A BLIND DATE IN A BAD RESTAURANT — MODERN AIR TRAVEL
Have you ever been seated next to strangers on a plane and felt like you were on a blind date in a bad restaurant? There you are — wedged into a skintight seat and intimately close to a stranger. And you’re stuck. When you’re forty thousand feet in the air, you can’t call an Uber and go home.
You could get lucky. Your blind date could be interesting. Maybe somebody famous — a movie star or a celebrity dog trainer. I’m not that lucky. I’m happy if the person doesn’t snore, smell, or hog the armrest. But even those simple wishes haven’t always been granted.
THE WORST TABLE IN A BAD RESTAURANT
I had to make a sudden trip to New York City. My assistant made my flight arrangements. My assistant hates me. She booked me in the middle seat on the very last row — smelling distance from the bathroom — the worst table in any restaurant. And this was a really, really bad restaurant.
It was my own fault. I didn’t check the seat until I was on the plane. Maybe I could move. No luck. The plane was full. I sighed, buckled up, and opened my iPad. The doors were about to close and no one had taken the seats around me yet. Maybe I’d at least have the row to myself.
A ROWDY BLIND DATE WITH LOUD VOICES
There was a commotion at the front of the plane — jostling, loud voices, and a loud cackling laugh. A family, overloaded with sacks, packs, and baggage was jostling down the aisle. The rowdy strangers were headed straight for me.
The next thing I knew a whopping, gum-popping teenage girl was looming over me. “That’s my seat,” she said indicating the window seat.
I started to stand but she was already coming over. I said, “I can just move over. I don’t mind.”
“Nah. I like the window and I don’t wanna be squashed.”
An equally whopping boy grabbed her arm. “Hey! That’s my seat.”
“I was here first,” she crowed and jerked it away. She lifted her roller bag over and dropped to the floor. It landed on my foot.
The boy glared at her. “You’re such a brat.”
“I can move over so you can sit by your sister,” I said hopefully.
“No way. I’m not getting squashed,” said the boy. “Anyway, why would I want to sit by that selfish brat?”
I didn’t have an answer. He plopped his dirty backpack on the floor. It landed on my other foot. And he plummeted into the seat.
STRANGERS ON A PLANE PLAYING WHACK-A-MOLE
Mom buckled the toddler into her seat and sat down. Dad was still up. He shoved bags and sacks atop other passengers’ belongings in the overhead bin.
The flight attendant gave me a sympathetic look and a palms-up, the international signal for, “You’re stuck.” She asked them to sit and buckle up for takeoff.
Dad sat. The toddler broke free of the seatbelt and popped up laughing. Dad pulled her down. Then Mom popped up.
STRANGERS ON A PLANE — EATING MEATBALLS
Mom got on her knees and leaned over the seat. “Who’s hungry?” she shrilled.
I wondered, was she asking the whole plane?
“Me,” said the boy. The girl wailed, “I’m starving to death.”
Have people actually starved on a two-hour flight?
Mom sat down and said, “Daddy, let’s pass out lunch before we take off.”
She calls her husband Daddy?
Dad jumped up. “Uh-oh. I put it in the bin.” He knocked the headphones off the man in front of him as he hauled down two large fast-food bags from where they had probably been sitting on some man’s suitcoat.
Dad sat down. Mom was up. She opened the bag and released the smell of garlic, onions, and deli meat. She held up a foot-long sandwich. “Who gets the meatball sub?”
Really? Who eats meatballs on an airplane?
“It’s mine!” bellowed the boy as though someone would snatch it away.
Mom held up another tube. “That’s my cheesesteak,” said the girl. She opened it, then slammed it on the tray. “Wait! You forgot the mustard?” she whined. “I told you I wanted mustard.”
Who puts mustard on Philly cheesesteaks?
“I have it,” said Mom, tossing her the little yellow packet. The girl tore it open with such fervor that it squirted mustard on my jacket.
All this and we haven’t taken off yet.
At last, the seatbelt sign came on. They all sat.
THE BLIND DATE GOES ON — AND ON
The seatbelt signs were turned off all too soon. Mom got up to go to the toilet. When she came back, Dad got up and riffled through the overhead bin.
Dad brought out a book and sat down. The toddler popped up. She leaned over the seat waving chocolate-smeared hands too near my face. “I have candy.”
Dad said, “Sit down.”
“I not sit.” But the child went down. And Mom popped up.
I WISHED FOR TURBULENCE, JUST A LITTLE BUMP TO WHACK ALL THE MOLES BACK INTO THEIR SEATS
Mom dangled a ketchup and oil-soaked container over the seat — and my lap. “Who wants fries?” The boy grabbed the container. And Mom sat.
Up jumped the girl and reached over me to grab at the container. “Give ‘em here. They’re not all for you, Stupid.”
Mom got up. “Kids, don’t fight.”
Too late. The girl had already jerked the container and shot out two slimy limp fries that landed on my lap. I half expected one of the teens to grab them.
Mom seemed to notice me for the first time. “Kids!” she said and let out a loud cackle. “You know how they are. You just have to laugh.”
No – I didn’t know. I never wanted to know. And I didn’t think I had to laugh. At least not then — maybe later.
The plane finally landed. These odd strangers on a plane departed as loud as they’d boarded. My blind date in a bad restaurant was over. Of course, a real blind date wouldn’t have lasted two hours. I’d have been out of there before you could say meatball sub. To paraphrase Forest Grump, strangers on a plane are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’ll get till it’s too late. You’re stuck with the raspberry nougat that tastes like soap — or you have mustard on your jacket and grease stains on your lap.