It was a tsunami of khaki pants and loud plaid

by Creative Junkie on November 3, 2010

Have I shared with you how very much I detest flying? And I don’t mean that in the I apologize for the inconvenience, folks, but there are 52 planes ahead of us so it’ll be another week or so before we take off so sit back and relax as much as you can in that puny amount of space you paid $225 for and think back fondly to the time that we’d have gotten you all liquored up for free while you waited, maybe even giving you a complimentary blanket and pillow, well before the airline industry took a faceplant into the shitter and started charging you $25 per checked bag and $2 for a bag of stale peanuts kind of way, although that one does suck the big wazoo.


When I flew down to North¬† Carolina recently, I had a connection in Washington’s Dulles Airport. The first leg of the trip was fine as I had an aisle seat which is a good start to any trip that requires me to defy gravity while sharing leg room, recycled deadly toxins and potentially lackluster emergency flotation devices with total strangers. And as luck would have it, there was no total stranger occupying the seat next to me and I’m just going to go ahead and assume that God overslept, thereby missing a perfect opportunity to screw with my pathological germophobic tendencies and aversion to small talk and yes, I know, I’m usually all about talking, big or small, with perfect strangers because when you’re married to a man who thinks “Negatory. Next?” constitutes an in-depth conversation, you become Pavlov’s dog whenever anyone within a two mile radius opens his or her mouth to speak. Nevertheless, I just can’t manage pleasantries with anyone when I’m hurtling through the air at a million miles an hour while strapped inside a ginormous vibrator with wings built by the lowest bidder.

With an empty seat next to me, I didn’t have to be brave and I was free to quietly freak out with no witnesses during both takeoff and landing because hurtling through the air at a million miles an hour while strapped inside a ginormous vibrator with wings freaks me the hell out and I don’t care how many times Nate tries to comfort me beforehand by whipping out his ven diagrams and power point presentations to demonstrate the science of flight because the words “speed,”¬† “lift” and “thrust” together mean only one thing to me and it’s pretty damn enjoyable and has nothing to do with vibrators unless I’m really desperate and Nate’s out of town so STOP RUINING SEX FOR ME, NATE.

That freedom to freak out almost made up for the twenty-two escalators and people movers and trams I had to fling my body and carry-on onto in order to get through Dulles to Gate A to make my connection in twenty minutes. What the hell, Dulles? Why don’t you just go stand over there next to your buddies Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and London Heathrow and then you all can whip out your penises and get it over with already?

The second leg of my trip down to North Carolina didn’t go as smoothly as the first because I spent the majority of it shoved up against a window. Why? Because the passenger sitting in the aisle seat next to me was morbidly obese. That, in and of itself, was not the problem so all of you foaming at the mouth and just itching to staple that Marie Claire article to my tongue and burn me in effigy, CALM DOWN. I couldn’t care less if someone is obese in real life or on TV because it wasn’t that long ago when I was a bit chubby and causing scales all over western New York to run screaming for the hills my own self.

Had this man just sat down with no incident, we’d have gotten along just fine and by just fine, I mean that no matter his weight, I’d have still spontaneously grabbed his hand and squeezed off his blood supply during takeoff and landing and turbulence, all while screaming incessantly at him to tell Nate and the kids that I love them and that Nate can’t re-marry for at least 35 years after my death and then he would have reported me to the flight attendant and I’d have probably been detained by Homeland Security and thereafter arrested for physical assault and we’d have spent a good amount of time together filling out stupid paperwork under ghastly fluorescent lighting and getting to know each other over shitty coffee or, in my case, shitty hot chocolate.

But he didn’t just sit down. Instead, when he took his seat, I believe he inadvertently pushed up the armrest between us and I’m saying inadvertently because I like to give people who did not burst forth from my abdomen after sixty hours of labor, leaving me with 800 stretch marks and an ugly scar, the benefit of the doubt. Because the alternative of him having done it on purpose is beyond rude and I’d like to think that no one is capable of that kind of rudeness unless they’re running for office and think filling your kid’s’ halloween bag with VOTE FOR ME stickers is a great marketing tactic.

This raising of the armrest allowed his girth to, shall we say, surge forth? I felt kind of like New Orleans when the levies failed except Anderson Cooper wasn’t reporting live from my lap, damn it all to hell.

In a matter of seconds, his weight became my problem.

I wiggled around in my seat, which still cost me the same amount of money as it had twenty seconds prior even though it was now much smaller, and tried to somehow pull the armrest back down between us but it was completely blocked by the man’s shoulder. I tried to politely ask him to scooch over a bit so that I could use the armrest but do you know what “Excuse me, do you mind scooching over a bit so that I can use the arm rest?” sounds like when you’re sitting directly over engines, under a steady flow of those recycled deadly toxins and somewhere near a wailing baby? Me neither. But I’m guessing it’s something like ZZZZZZHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGGG WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH ZZZZZZHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGGG to the tenth power.

The forty minute flight was sold out and this man didn’t smell or sweat profusely or sneeze on me and because he actually glanced in my direction and smiled politely once or twice, I’m wondering if he was even aware of what was happening. So I gritted my teeth and sucked it up and I did this by scooching farther to the left myself and taking really shallow breaths while peering out the window with only my left eyeball which was not as hard as it sounds since it just happened to be smooshed against it at the time. Because really, what was the alternative? If I had complained and asked to move, where was I going to move to? Checked baggage? The cockpit? The lavatory? Because we all know how I feel about public toilets and crossing state lines in a vertical coffin with a cheap lock and questionable plumbing was almost as bad as the predicament I found myself in and at least in my expensive half seat, there was supposedly an oxygen mask directly above me in the event of an emergency like, say, being asphyxiated by a large mammal. And even if I had pitched a wicked hissy and demanded use of the armrest, who was going to volunteer to amputate the guy’s left hemisphere to make it happen?

Just curious … how would you have handled the situation?




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