Doing battle with daily dragons

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Taking Flight

The phrase “going away for the weekend” generally conjures up images of cosy bed and breakfasts and leisurely walks in picturesque countryside not too terribly far from home. I however, am adding a new definition of “going away for the weekend” which includes spending more time getting to and from my destination than actually being there. I’m going to The Midwest for the weekend.
One of my friends from college is tying the knot up in Michigan, so I’m going to head on over for two days of celebrations, staying with another friend in the town I went to college in. I’m hugely excited about going back, as I haven’t been for nearly six years; I imagine the nostalgia will be quite overwhelming. So too, I imagine, the actual getting there part.

I’m not exactly a reluctant flier. Given the choice between getting on an airplane and arriving sooner or getting on a bus and arriving later, I’m probably going to choose the airplane. My main problem with airplanes, as with all forms of public transportation, is that they’re public. I’m hoping that, in secret labs somewhere, there are scientists working on technology that allows us to get from place to place, completely insulated from our fellow travellers, because, as everyone knows, all of them are assholes but you.

People seldom believe my worst transport horror story, because it doesn’t sound real. Like millions of other airline travellers, I’ve endured delays, cancellations and luggage loss, which are all pretty much par for the course. Unfortunately, my tale involves one of the aforementioned assholes.

A few years ago, I was sitting on an Iceland Air flight to Washington, nursing hopes that the empty seat next to me would remain empty when, at the last minute, a large, Icelandic businessman staggered onto the plane and dropped his enormous ass squarely in the middle of it. He smelled strongly of spirits.

As soon as we were airborne, he began pounding Screwdrivers. I’m not entirely sure if the stewardess was a complete brain donor or just looking for a quiet life, but she served him nonetheless. For the first 40 minutes of the flight to Keflavik, he was fairly innocuous, but then decided the mandatory non-annoyance period was over and turned his attentions to me.

First he asked me what I was reading. Politely, I showed him the cover of my book. I went back to reading.

Then he started patting my hand. I smiled politely again.

Then he wanted to hold my hand, which I politely but firmly declined.

Then he decided to forcibly hold my hand. At this point, I went into panic mode and just kept reading and hoping that we were fairly close to our destination. The kindly gentleman on the other side of my inebriated friend, who had just noticed what was transpiring, attempted to engage him in conversation, but unfortunately, an obviously petrified 20 something female was far more interesting than a fellow countryman.

Then he started kissing my hand at which point I told him to knock it off, which he did, for almost 5 seconds.

Then he took my book. I asked for it back and he insisted on holding my hand again.

Then he put one of my fingers in his mouth.

At this point, I screamed and burst into tears. Another kindly fellow passenger sitting behind me offered me his seat, which I took, and shook all the way into Keflavik. My unpleasant seatmate had to be restrained by three other passengers during landing as he refused to stay in his seat. The police were waiting for him at the end of the jetway.

Granted, this is a fairly advanced case of Travelling Assholeism. Normally, the worst I can expect is a fat, German lady trying out her Duty Free perfume Ode de "Dear Merciful God in a Bottle" in close proximity or someone’s bastard kid kicking me in the back for 7 hours straight.

I shall pray to be delivered from these scourges and more as I wing my way west this weekend.