Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Strangers on a Plane

     Recently, I had the good fortune to travel up to Boston for a surprise visit on my Dad's 80th birthday.  My middle sister cooked up the surprise part and generously funded my flight, so all I had to was show up.  Jonathan and I dutifully left for the Augusta airport in the pitch black dark at 4:45 a.m. to ensure that I'd have plenty of time to make the 6:20 a.m. flight.  The Augusta airport is very, very tiny as airport's go.  It's like a little boutique airport, with tiny planes and one terminal, but it's very convenient for us since it's super close.  I kissed Jonathan goodbye once he made sure that I had my itinerary set and stood in the TSA line.  The line was full of groggy adults, a few kids that parents hadn't even bothered to take out of their pj's,  and one enormous woman in a wheelchair.  This lady wasn't that old, maybe 50, but she was incredibly obese.  I always wonder how a person gets quite to that level of obesity. Its not like it can't sneak up on a person.  I mean for most people you gain a few pounds and your pants get tighter, you lay of the ice cream and that's that.  This level of overweight takes some real commitment.  As in Olympic level amounts of food are needed to maintain that bulk.  Anyway, this lady gets to the front of the line and the TSA lady makes her stand up out of her wheelchair. Okay, that's fair, but then she proceeds to frisk this woman like she's hiding a machine gun under her gut fat.  I was watching this scene unfold, thinking to myself, "Is this normal protocol for incredibly overweight traveler's?" I mean, call me naive, but I didn't know that whomever likes to blow up airplanes sought out the most gigantic passenger they could find to stash bombs, etc.

"Hey, you fatty...I have a bag of Big Macs in it for you if you let me tape this device between your rolls of back fat,"

 As I'm still saying What the Fuck in my head, a man behind me starts muttering how ridiculous it is that the TSA agent is making such a meticulous process of searching this poor lady so thoroughly.  We both stood there shaking our heads, until finally the heavy woman was cleared to go on.  I sailed through security and sat in the tiny terminal to wait for my flight.

  After about a half hour, we were cleared to board, but the funky tunnel that connects the airport to the plane was broken so we were ushered out onto the tarmac in the dark, like pre schoolers going on a field trip to the zoo.  Climbing the stairs, I checked my seat number again. 23C.  Being careful not to clock anyone in the head with my bag I made my way down the aisle until I arrived at my seat number. A man in a business suit was in the aisle seat of my row and he gave me a pained, apologetic look. My seat was the window seat (my least favorite) and in the middle was you got it, the obese terrorist.  She gave me a smile and as she struggled to free her ass from the seat she said, "This might take me a few minutes."   Why on God's green earth wouldn't this woman request any seat, BUT the middle?  Not only for her comfort, but what if I had been a big gal myself?   When she finally wedged herself free, I slipped into my seat and looked out the window as she got herself re-situated.  It's a good thing that I'm reed thin, because there was quite a bit of overhang infringing on my seat.  And then it hit my nostrils, a faint, yet pungent sour scent of flesh that hadn't seen soap in more days than one wants to know.  A mild panic reached out from my brain, and I struggled to control my breathing.  I was trapped in this seat next to a very nice, but giant woman who smelled like a dishcloth that hadn't been washed in a year.  Somehow I managed to keep myself from losing it through sheer mind over matter.  I could just scramble over her if I had to leave my seat in a hurry, I told myself over and over again.  The plane eventually taxied down the runway and soon we were in the air.  I put my nose in a book for the entire flight, while my seat mate played Candy Crush like a boss. Luckily, it was a short flight to Atlanta and we landed without incident.  My captor released me from my seat, with great physical effort, and I wished her a good day. Oy, what a start to my trip.

   My next flight to Boston was filled to the gills.  This time my seat assignment led me to the very back seat in the plane where I learned that I was sitting next to...an infant.

"Hi," I said shyly to the mother. The baby gurgled and wobbled about in her lap.  I'm not really a baby person, not that I have anything against kids, but infants aren't my strong suit and I know that flying can be hell on little kids. The mother was very tanned, with her hair thrown up in a messy knot on top of her head. She looked exhausted, but she gave me a nod as I sat in the middle seat.  The woman who was in the aisle seat of my row appeared to be around my age. When she sat down she launched into some quick small talk.

 "Whew, I'm sweating so much. Hot flashes, " she said with a giggle. "I had to have an emergency hysterectomy six months ago and it threw me into early menopause. I'm always so hot!"

 I smiled at her all the while thinking to myself, really?  That was too much information to tell a stranger on an airplane.  This flight seemed doomed. Caught between a tiny baby and a woman who was telling me intimate details about her recently removed uterus. To top it off the sweaty lady confessed to having a bad cold, otherwise she would be holding that baby the whole flight.  She broke out her kleenex, pulled out her laptop and launched into a vigorous game of Candy Crush. Am I the only person who hasn't ever played Candy Crush???  Again, I pulled out my book prepared to be tuning out the wails of an infant any second. Much to my immense relief and surprise that little boy baby fell asleep for the ENTIRE flight!  And the sniffling Candy Crusher was so involved in her stacking of sweets that she never opened her mouth again, except to cough.