He made me do a double take at my backpack

29 03 2010

Up in the air... at 30,000 feet, a snapshot of the Singapore Airlines plane I was on on a flight from Malaysia to Singapore.

THAT, AND text my superhero friends – Superman, Batman, and Cezter (yes!) – about everything he said and did that resonated with me.  I’ve worked with someone (almost) like him twice in the past.  And I have to tell you, it was never easy.  His job is and will never be easy.

But Ryan Bingham, played with a smug glow of self-gratification by the George Clooney, does manage to make it look all too easy.  In Jason Reitman’s Academy Award-nominated picture “Up In The Air,” Ryan is a corporate hatchet man – oops, a career transition counselor, to be politically correct about it – who flies all over America, firing people.  Yes, he makes his living by ridding other people of theirs.  But oh, saying “firing” could get him into trouble.  It should be “letting go of people.”  He faces these people and icily sticks the knife into their hearts, declaring their jobs to have either become “redundant” or “no longer available.”  And that they are being let go.

I say “icily” because no matter what these people’s reactions are, nothing is going to ruffle Ryan Bingham’s composure.  So, unruffled as he is, he unleashes his signature line: “Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now.  And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it.”  Quite cheesy to hear for someone who just realizes someone has moved his or her cheese!  And yet, Ryan Bingham chooses to finish off each “letting go” – okay, “firing” – with this line as he whips out a folder that summarizes the severance package, as well as the career transition assistance he offers.

Once he has freed up more swivel chairs and more desks, he’s back pulling his standard, nondescript carry-on luggage, through yet another airport check-in counter.  He breezes through X-Ray and body scanning not only because he packs light (just the way I do it too!) but because he has reduced traveling to a science and an art down pat (he knows very well to line up behind Asians!).

I sat in the movie theater – by my lonesome – feeling that Ryan Bingham has reduced his own life to an endless series of business trips.  He keeps racking up millions of miles (“I have a number in mind and I just haven’t hit it yet.”) and doesn’t look afraid that it may be all he has to show for.  His rationale in spending even his per diem – like the $40 he gets for each dinner – is only towards its conversion to more miles.  He sheds any form of attachment, a philosophy he hawks to packed hotel ballrooms in speaking engagements called, “What’s In Your Backpack?”  He says that “your relationships are the heaviest components of your life” and I believe him.  After all, he couldn’t even establish a relationship with his one-bedroom, enough to look forward to coming back to it from 30,000 feet up in the air.

While documentary-like snippets of the fired employees almost thrust the issues of a downsized America to my face, I couldn’t help but wonder that “Up In The Air” could very well be more a metaphor on Ryan Bingham’s life.  Everything was, as the title says, up in the air.  And while delayed realization on family, relationships and purpose in life comes to our protagonist – courtesy of a fling with fellow frequent flier Alex and showing the ropes of the business to corporate newbie Natalie (Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, respectively) – it does feel late in the game.

I felt so sorry for Ryan Bingham that when he finally got the ten million miles he has been dreaming of, he doesn’t have the carefree spirit to stare at the big airport airline destinations board, pick a city, and just go.

I didn't know I was channeling Ryan Bingham when I stood in front of the Glorietta 4 cinema schedule board initially undecided on which movie to watch. I decided on "Up In The Air," arguably one of the best pictures I have ever seen!

 

Copyright © 2010 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

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