I’m a nervous flyer. I don’t pretend it’s a rational fear. I know airplanes are safer than cars. I know LOST can’t really happen. I know that me chewing gum during take off has nothing to do with the flight’s success. I just don’t like being suspended in mid air for hours at a time. Call me old fashion, but I like being firmly planted on the ground.
Flying, however, is a necessary evil these days. Whether it is for business or pleasure I typically wind up on a plane two to three times a year. I have my pre-trip ritual: check in and print my boarding pass before heading to the airport, arrive early to avoid a sprint to the gate, once through security purchase magical gum (to prevent my ears from popping and the plane from dropping), and get some snacks and reading material for the trip. Once my pre-trip ritual is complete, I make my way to the gate and patiently wait for the flight. From here on out, if everything goes routinely, I’m typically pretty calm after take off, that said, I can also come dangerously close to a Ben Stiller Focker-esq meltdown if things don’t go my way.
On a recent trip home from vacation, I had smooth sailing through my pre-flight ritual and was all set for a calm ride home. I boarded the plane and a burly mutton chopped man sitting on the aisle greeted me with a smile. I learned Mutton Chops was a magician and he had been in away for work. I didn’t learn his name. It was manageable small talk, but I was relieved when the extra tall, probably retired NBA player, sat in between Mutton Chops and myself. Mutton tried to talk to Mr. NBA, but it proved a futile effort, as Mr. NBA was clearly the strong silent type. Peace and quiet – just what I like before take off. I opened a piece of magic safe flight ensuring gum, closed my eyes, and prepared for take off.
My peace and quiet was quickly broken. Mutton was arguing with the flight attendant who had rudely opened the overhead compartment to aid a fellow passenger in finding space for their carry on. Mutton leaned out into the aisle, started pointing, and then stood up. Toe to toe the flight attendant was probably six inches shorter than Mutton, but wasn’t backing down. You could cut the tension with a plastic a plastic airline spork. Mutton’s voice escalated every time he found a new hook or perceived the slightest bit of encouragement.
Mutton’s very expensive jacket was in the bin above. The attendant would crush it with the other individual’s bag. Mutton had paid $50 round trip to check his bag, and only carried on his jacket. His jacket therefore deserved a first class seat back home. To quote Mutton, “He just wanted his piece of the pie.” Mutton was making a scene, just to make a scene. No one was sympathizing with him, but he was speaking for the people. All of whom just wanted him to sit down and be quiet. A seasoned pro, the flight attendant put Mutton in his place and made sure no one’s jacket was crushed.
Mutton sat down and leaned in to our row looking for reinforcements. He looked at Mr. NBA, “Am I right?” Getting no response from Mr. NBA, Mutton leaned forward and looked to me, “Am I right? Or am I right? I didn’t carry on anything else.” My eyes involuntarily rolled and as if I wasn’t controlling my own words I looked Mutton in the eyes and exasperatedly said, “I really wish you would just be quiet.” Mutton was pleased. He had gotten a rise out of someone, and had a new victim. I immediately wished I could pull the words back into my mouth. Mutton stood up to retrieve his precious jacket. The flight attendant rushed over and asked him to sit down. “It will only take a second; I want to show my new friend over here how nice my jacket is.” Mutton never got the chance. He opened the now infamous overhead compartment, and began searching for the jacket. Quick on her feet the flight attendant realized what had happened. She opened a compartment one in front of Mutton’s and asked Mr. Mutton, “Sir, I believe you were mistaken. Is this your jacket over here?” Mutton nodded. Tail between his legs Mutton sat down.
Continued: The Friendly Skies (Part Deux)