I took a flight to Phoenix on Southwest Airlines who do not have assigned seating. It is a cattle call for first come first serve unless you are wise enough to pre-book then you get to bypass the hordes of cows. After jockeying for positions in the line to board, my wife and I got separated. She ended up sitting behind my row between two men while I got stuck in a row between a large man and stout-faced woman. When I say large man, he was overflowing into my personal space. I never got to claim the arm rest between us for the duration of the flight. On the right sat a woman dealing with phlegm while she read her Danielle Steele novel. This wasn’t going to be easy with my six foot frame scrunched between Mr. Big and the Ms.Post Nasal Drip for an hour and half.
Meanwhile my wife is laughing and carrying on with a lad from Ireland and an Indian fellow while I sat in passenger purgatory. I say purgatory because all I could do was close my eyes and meditate away the hopeless situation. After we reached the elevation where in-flight service starts, I pondered my drink choice. The stewardess asked us what we wanted when normally I go for coffee or tea in the morning. In this case, I knew I needed something stronger so a gin and tonic was coming my way, purely for medical purposes.
While I sipped my gin and tonic, the guy on my right somehow maneuvered his body enough to pop a DVD into his laptop. I didn’t pay attention to his choice of viewing pleasure but couldn’t help hearing gunfire and explosions blasting out of the confines of his earbuds. I peered over to see him watching an action movie with a high body count. I closed my eyes and took in the slow numbing of my brain from the cocktail.
I was soon startled when Mr. Smooth next to me spilled his Coke and ice on the lap of his pants. This sparked a wave of activity bordering on chaos. Ice on the crotch in an airline seat is pandemonium that needs to avoided at all cost. In this case the reality of the situation was an “icebreaker” for me to get to know my fellow passengers. I waved over the stewardess for help with this emergency. I stood up to give the guy enough room to get his torso under control. The stewardess directed me and the lady on my right to move out of our seats while her spill team swooped in for an emergency clean up. Poor guy was doused with Coke and ice on his private parts that left a large wet spot. He went to restroom and we were allowed back into the row.
I got full usage of the arm rest for ten minutes before he graced us with his presence. He squandered back into his seat but this time he didn’t resume the “Battle of the Bulge” on his laptop. When he finally got himself under control he wanted to talk. For next hour he didn’t stop talking. I guess you could say we became friends. Just two guys talking about normal stuff like work, sports and traveling. He was a parts salesman on his way to do some business in Mesa and flying is a part of the gig.
Flying on a plane is one the few situations in our life when we are forced to sit next to a stranger for a long period of time. The decision to interact or not interact is clearly a decision that is made early on in the flight. Sometimes I make effort to engage but you will soon find out if it’s reciprocated. I believe most passengers want to be left alone to enjoy their crosswords with noise-reduction headphones. I personally wish I could sleep but it never happens for whatever reason. So if a fellow passenger wants to talk I am all for it because it takes my mind off of the fact that I don’t have the armrest and I can smell a dirty diaper. Someday I will be in first class; meanwhile I sit with the rest of the low budget travelers with our little bags of peanuts and little booze bottles in purgatory.