Airline Travel : Hold the Rolls Please

There’s nothing more I’d rather do then get into a metal tube with a bunch of strangers, sling shot myself through the air at the hands of someone else’s capabilities and land exhausted, grumpy and achy in a distant city.

Awesome.

Life changing.

Fun.

Let’s do it again please.

What is it with people getting on an airplane?  It’s always a mad dash to see who can be first to board.  News flash folks: this isn’t a game of Musical Chairs.  There is a seat for you, provided you have a ticket.  Everyone wants to beat the stranger next to them to get on the plane.

I have a limp so I need extra time to board early.

My contact fell out so I can’t see and need to go first.

Yes, my 15-year-old needs extra time to get settled, we’re going to pre-board.

This computer bag, garment bag and messenger bag are over weight and too heavy, I need a wheelchair to get down to the plane.  Excuse me.

Forget about those that actually need to board first.  Hell, just run the legitimate folks down, they’ won’t mind.  Isn’t it obvious?  They’re just like the rest of the group.  Just one in a herd waiting to hear the cattle call to move forward.

I’ve written before about passengers who believe the entire overhead compartment is just for the two of them.  (Not for all three in the row on that side, just the two of them.)  They always feign shock when the flight attendant comes by and asks them to fold up their coats and to please take down the “mine, mine, mine” sign taped on the door.

They usually respond with “But we’ve always done it this way.”  I’m sorry honey but that excuse stopped working in 6th grade when you could no longer snow your teacher into believing you didn’t know the proper way to settle into detention.  I was born at night, but not last night.  Let’s move on.

As John Q. Public gathers anxiously around the gate’s podium everyone is eyeballing everyone else and thinking one thing:

Who am I sitting next to?

If you’re a people watcher, you can see the expressions change as the public reviews its options from one possibility to the next.

Yes.

No.

Hum, ok.

Definitely yes.

No.

No.

Hot momma…yes.

When it comes down to it, we’re all hoping for one thing:  maybe the middle seat will be empty.  If the airlines were smart, it would be an option for passengers seated on the window or aisle.  You could select a box that says, “willing to split fare for middle seat” and if the person who books the other side of the row agrees, you each pay $200 to save that middle seat for yourselves.  Why not?  If I’m flying from one end of this country to the other, I’d pay for half the space.  Unless I was in first class, then it wouldn’t be an option.  But, let’s not dream – let’s stay focused.

The one draw back to selecting your perfect seat mate while waiting for the racer’s gun to go off at the gate, is if you’re boarding a flight already in progress from another city.  Well this sucks.  You don’t get to ponder the possibilities of those already seated on the plane.  It becomes a cruel game of Peek-a-Boo!

Guess who?

No, I’d rather not.

Recently I was upgraded to Alaska Airlines MVP and was delighted with the fact I could directly book my aisle seat into an exit row.  A little extra leg room never hurts.  Not that I need it, but it’s helpful for when your seat mates have to climb in and out.  Climbing over me is fine, provided you’re the one I want a lap dance from – chances are you’re not that person – so I’ll take the extra space.

Recently I was on a business trip with a small posse of my industry mates.  We were all on the same short flight.  This particular flight had one stop before we reached our final destination.  Quick, easy, perfect.  The two segment flight was all of about 45 minutes of flight time but with boarding and stopping and all that other stuff it was about 2 hours start to finish. Ridiculously easy right?

Wrong.

Apparently the Karma Gods were not happy with me.

Walking on the plane I start immediately, counting back to my row.  That would be row 14 thank you.  Left side.  aisle.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four……

Wait.  What?

Five.

Six.

Seven.

That can’t be right.

Eight.

Nine.

Ten.

Are you kidding me.  I better check my boarding pass again.

Eleven.

Twelve.

Thirteen.

Just shoot me.  I didn’t even notice the welcome sign.  I ponder ringing the call button and asking for a fist full of little vodka bottles.

Fourteen.Welcome to Dante’s third circle of hell : gluttony.

I can’t even begin to describe the image that has been permanently burned into my mind.  At first I thought it was a walrus.   It’s a walrus slumped over into my seat.  Brown leathery neck folds.  Shiny bald head.  In my moment of confusion, I couldn’t figure out how he manged to get by the door attendants.

