The Man on The Plane

Yesterday I had to fly. Flying used to be fun, sort of exciting, but as we now know, everything has changed about the experience. Now it’s just, well, tedious. So many things to accomplish before I lay my head down. Or, in other words: Miles to go before I sleep. (I always liked that.)

There’s all the preparation to go. Don’t forget anything. Make sure there’s enough time. Count backwards. Let’s see. Flight leaves at 10:40 so let’s call that 10:30. Need an hour and a half at Tampa International Airport. (Actually, that’s a stretch, you really only need an hour, so I’m probably overcompensating by forty minutes at this point.) Allow thirty minutes for the shuttle to the airport from the rental car place. And thirty minutes to get to the rental car place.

Okay, we’re at the airport. Stand in line at the ticket counter to check two bags. Here, a slight diversion. These are bags designed to be carryons but of COURSE we can’t do that anymore because of silly rules about liquids in 4 ounce containers (thank you Mr. Shoe Bomber!) and other forbidden items which may become weapons, like nail files and miniature socket sets. Check the bags, reprint the boarding passes, show ID.

Next, stand in line to (again) show ID and boarding pass in order to get on shuttle for a one-minute whisk to the terminal. Once deposited safely terminalside, prepare for the TSA IPP (Invasion of Privacy and Patdown). Show ID and boarding pass (yet AGAIN), where a uniformed Security Specialist shines a light on your driver’s license and makes his secret little mark on your boarding pass. Take laptop out of case, disrobe and try to remember whether you need ID and boarding pass again. Try to keep track of belongings, get x-rayed, retrieve belongings, get dressed.

We are now ready to board the plane but, as usual, we’re about two hours early, having grossly over-estimated the amount of time everything will take. Play the waiting game and listen to lame pages. Will Ruth Quackenbush please pick up the nearest white courtesy telephone? Every ten minutes we are instructed that we are in an indoor clean-air facility and no smoking is permitted. And also a reminder that any unattended bags will be im-pound-ed.

Line up, get on plane. We usually board first, since I’m one of those anal people who has my right mouseclick finger poised at exactly 24 hours before boarding time so we can be part of the esteemed A Group.  The seats are three across, so if it’s a full flight, someone will be joining our cozy little party of two. It was a full flight. Okay, I’m in the middle seat, so let’s make eye contact with someone who is relatively slender and looks like he or she won’t want to make much conversation.

Woman and her husband approach, and she sits across the aisle and he sits next to me. He is a small, wiry sort of fellow with a thick crop of untended black hair. He looks a bit like he is continually on an adrenaline rush. He carries a book which is a good sign.

“Good place to sit!” he says. “More leg room here!”

“Yeah, I guess so,” say I, while I don’t believe there is any more leg room at this particular location than anywhere else.

His wife requests her “reading material” so he stands up in the aisle and proceeds to fumble in a suitcase in the overhead compartment holding up approximately forty passengers waiting to proceed to the rear of the plane where there are still empty seats remaining.

He gets to the material his wife has demanded and hands it to her and settles into his seat. He eats (rather noisily) a peach and half of an overripe banana before the plane takes off.

As we take off and are climbing to 10,000 feet where we can turn on electronic devices, he and his wife pass a small turquoise bottle filled with something that produces a pungent aroma back and forth. It smells a bit like smelling salts. What the…? It’s a bit stinky actually, and they reverently pass it back and forth and inhale deeply the fumes. Does anyone know what this is? I didn’t ask. Something for ear pressure problems? Air sickness? Maybe just good karma?

The flight attendant asks him if he’d like a complimentary juice, soft drink, tea or coffee. He orders a mixture of half cranberry juice, half diet sprite. It seemed a bit demanding to me, that he be served some sort of special refreshments. Let’s just keep it simple, shall we?

Snack? Peanuts and Ritz Mini Snack Thins (only 100 calories!) are offered.

“I’ll have four peanuts,” he says.

Four peanuts! Who says you can have four? You’re supposed to get one! What if everybody on this plane asked for four? He got his four, and later he accepted his Ritz Mini Snack Thins too. Then he proceeded to ask for two refills of his special concoction of cranberry juice and diet sprite. Clearly, here is a man who likes to take advantage of free stuff.

