Have you ever wanted to stab your airplane seatmate in the eye? I’m embarrassed to admit that wasn’t my first inclination on a return flight to Key West last week, when I texted my friend Scott that I wanted to punch a bunch of someones in the face before takeoff. A group of tourists behind me reeked after apparently spending every last minute of their three-hour Atlanta layover in the smoking lounge, and it really pissed me off.
Then I developed a very strong allergic reaction to the girl sitting next to me in the window seat, who gabbed on her phone until we were about to take off. It didn’t help her case that she was trying to give her puppy away. Then she needed to get up so she could stow her stupid fedora. With dramatic flair I sighed, looked at the lady on the other side of the aisle, rolled my eyes, then stood up quickly in a huff to let her out into the aisle and promptly banged my head on the overhead bin. Hard.
I texted Scott that she became top dog on the list of potential punching bags. He suggested I channel my anger that very moment into a column. I replied that I didn’t even have a pen, and he wrote, “to jam in her eye?” And that’s when I realized you should always be prepared for travel emergencies such as this.
Naturally we had to sit on the runway for an extra 30 minutes while they located a bolt for something like the luggage net. Keeping up a hostile attitude can be exhausting, but once it’s established you can’t really let it down, except when you’re politely ordering Bloody Marys from the flight attendant. Or when you hit the kind of turbulence that makes you wonder if the person sitting next to you is the last face you’ll see before you die.
And yep, that’s what happened on our flight. The plane dipped, I heard myself making some weird strangled exclamation that I can’t even put into words, and damn it, I turned to look at her and she looked at me and we were both totally freaked out. We had our little turbulence bonding moment.
Then she made it even better by saying that she’s a flight attendant and this was some pretty scary stuff.
I still wanted to hate her, even though, like me, at the start of the flight she removed her shoes and put on soft fluffy travel socks, and drank from a recycled water bottle instead of overpriced tap water from a plastic bottle that takes up to 1,000 years to disintegrate in a landfill. So after all the turbulence hoopla died down I ordered another Bloody Mary and never looked her way again.
Sitting on a plane and watching people coming up the aisle, hoping this one won’t be your seatmate, or that one will (very very very rare), is like being on the losing end of a lotto ticket. Seated in my row on a flight to New York was a jackass with a Napoleon complex who was desperate to impress the athletic 20-something guy in the middle seat with his new phone. I chimed in something about it and it was as if I said nothing. Whatever.
When the flight attendants instructed us to turn off all electronic devices and prepare for takeoff, he had to prove to his fantasy boyfriend that he was one of the cool kids and started texting away. I told him to turn it off and he told me to mind my own business. I loudly proclaimed for the benefit of everyone seated around me that I wasn’t going to die at takeoff so some jerk could impress the guy next to him with his cell phone technology. Then I hit the flight attendant button, called the guy out, and let me tell you this made for quite the pleasant three hour flight.
On my last early morning flight out of Key West, moms with young children were seated behind me and in the row across the aisle. I decided that listening to their computer storytime thing at full volume was better than listening to the kids fight or cry. And like a scene straight out of a fairytale, when the drink cart finally reached me I was told that friends sitting a few rows ahead had paid for the alcoholic beverage of my choice. Maybe they saw the kids behind me and knew I’d need it. Or maybe they just didn’t want to drink alone at that hour. Whatever the case, thanks guys!
I used to hate the cattle call to board a Southwest Airlines flight, but now I’m hoping those happy days will be coming soon to Key West, because there is no assigned seating and you can choose the lesser of the evils in a seatmate. And there’s always the hope that no one will sit next to you at all. On these flights I take an aisle seat, wad up some tissues and toss them in the seat next to me, and when someone actually looks like they might be interested in sitting there I fake coughing my lungs out. It works like a charm, except on sold out flights.
So if you’re unfortunate enough to be seated next to me on a flight, stay off your phone, keep your arms on your side of the armrest, don’t speak until spoken to, and we’ll get along famously. Or just buy me a Bloody Mary, as I can be easily bribed into a little feigned friendship.