photo credit: kevin dooley
You walk past the smiling faces of the crew and then stop for the guy who just can’t seem to fit his stuffed carry on in the overhead locker above his seat. Only, you realize this before he does. As you knew he would, he turns around and quickly jams it into the locker on the opposite side, while completely steering clear of any eye contact with you or even so much as looking at your face. It’s not like he can’t step aside for a second and let you pass but he would much rather get this task out of the way and settle down with the latest copy of Open Skies.
He finally slips into his seat and lets you move on. Your eyes scan the seat numbers, and the faces of other passengers, all the while hoping that you’re not going to be seated next to a drooling weirdo who in his childlike slumber leans towards you, his head in gross invasion of your already cramped personal space. A sense of relief comes over you when you see there’s no one on the seat next to you. Yet. You don’t want to get too excited or think about how nice it would be if you could stretch your arms out without having your elbow jab someone’s nose every time.
You can’t help looking at every one walking down the aisle with curious, questioning eyes even as their eyes are now scanning the faces, among which one is yours. Then you see him. Your eyes meet, and you both instinctively know that you’re going to be neighbours for the next seven hours. You look at his face and wonder; over-friendly and talkative? Or just a regular guy who does not have the pressing need to pry your life story out of you?
He nods his head in greeting, forces a polite smile and slumps into his seat. You find yourself hoping that he’s not one of the below co-passengers you wished you’d never been seated next to.
He dozes off even before take-off and you wonder how he was able to ignore the noise of the engines. Then, you hear his thunderous snores and you can’t even hear yourself think anymore. It doesn’t help that the low sound quality of the earphones provided are no match for his resounding beats.
He seems to forget that his elbows are connected to his body and surrenders total control over them. He feigns ignorance even when they’ve stepped over the thin line of his constituency and ventured into yours, often rudely jabbing into you. You shift uncomfortably in your seat but he doesn’t take the hint. You ask him politely. He nods sheepishly and withdraws, only to stick his elbows into you again, a few minutes later. You try to lean away from him but there isn’t any room. Nothing works; you’ve been cornered by an elbow-er.
Mr. Can’t Shut Up
Barely a minute after he’s settled into his seat, he greets you and introduces himself. You’re tired but a little friendly banter never killed anyone, so you don’t mind. He asks a bunch of questions; where you’re from, what you do, where you’re going, why you’re going and then some more. He’s also giving you a lot of information about himself. His little sister works at Bloomingdale’s. His aunt travelled to India last summer and loves yoga. His dog is his best friend and he wishes he could’ve brought him along. His cousin works for Qantas and thinks it’s the best airline ever.
You nod politely but don’t comment because you really want to feast your eyes on the latest copy of National Geographic that’s been resting on your lap patiently for the past hour. The one you bought at the magazine stand at the airport to read on the flight.
You see his drowsy eyed face, as he hides his runny red nose behind a flimsy tissue and feel sorry for him. It’s unfortunate to suffer from a cold when you’re flying, airplanes can get uncomfortably chilly. But then he begins to sneeze, and he can’t seem to stop. A few drops land on the side of your face, like sea spray, only you know that it isn’t sea spray. You’re beginning to get irked and you make it known. He struggles with mumbling an apology but before he can finish, out comes an explosive sneeze and you’re covered in repulsive moisture again. This continues a few more times but there’s nothing he can do about it. You lean away from him and pray for it to stop.
Mr. Clumsy Eater
Just when you’re grateful that you’ve neither been poked at nor drooled upon by your neighbour, the meal trays arrive and you realize that the voice inside your head spoke too soon. Mr. Clumsy Eater has a hard time keeping the food on his tray within his territory and you watch helplessly as crumbs and the occasional olive (or two) land on your skirt. He doesn’t even notice until he spills his orange juice on you and then mutters a nonchalant excuse for an apology.
Mr. One Too Many
He’s beginning to get a little too comfortable after a few drinks and the one too many Gin & Tonics in him want to get chatty with you and everyone else on the plane. You’re not sure who he’s talking to but suddenly he has a lot to say. He turns to look at you and smiles to express his joy of inebriation. You know he’s about to say something that you’re not going to be able to respond to, even if you tried out of politeness. Politeness is over rated anyway.
He’s finished his fifth drink, or sixth and he’s looking at his empty glass with the eyes of a child who just had his candy floss yanked from his hand. A minute later, he is standing up and waving at the stewardess who can’t act anymore like she hasn’t seen him. Then he yells, “Hey la-y-dyyy, I need a G&T!” Just about everyone else on the flight turns around to look at him and they catch sight of you. You hear them think, “She’s stuck with that guy”. Yes. She is.
As the aircraft settles at a comfortable altitude, you snap out of your thoughts and your body begins to relax. Out of the corner of your eye, you see him fast asleep buried under his coffee coloured blanket. You can’t even see his face. You thank the Universe and flip open your National Geographic.