When did they let animals this large into the main cabin?  He’s obviously not going to fit under the seat in front of his owner.  Oh wait, the lady seated by the window is pressed up against the glass like a sea star.

She’s not with the walrus.

Uh-oh.  This is not a “happiness is” moment and I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands.

Before I set my bag down I realize my arm rest is up and he’s literally, laying half way across my seat.

Awesome.

Now I’m kicking myself.  I should have changed my seat.  I should have changed my seat.

I take one glance at walrus man and throw my bag into my seat.  I verify, again, my boarding pass and the seat assignment.

Damn.  Damn.  Damn.

He straightens up and as I’m taking my book, ear plugs and gum out of my bag…he puts down the arm rest.  Thank goodness for common sense on his part because I was ready to very politely advise him that while I’m sure he’s a nice person, I don’t really want to get to know him any more than I obviously have to at this point.

The only thing that is going through my mind now is how am I going to sit back?  Half of his upper body is in my seat.  I don’t remember asking for additional back support on this flight.  Nor, did I ask for a jello like body pillow to rest my head upon.

I slowly inch my way back.  Pretending to stretch my back by twisting from side to side.  Here goes nothing.

S M A C K

That would be the sucking sound of my  shoulders finding what little space available under his ham hock of a bicep and suctioning to the pleather seat back.  It was then for the first time in my recent memory, I had to fold up like a Praying Mantis to survive.  I am very small.  I am a little bunny rabbit.  I am cute and furry.  I am small like a spec of sand.  I am light as a feather.

People continue to board and  I can only guess my facial expression – a desperate, silent plead for help.  Anyone want to switch seats?  Where is a small kid when you need one?

One of three things would happen as people noticed my situation:

Knowing grimace of pain and sympathy – mostly from strangers.

Compliments on my shirt, hair, necklace or earrings – mostly from strangers.

Horrified smirks and pats on the shoulder – fellow co-workers.

Thanks for the support guys.  Appreciate it.  Can feel the love oozing now.

Before they shut the front door, I realize with a churn of my stomach, this guy is radiating heat.  Lots of heat.  Not just any kind of heat.  Pit heat.

Arm.

Pit.

Heat.

I didn’t realize personal sauna was an option on airlines these days.  I certainly don’t remember requesting this service for this flight or any other.  And this isn’t an add-on service I’d choose in the first place.

Insert full on toddler wailing moment…….WAH!

Now can I have a double vodka – hold the tonic – with a lime please?  This guy next to me is buying whether he realizes it or not.    If I’m going to get felt up for the next two hours by a stranger, you better keep them coming.

Oh, right. The suck thing is on the short flights, there’s no beverage service.  Of course, at this point I don’t think a beverage would have helped.  I was trapped under the walrus’ flipper…there’d be no way I could have squeezed my lime into my vodka!  Just open the little airplane bottle and pour it into my mouth, that’s fine.

(Note, my boss sitting across the aside from me would have probably had a few words to say about that activity, but you know…desperate times call for desperate measures.)

What I truly don’t get is if you know you’re a giant person…why, why, why….would you book a middle seat?  Why?

Everyone has to make sure their carry on fits inside the airplane.  They have those tester frames set up at the check in area, so you can ensure your bag will fit.  Smaller planes will have the gate attendant come through and gate check oversized bags.  If size matters – all size should matter.

If your ass doesn’t fit inside the seat simulator – you have to buy the middle seat.

Period.

End of story.

Why should the rest of us, who have paid the same amount for our 17.5 inches of seat – have to endure 1/3 of it being consumed by a stranger’s fat rolls?  They’re comfortable, shouldn’t the seat ends be comfortable too?  If you’re into  sharing strange, fleshy rolls, by all means – enjoy it!  I however, do not.  I prefer to rub up against people I know and even then, those people are a small select group of pre-approved people.

If you’re oversized, do me a favor.  Buy the extra seat so we can both be comfortable.  Otherwise, this is going to be an expensive flight for you.

Ring that call button please.

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