He read, did a crossword puzzle, and then fashioned himself a bookmark. He carefully ripped the back cover of the Southwest Spirit Magazine down about one inch, and bent the page down, flipping the magazine back and forth as he did this, elbows flailing and invading my personal space. Fold, press, run thumbnail firmly over the fold, flip, repeat. Finally he tore it off. Voila! Bookmark!


When we stood up to get off the plane, waiting in perhaps the last line of the day, he said to his wife, “I did some verrrrry deep thinking during this flight.”

I think this guy might make his way into a novel somewhere down the line.

12 thoughts on “The Man on The Plane

  1. It amazes me how anal some people are; their tiny worlds spinning like tops, as they stand protectively nearby trying to control the moon and the stars. Geesh! I love oddballs though because, as you said, they are good writing fodder. Fun post Lynn!

    • As a writer I am always on the lookout for an interesting (nice way to phrase this) personality. I was always like that but even more so now. Who knew, that a boring plane trip would yield a blog post?

  2. I’ve travelled the LA to London route quite a number of times so I have my whole airport and plane routine down. I prefer a window seat especially when I have travelled on my own so I can kind of get in and not have to move until I want to. On the few times when I have had a really annoying passenger next to me, I will hold my bathroom break until really necessary. Then when the annoying person is really comfortable, perhaps on their way to sleep, I will get them to move so I can go to the bathroom. If they continue to be annoying, I will repeat exercise. A small measure of revenge I think.

    • I am planning a trip to London next month. First time for me. I’m very much looking forward to it. If I sit next to you on the plane, I promise not to be annoying.

      I’m doing the New York to London route so I probably won’t see you, but will take your words to heart. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Oh, you made me laugh with this one. What in the world was that couple sniffing? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    Although I appreciate efforts to keep us safe–because, really, is there anything more vulnerable than being way up in the stratosphere in a sealed container?–flying has become a chore. And what about the culinary delights served up in the airport? Some of it’s okay; but most of it is calorie-laden and costly. And stinky. Which is always a treat when your seat companion carries it on…

    • I don’t know what they were sniffing either. I guess I should have asked, but then that isn’t something I would normally do. Flying has become a chore, and alas the trip to the destination better tolerated than the trip from. And speaking of airport food, I was going to expound on my Chili’s breakfast but went over my word limit. How would you like your scrambled eggs?

  4. Thanks for the laughs, Lynn. It is ridiculous the hoops the average person must must go through just to board a plane. A Canadian and thus a ‘foreigner’, I will land almost anywhere in the world to avoid having to make a stop in the US on an overseas flight which would require me to pick up my luggage (which was too heavy for me in the first place and why I checked it) and shuffle through a sour line of hundreds so it can be re-x-rayed and checked in for the next leg. But truly, though I can check all the way through when stopping in most countries, it is not much better anywhere else. What is next? Every vehicle is equipped with a sensor that is monitored from Africa in case a citizen is about to get into some kind of trouble? Every bicycle must have airbags so we won’t hurt ourselves if we crash and burn?

    How about this instead: A red sign with white lettering as we enter every airport stating: “Warning, it may be hazardous to board an airplane. Fly at your own risk”. Period.

    I always take an aisle seat because being of ‘a certain age’ I will be sure to need at least one potty break and on longer flights stretch my legs. I also check the configuration of the plane and if there are any three-across options, check again at check-in even if I already have a boarding pass to see if there are any window seats only filled in those rows. If the plane is not full, the middle one is unlikely to be filled. I avoid four-across like the plague.

    I can’t wait to hear how you have put your experience in a novel – and especially hear what on earth that bottle was all about!

    • I didn’t realize you had to do this rechecking of baggage when stopping in the US. That is indeed, a drag. Nothing like our good old USA to (forgive the cliche) close the barn door after the horse has run off. We are so good at that. Wait until the bad guys think of it first, then after they’ve attempted it, check everyone else forever after. It is nearly impossible to not check baggage anymore. The security procedures are degrading and tedious. And I love how, after telling you to stand on the yellow feet in the xray tube, raise your arms and hold still, after rifling through your personal possessions, they nevertheless insist that you “have a nice day”. Pitooey. Would be a lot nicer if I didn’t have to go through all this!

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