Learner’s permit to kill

By Jim Mullen

NEA Columnist

Remember when James Bond out-golfed Goldfinger by one stroke? Bond never practiced, but he played golf like a pro. I play golf twice a week, and I get worse.

Bond walks through the Q’s laboratory, picks up the latest gadget and knows how it works instantly - without ever having read the manual. I can’t even do something on my cell phone with the instructions in front of me.

It takes me 15 minutes in a rental car to figure out how to turn on the lights and the radio and adjust the seats. Jimmy B jumps into the world’s newest and most sophisticated fighter jet and, never having seen it before, he flies it like a Blue Angel.

Yes, I hate him.

I go to a casino and I lose every single hand, every roll of the dice. Bond? It’s like the place is his personal cash machine. He knows all the dealers and all the bartenders. He’s just come to withdraw a few hundred thousand dollars.

The computer I’ve been using for years still figures out new and exciting ways to frustrate me. Bond walks into a strange office and downloads secret files onto a hard disk disguised as a mole on his cheek with the aid of a paper clip and a fountain pen. Could he please come to my house and get my printer and my computer to talk to one another?

Bond flies from London to Rio and before he gets to his hotel, he has three dirt-bike chases, one parachute jump and pilots a mini-submarine to a yacht in the harbor, where he finally meets the second most-attractive woman on Earth, and beds her.

That evening Bond, who carried no luggage, will turn up at a casino in a custom-made tuxedo that can be turned inside out to become a Level 5 Haz-Mat suit. The great mystery of all James Bond films is not how Bond is going to stop the villain from destroying the planet, but how James Bond’s clothes got to his hotel room. You never see him carry any luggage. You never see him standing at the baggage carousel. Who wouldn’t golf, who wouldn’t ski, who wouldn’t program their own computer, who wouldn’t travel if it was really this easy?

I flew from New York to London last year, and I have never been so exhausted in my life. The people in first class looked tired, the people in business class looked tired, the people in my class, abusive coach, looked clubbed and beaten. The flight was so numbing it took only one flight attendant to tie down our drugged and drunken air-rage passenger. Nobody on the plane was up for one dirt-bike chase, and the closest thing to dating was a Charles Bronson impersonator in a muumuu.

My feet hurt, my clothes were rumpled. Don’t 007’s feet ever hurt? Doesn’t he ever get jet lag? Does Bond ever spend two hours going through customs? I wasn’t met at the airport by a sexy female driver with a double-entendre name like Vi Agra who would flirt with me as she drove me to my swank hotel in her brand new BMW convertible.

No, I took mass transit to what had once been a meager one-star hotel but was now seedy and faded. My hotel room had no grand staircase, no gilt furniture, no fresh-cut flowers, no wet bar, no spectacular view. On the plus side, there was no one in the room waiting to kill me. How do you fight in a closet, anyway?

But I did feel very James Bondish. Thanks to the airline, I too, was now luggage-free and shaken. And stirred.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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