Second the Best

I wrote this for a class and I thought I’d share it here!  It’s not an essay–it’s a short story 🙂  FYI it’s based on a bunch of real experiences of plane rides I’ve had.

This is my second plane ride.  I’m on the way to Australia and it’s only fifteen hours.  I really enjoyed my last plane ride—my first ever!—from D.C. to LAX.  I don’t know why people complain so much about flights.  Plane rides are my excuse to sit and be served.

My second ever plane ticket says I am in seat 45J, which is in the back, and in the middle.  That’s ok—I’ll find a way to sleep and it’ll still be a good flight.

A woman is already in the window seat.  I give Window Woman a head nod, then buckle up.

A large man puts his carry-on into the overhead compartment.  His shirt gets pulled out from him raising his arms, and I subsequently learn that he has an inny belly button.  He sits to my left and tries to buckle up, but has to signal a flight attendant (Björn) to get a seatbelt extension.  The man lifts up the armrest between us for more space.  I tell him that his muffin top is actually not a good armrest.

“You should have bought a different seat, then,” he growls, frowning.  “I bought an aisle seat.  Aisle sit the way I want in the seat I bought.  He titters at his pun, and the muffin top chafes my side.

A while after take off, I realize that my chair can’t recline because of the flight attendant chairs behind me.  Window Woman can’t recline either, but she has a lot of other things.  She has loud pants, which swish each time—approximately every half hour—she sidesteps across me and the Muffin Man to deal with what I’m 89% sure is a urinary infection.  She has a lot of questions about whether or not she should buy a sweater from SkyMall or Duty Free.  She has halitosis.  She also has a window she doesn’t know if she wants the open or closed.

On my left, Muffin Man is asleep, but he is also facing me.  He has sixty-seven nose hairs in one nostril.  He smells like a smoker who does aerobics in fertilizer.  I open the air conditioner some more.

There is a family in the row in front of me who all have a different cold.  The mother holds a crying baby.  She asks Baby what it needs; Baby still has yet to respond.  The seven-year-old—he told the flight attendant his age—evidently enjoys peeking at me through the gap between the chairs.  Conversely, he does not like homework, nor either of the two meal types that were left to select from.  His dad is in front of me, and has apparently realized that he has an opposable thumb because he is amazed at how smoothly his chair goes up and down…and up and down.  He also seems to have eaten both his and his son’s meals.  Both of the meals seem to have eaten through his digestive system remarkably fast.

My AC is completely open now, but besides making me cold, the miasmas of Muffin Man and Digestive Dad are not diverted.  A rough blue blanket and small pillow sat in each seat before we did, but I had given both to Muffin Man so he could cover his entirety.  However, I was wrong in my assumption that this would also envelope his emissions.

Distractions are evading me.  My headphones are broken, and all of the movies are in decidedly not-English, so I stare at the map and zoom in, in, in on the plane icon so it looks like we’re moving faster.  Digestive Dad tells me to stop pressing the screen so hard—it bothers him.

Remembering the magazines, I take Traveller’s magazine out from the pocket, conveniently half an inch from my knees, and look for the crossword puzzle, but somebody has already done it.  So, I just look at the profile on a traveller who uses this airline, what foods there were to eat in LA, and an article on Chinese puppets.  I take out SkyMall next and look at the obscurities within.  There are some very weird products in SkyMall, which I guess seem more appealing at higher altitudes.

“Do you think I should buy the fountain?” asks Window Woman, pointing at said fountain in the magazine, “There’s a place for my cat underneath built right in!”

“I, uh, I don’t know,” I reply, tugging the magazine a bit to slide her finger off of the Bird Bath/Cat Crib.  “Er, maybe not if you have a big cat…”

She then begins telling me about her cat—size, personality, eyesight, et cetera.  I say “Really?” and laugh sometimes during her twenty-six minute monologue to be polite.  I think her stories are actually the genre in which you realize near the end that the narrator was really the main character, except she used a cat named Nellie—instead of a figurative person—to do this.  Either that, or her cat has a full-time job at Intel.

The seatbelt sign blings on.  Björn, the flight attendant who via seatbelt extender had generously helped enable Muffin Man to sit next to me, yells that the seatbelt sign has blinged on, in four languages.  Scattered chuckles at the same point in each announcement repetition make me feel like I missed a good joke.

Around twelve hours later, I reluctantly finish my watery (the ice has melted) Ginger Ale, so now I can stack all of the cups.  Muffin Man and Window Woman somehow put both of their kind-of-filled cups on my tray when I was fussing with the AC.  I pour Window Woman’s drink into Muffin Man’s and stack all of our cups up—mine in the middle.  I hope Björn comes through with the trash bag soon so I can put my tray up.

Crackle.  “Flight attendants, please prepare for landing.”

I am excited.  Soon, I’ll be at sea level again!  Only minutes from returning to an x- and y-axis method of travel.

A half hour later, Björn collects trash.  Window Woman escapes to the bathroom exactly when the plane tilts so we can turn and go lower.

“Pardon,” says Björn to Window Woman, “The Fasten Seatbelt sign is ‘On’ right now, see?”  She points to the Fasten Seatbelt sign.

Window Woman looks at it and reluctantly sits back down, pants swishing away.  Her legs shake impatiently.  I would like her to go to the bathroom instead of being a jostle away from wetting the seat.

The plane is now dipped so that I should see the city, except the window is closed.  Muffin Man’s drool suddenly drips and navigates through the goosebumps on the arm I carelessly left on my 19th of the armrest.

We dip the other direction now, and Muffin Man rolls over a bit.  Apparently, gravity misses him.

Crackle.  “Please open your windows for landing.”

Why is that a necessity?  Does the pilot, like someone parking a minivan, require visibility through all 45 rows of windows to land?  Regardless, Window Woman opens the window, and it’s definitely daytime.  I block my eyes.

Wrong arm—I pick up a complimentary airline napkin to wipe my eyes, and promptly jab myself in the eyes as the plane reunites with the ground.  We stop and everybody unbuckles their seatbelts at once and stands up.  I hit my head on the light.  There will be a bruise.

Muffin Man totters into the aisle, tugs his luggage down from the overhead compartment, and shuffles towards the exit.  I get my bag (I was forced to check the other one) and go across the row to get into the opposite aisle, thus circumventing molasses-quick Muffin Man.

The further I walk, the further the distance seems between me and the Business Class folks.  They have amazing chairs Captain Kirk seems to have loaned.  The Business Class and First Class passengers probably slept all fifteen hours—comfortably.  I thank the pilot and flight attendants half-heartedly, while looking for my checked bag outside, where the plane connects with the walkway…it’s there!

I roll it and my other luggage into the gate, past the luggage carriages, and onto the sidewalk.  Inhaling the wonderful, wonderful cold air, I see my cousins wave from their minivan.  I’ve finally gotten off of that flight with only jetlag to deal with now.  I rub my head and the bruise from earlier smarts.  It throbs almost as much the thought that seems to have just bumped its way into my skull: I’m going to have to take another flight back home.


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