I just heard about coolest event ever. 300 lucky people get to sit in rows in an airtight room together for nine hours! It’s awesome. Everyone is doing it. In fact, thousands of people do it every day. C’mon, let’s go, it’ll be fun!
Sound good? No? What?? You mean you don’t like flying in airplanes?
I’m sitting in an A330, one of the big ones, 2 then 4 then 2 seats in every row. I’m sitting in 17G, an aisle seat. I usually prefer the window so I can rest my head against the wall, but hey, an aisle’s better than being stuck in the middle of a double decker human sandwich.
The stragglers are trickling in and the window seat beside me is still empty. Please, Lord, let it stay that way. I plan exactly how I’m going to sprawl across the seats for maximum comfort.
A girl with half her hair shaved and the other half in dreadlocks pauses next to my row to scan the signs overhead. No, no, no, please, no…ah, yes! She sits behind me. Her hippie acquaintance/brother/friend/boyfriend follows her. I get a whiff of them as they pass — a composite of unwashed hair, body odor, and something else. Hemp? Marijuana? Who knows.
I assume the two young adults to my left must be brother and sister. No couple could argue like that and still be a couple. It’s painful to watch. As the sister begins, “If you’re gonna act like that I don’t even know why we…” I shoot her a look. I never do that. No confrontations with strangers for me, thank you very much. But our eyes meet and I can see she got the hint. Their behavior is childish and she knows it. They stop.
The flight attendants patrol the aisles, closing overhead bins. The seat on my right remains empty. Maybe, just maybe…
“Yes!” the girl breathes as she reads the sign above me. I look up at my soon-to-be neighbor. She doesn’t look overweight, smell funny, or seem crazy. I stand up to let her pass and she slumps into the window seat with her many bags at her feet.
“Where are you headed? Back home?” …no. Too boring.
“What were you doing in Barcelona? Vacation?” Nope. Too creepy.
“Hey, what’s your full name and social security number?” Sigh. This is why I don’t talk to people.
I decide to keep silent, following my usual antisocial MO. She decides to ask me one of those very same questions I’d discarded (not the social security one). We small talk. It’s not as painful as I thought it might be.
The stewardesses all have a southern drawl. They offer headsets for those who don’t have them already, since there is a limited number available.
“Ya’ll need headsets? Headsets? Anyone need headsets who don’t have yo’ own?”
“I don’t!” says dreadlock girl.
“A’ how old’re you?” the flight attendant demands.
“Sev-seventeen?” Dreads responds, confused by the abrupt question.
“You seventeen and you don’ got yo’ own headset? Sandy Claus gon’ bring you some!”
My neighbor and I giggle. Them stewardesses got attitude.
You know when you walk into the kitchen and hit a wall of delicious cookie aroma? And how after a while, you don’t notice it anymore unless you inhale deeply? The same with your freshly composted yard or a public bathroom — the stench is strong at first, but loses power as you become accustomed to it?
The dreadlocked couple behind me are like that, too. I didn’t notice much until I came back from the bathroom, but when I sat back down, whoof! Maybe hippies are associated with flowers because they’re so…pungent.
Anyway. As I write these words the fight is exactly halfway done. Time to destination: 04:37. I haven’t gone stir crazy yet, although my neck and lower back are getting cramped. I’ve been keeping busy-ish with all sorts of fascinating activities.
1. Write about getting on the plane.
2. Get neon-colored socks out of backpack in overhead bin.
3. Finish doing morning prayers (by then it was already afternoon, but you can never be too careful when you’re about to start flying at 40,000 feet).
4. Watch the Princess and the Frog.
5. Get my gourmet home cooked penne pasta with mushrooms, garlic, and onion out of overhead bin.
6. Realize I don’t have a fork.
7. Continue watching Princess and the Frog.
8. Get airplane food and silverware from flight attendant. Eat home cooked food with newly acquired fork.
8.5 Attempt to order red wine with dinner. Fail. “Oops, I have to be 21 now?”
9. Put Tupperware in overhead bin.
10. Finish watching Princess and the Frog.
11. Go to the bathroom.
12. Read a friend’s short story twice and type up notes on how to improve it to send to her once I arrive in the land of the internet.
13. Eat candy.
14. Type up airplane story as written thus far on phone while dealing with obnoxious autocorrect.
15. Complain about Facebook PDA.
16. Watch Last Love.
17. Go to the bathroom.
18. Watch Grease for the first time ever.
19. Write more about airplane.
20. Make small talk with neighbor about how she still feels like she’s on a boat after a 3 week cruise through Greece.
They have this new system (in the North Carolina airport, at least) where there are automated passport control booths where you take your picture and get a ridiculous looking receipt with the picture on it. I have no idea what it accomplished, since we had to proceed to the non-automated passport control booths immediately after anyway. The lines wove through one another like spaghetti and every other person asked frantically if they could line jump if they had connecting flights. The answer was always no.
Sometimes I think the worst manifestation of a country’s bureaucracy is found in its airports.