Let’s just get it out of the way.
Whenever we board an airplane, we all have the same thought every time. Please Lord; don’t sit me next to a baby. Or a biggie.
Yea I said it.
Now by “biggie”, I don’t necessarily mean obese. Or even a hologram of Biggie Smalls. At 6’4”, I’ve certainly been given a look or two in my day.
“Why do your elbows get BOTH arm rests?”
“Can’t your knees just stay in FRONT of your seat?”
No, ma’am. I am sitting butterfly just to piss you off.
Now throughout my childhood, I often witnessed my mother’s anxiety over flying. She would claw into my arm. She would pop “Tic Tacs”. (I never thought to ask for one because they were always white and white Tic Tacs are gross and my favorite flavor was always orange.)
If four out of five of our family members were flying, she would insist we split in half and take separate flights. Her reasoning? She didn’t want us all to die in a fiery plane crash and leave a fifth family member alive and alone. So it clearly made more sense for only two family members to die in a fiery plane crash instead. (Unless both planes crashed…then I guess it was meant to be, Ma!)
So I went from a jolly kid who loved to fly to a panicked teenager who would spend hours imagining a horrifying demise every time he took flight. This led to my insistence on sitting in the window seat overlooking the right wing. Because, based on my genetic predisposition for sound reasoning, should the plane be going down, I could at the very least break through the window with my strong, right arm, and slide down the wing to safety.
I could fit my 6’4” frame…through a 1 foot wide window…slide down a wing going 500 miles per hour…and land safely on the ground…30,00 feet below.
It’s a shame orange Tic Tacs don’t have the same effect the white ones do.
Thankfully, in recent years, flying has slowly become a joy again. I don’t get anxious. I envision my gruesome demise for only a few minutes time. I’ve made good progress! But then, the morning I was due to fly back to New York City after two peaceful and productive months in California, my years-in-the-making, super Zen mentality was annihilated by news of MISSING MALAYSIA AIRLINE FLIGHT 370. This story was everywhere. News channels, conspiracy theorists, and Lost junkies were having a field day. I frantically searched through my Mother’s medicine cabinets for those holy white Tic Tacs.
When I arrived at the airport, things seemed relatively normal, though the San Francisco Airport’s Public Yoga And Meditation Room was a little more crowded than usual. As I boarded the plane, thoughts of impending plane crashes and black wormholes immediately flooded my mind. Never mind that none of my previous doomed flight premonitions have ever come true. Like Devon Sawa in the classic 2000 film Final Destination, I was CERTAIN that THIS flight was a disaster waiting to happen.
I arrived at Aisle 17. In the center seat was a middle-aged Puerto Rican woman with an unattached oxygen tank at her feet. A-ha! Surely that tank will play a major part in some elaborate Rube Goldberg scenario that leads to our collective demise, no? I pointed to my seat at the window. The Puerto Rican woman did a little samba with her fingers, pointing to the window seat, then pointing to her own seat and smiling. She clearly wanted my window seat. She did not want to sit bitch. (Grandma – That’s the term kids use to refer to the middle seat.) I feigned confusion. I don’t sit bitch. I am a bitch free zone. She murmured something in Spanish. I said, “Lo siento. No hablo Español.”
…Pero por supuesto que yo hablo Español. Yo solo le hablo a ella en Español. Soy totalmente el tipo de hombre que cede su asiento a una anciana en el metro. Pero la única cosa que no podría, es ceder y perder mi precioso asiento en la ventana.
In spite, the Puerto Rican woman did not stand nor move when I began making my way to the window seat. So I crawled over her. It took me a good 20 seconds to make my way. A graceful samba, it was not. As we prepared to take off, I noticed a large Italian man sitting next to her in the aisle seat. He, it turned out, was not her husband. Her husband, also a large man, was sitting in the aisle seat across from us. The oxygen tank belonged to him.
We took off. The woman and her husband spoke to each other in Spanish across the aisle for extended periods of time. I slipped on my headphones and dozed off into a serene, Tic Tac induced slumber.
I awoke to the smell of raw fish. They no longer serve meals on these flights. And they certainly don’t serve fish. I glanced over. The woman was indeed nibbling on a piece of raw fish, TO GO, whilst reading a romance novella in Spanish, murmuring passionately to herself under her breath. Enrique…Enrique. The Italian man, noise cancellation headphones on his ears, large sunglasses over his eyes, snored loudly, his head slowly cranking down to the woman’s shoulder.
The Puerto Rican husband across the aisle noticed the heavily snoring Italian man on his wife’s shoulder. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t happy about it. But instead of tapping the Italian man on the shoulder, or talking to a flight attendant about the matter, the man started huffing. Then he took out his iPad. And began playing MARIACHI MUSIC. LOUDLY. He reached across the aisle and placed the iPad next to the Italian man’s ear. Nothing. Those noise cancellation headphones really do work!
THEN he started singing along to the music. THEN he started angry dancing in his seat! Still, no luck. The strangest thing about all of this, aside from the fact that a Puerto Rican man was listening to Mexican folk music, and that the oxygen tank in fact plays NO PART IN THE STORY, was that no one else on the plane told the man to turn down his music and stop making such a commotion. Granted, I didn’t say anything either. BUT WHY DIDN’T ANYBODY ELSE SAY SOMETHING. WHERE IS LIAM NEESON WHEN YOU NEED HIM?!
My window seat suddenly felt smaller. The mariachi music and the smell of fish made me feel like I was on a rush hour train in the Heights in July. But I was not. I was in the middle of West Side Story 2: Bernardo’s Revenge.
Over the final hour of the flight, as I dozed in and out of consciousness listening to my Pure Moods Volume 12, I noticed that the husband repeatedly complained to a Spanish-speaking flight attendant about the Italian man. And for some reason, the flight attendant didn’t do anything about it either. So the Italian man, head now lifted off the Puerto Rican woman’s shoulders, continued to snore. Loudly. And I continued to softly sing Enya to myself in the smallest window seat known to man.
After we landed, and the seat belt light turned off, the two men stood at the same time and removed their luggage from the overhead bins.
“You gonna drop that suitcase on my feet, bitch?” the Italian man declared.
The Puerto Rican man started huffing again in broken English. “You fucking schmuck. You ruined our entire flight with your snoring and your salami head on my wife’s shoulder.”
I took less note of the “salami head” comment and was more intrigued by the fact that even a Puerto Rican man with broken English knows his basic Yiddish insults.
“Motherfucker I will cunt punt your ass so fast off this plane…”
Now I’m not quite sure when the term “cunt punt” came into the basic insult vernacular, but seeing a grown man use it against another grown man was a wildly fascinating ordeal. Again, nobody said anything to these two men spewing expletives and threatening violence at each other in the middle of a cramped plane. I mean, I didn’t say anything either, and I’m two feet away from them, trapped in my window seat. But still, WHY DIDN’T ANYBODY ELSE SAY ANYTHING. WE’RE NEW YORKERS. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.
Thankfully, the men gave it a rest, and we all quietly exited the aircraft. Though the flight had its fair share of weirdness, we thankfully did not crash nor explode nor evaporate into thin air. We instead exited the plane like free sardines. That is, until some of us took the two-hour subway ride home in a packed, garbage infested car with the “Showtime” kids…
Welcome back to New York City, bitch!