’t be done. And then the hole seemed to be closed but even when you close a hole there’s still a femto-scale gap that starts to tear and establish itself as, once more, a cavity which desperately wants to be filled up with ‘something.’ It is not the consciousness of the hole itself, but the pushing pressure from a single side that is making it think this. However, that’s not possible with the device; so if he lets himself be bribed by the Captain it’ll mean that Melech Lichtenfeld and his great-grandfather’s legacy will be infinitely dragged down into the same deep depths as the Open Sea exhibit. The device will lose its function, the glass-fixer company will lose its purpose, and the glass tunnel will not let anything pass through it anymore. Where there was once a water tunnel there’ll be only just water. But what can he do? If he refuses to deliberately fix the glass so that it will not be fixed but actually set up to shatter later on, people might die, and not just his uncle but especially he will be to blame, maybe sued, and then where’ll the Captain be to admit that Jared was bribed by him for the sake of extra funding (and probably bonus salaries) for an Open Sea exhibit? What goes on here, at the Passaic Aquarium, behind the scenes? Are there rumors about the already-existing dangers of the tunnel that Jared doesn’t know about? Is it engineered so that, indeed, it’s cheaper to just let it collapse in a controlled manner than it is to systematically de-install it, that taking it apart will cost much more than the one-million U.S. dollars that he’s being offered? He tells the Captain he’ll think about it, and the Captain of course tells him in return that he doesn’t have so long. That’s when, starting from the next day, Jared begins to observe the tunnel and what lies behind the glass; especially the beluga whale, but like-wise the coral, the robotic fish-drones that have cameras placed into their black, beady eyes, and the sea stars that, on the 4th of July, carry little American flags. I was inspired by my own visits to the seahorse kingdom in the Mall of America Aquarium, where I observed a pregnant male seahorse for nearly 3 days and named it Gershom. Jared has his own way of dealing with the situation, but the beluga whale speaks to him specifically. The two eyes of the whale are like symmetrical windows of abandoned Sephardic synagogues giving light to him; what will it matter for this creature if the tunnel were to be gone? It is magnificent either way. Jared thinks he could move to Miami, buy a cheap penthouse on South Beach and use the remainder of the money to set up a new business. He could even steal the device for himself and never talk to his family again; most of his family doesn’t necessarily like him, anyways. He notices the manual cleaning and filtering of the water, often by the intern who’s tired and sore and always complains about the wretched, filthy harbor seals, and thinks that, indeed, an automatic system would buy the aquarium’s staff some time to think about more important stuff, like colors and shapes and forms. “The new automatic system will make the aquacosm run as flawlessly as a Swiss watch”, and; “we could fire at least 20 staff members and save up more than $20.000 a month” – these were the Captain’s words. Six days pass and Jared Grensfelder still hasn’t made a final decision, until he arrives at work one morning holding tightly onto the steel handles and sapphire knobs of Old Gabe’s Milk-Giver; the beluga whale was murdered. Clouds of deep red blood floating, rippling serenely within the light blue mass of water, a chopped off fin, four stabs in the beluga’s white-skin melon, which is the name for the animal’s bump, and a spear which enters the creature’s smiling mouth and exits its split-up flukes. It was the Captain, to intimidate and pressure Jared into making a decision. He is now stuck in the tunnel with a dead beluga, mutilated and tortured, and the dear device is still penetrating the hole that is now holding back tons of liters of unfiltered water and blood. How does he get out of this situation…?” I say, but it’s fucking ridiculous. I’m engaging Nora like it’s really my story, as if only on MDMA I’m able to own it. But it’s not my story, it’s barely a story – it’s a dot onto a painting or a dried up blade of grass.
“Yeah…” She says. “So he just fixes the glass and leaves?”
“I think he realizes a lot of stuff about the tunnel. There’s lots of tunnels and not all of them are made of glass, but the ones that are made of glass are often to superconduct something like photons, a gaze, the warmth of a human hand pushing the surface. And being observed is not good enough for it to be sustained. So he just kind of cries for the beluga, he sings for her and mourns her, and then he gets up and leaves.”
“Is that really how it ends?” Nora seems a little turned off.
“Well, it just kind of ends because it’s not his responsibility. He takes the device and leaves the situation before it escalates. It’s not his story anymore. But before all that, he simply updates the website; ‘we don’t fix tunnels anymore.’ It’s not their job; tunnels either work or they don’t, glass holes that need to be fixed should contain gas from both sides of the surface. It’s a simple rule that he’d learned.”
“I see. Well, good for him. I think there might be something there, Aryeh, in this story of yours; but it’s extremely rushed and not very thought-through. Are you sure you have something to say, or are you just filling up a gap?” I don’t want to answer, because I don’t understand her question. What’s a gap? I don’t know. My mouth and asshole are both technically gaps but at least they’re functional.
“Anyway.” I say. “I was only looking for a story to tell and I came up with this, and now it needs to succumb and perish. If you know anyone that could help me, without resorting to cosmological extremes, you can let me know. This story needs to evaporate from this world, whatever it takes.”
“I’ll think about it. Maybe I do know a way.” She says, wiggling her eyebrows.
I check the clock; 5:10 in Shanghai, which should be the same timezone as here. Wait, no, all these clocks are running amok, so I check my phone; 5:15. Even worse. The gates will literally close in 15 minutes. I gotta go. “As I’ve said, it’s a horrible book. That’s why you’re never going to read it, nor will I. One way or another it’s gonna be destroyed, even if it’ll cost me all of my life savings on lawyer fees, even if I’m gonna have to go to U.S. federal prison.”
“If you say so, nobody’s above the law” Nora shrugs. “I know you gotta run. It was nice to meet you, Aryeh.”
“Yup.” I say, and I give her a brief hug. I’m tired and my brain already seems exhausted, which is weird, MDMA should usually last at least a little longer than two-and-a-half hours. After I leave McDonald’s I start running towards my gate, making sure I still catch my plane. I check the info screen; 12 minutes left to make it, gate number 28.