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just don’t talk to me on the plane

June 27, 2013

leslie-nielsen-airplaneEveryone has a travel story, right? That day that was terrible. Flights were delayed for hours and hours. Sat in traffic forever, had to sleep in the airport, etc. Comedian Louis CK has a hilarious standup routine about air travel. (Google it. My apologies for the language.)
As I was traveling back from Chicago last week, one such day occurred. Fortunately, I don’t feel like it happened to me necessarily. It mostly happened around me. I interacted with many of the offenders, but I didn’t feel all that annoyed that we were delayed. Maybe it’s because I was alone and enjoying my last bit of solitude. Maybe it’s because people are so damn entertaining.
To my own fault, I got to the Chicago airport very early. Dad was flying that day, too, so we shared a cab. Our flights were an hour and a half or so apart. I planned on having lunch while I waited. I went through security in no time, ate lunch, and went to the gate. Flight delayed. I checked, and I’d still have no problem making my connection in Atlanta. We were delayed more than an hour, giving me about 3 extra reading hours, but it wasn’t a big deal. I had Candy Crush, too. When I ran out of lives, I’d read a few chapters until I was up to 5 again. (Don’t ever play Candy Crush Saga)
The flight was over-sold, so the gate area was slammed. People were antsy to get on the plane. Hurry up and wait! I was in Zone 3, so by the time I boarded, the plane was mostly full. As I approached my seat, I counted ahead to row 16. It looked like someone was in my seat. I glanced at my mobile boarding pass, and sure enough, I was assigned to seat 16A. A window seat. I’d specifically requested the seat weeks ago. Now there was a man sitting in it. I looked at the number on the bulkhead, back at my boarding pass, and back at the number again. I hope he would just sense what I was saying without me having to ask him to move.
The flight attendant figured it out. “Sir, is that your seat?”
“No, I just would rather sit here. And he would rather sit here.” He gestured to his friend in 16B. The man in line behind me was seated in 16B, one he’d specifically chosen for its location on the aisle.
Listen here. I’m all for letting a pair of star crossed lovers sit next to each other on the way to paradise. I’m not willing to bend when the seat they want me to trade for is a middle seat. It’s not gonna happen. I said, very quietly, “I’m sorry. I’d rather not have a middle seat.” I actually felt bad about it, but the flight attendant told me to absolutely not worry about it.
The now moving man didn’t agree and continued to dart ugly glances and me from his middle seat across the aisle. As it turns out, his friend wasn’t supposed to be in 16B. I’m sorry, you can’t hop on a place and simply decide where you’re sitting. You also can’t get mad if you offer the crappiest seat on the plane in exchange for my prime location. I turned toward the window and opened my book.
As we backed away from the gate, the captain mentioned something about a quick ten minute delay but asked everyone to remain seated. He stated that we could possibly get out sooner, but we would not be able to taxi if anyone was out of their seats. Who do you think was the first (and last) passenger to get up to go to the bathroom? Yep. Seat stealer. The pilot came back on, asking him to be seated, but he went to the bathroom anyway. I hope it was an emergency.
Landing in Atlanta, I raced to eat dinner. After all, we’d been delayed, so my connection was going to be tight. Heh. We were supposed to take off at 7:25. We finally left Atlanta at 11:45. It was a long day. Thank goodness you people entertained me the whole time. The Atlanta airport was like the Twilight Zone that night. I’m not referring to vampires here, but I wouldn’t have been shocked to see one.
Everyone seemed to be running to a flight. I felt particularly bad for the guy who took off in the wrong direction. His wife let him and all of C Concourse know he’d screwed up. She screamed “TIM! TIM! TIM!” in that voice only a wife can do. He came running back the other way, sweaty and clearly flustered. She was pointing and scolding the whole way. Her thong was hanging out of the top of her pants.
Our delay wasn’t an organized one. We were told to come back to the gate every 30 minutes or so to check the status. Everyone had just enough time to come back, hear the gate agents new estimated time (30 – 45 minutes later), and head back to the only bar nearby. It was a big revolving door of moans and groans.
The gate agents have the worst job. They are no more than bearers of bad news. People get so mad about delays, too. Sure, it’s going to screw up your day, but it’d take you a whole lot longer if you had to drive. Get over it. Getting mad isn’t going to speed up the process. Besides, what’s the alternative? You gonna start flapping your arms?
When we finally boarded, everyone was delirious. I got to my (empty) seat, and the aisle seat was already occupied. “Excuse me, ma’am? I’m in that window seat.” Nothing. She continued to text. I gently tapped her shoulder. Still nothing. “Ma’am?”
“I HEARD YOU.” Ok, I’m sorry. Usually things like looking up, verbally acknowledging the conversation, and maybe even getting out of your seat would clue me in, but you did none of those. Pardon me for being a little confused.
I immediately took my seat, opened my book, and turned to face the window. Now she wanted to talk. She wanted to tell me what a long night it’d been, and how long she had to wait. She told the same story I had. Everyone on the dadgum plane had the same story. I politely nodded, turning away as soon as she finished her sentence.
There’s a reason I choose the window seat. There’s also a reason I always open a book as soon as I sit down. Sometimes, I’ll even put the headphones in without any music. I hate talking to people on planes. You can’t have a quick conversation. The quarters are too close. If I want to stop talking, I seem rude. It’s easier to avoid it altogether.
I’d pay extra to sit in a “no talking allowed” section of the plane. I bet I’m not alone. If you are chatty on a plane, they could have a “social section,” where y’all can chat your little hearts out. The rest of us could sit there, in our seats, without having to pretend to be busy. One can dream. Until then, I hope my dad keeps sharing his drink vouchers. Cheers!

originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2013 8:30 am

    My husband and I leave for a trip to Italy next week. I’ve already checked and confirmed that we have seats A and B, aisle and window. I wanted to be sure not to be stuck next to a Chatty Cathy on our six+ hour flight. And, I’m in a walking boot with a broken foot, so if someone’s in my seat, they better watch out!

  2. clementinegoesusa permalink
    July 24, 2013 5:27 am

    Hahaha I can relate to “not wanting to talk”. On a plane I’m usually tired (flying from Europe to the US or the other way around), and not interested in being hit on, used as a therapist or in any way engaged. I just want to watch a movie, read a book or attempt some rest.

    • Jenny permalink*
      July 24, 2013 9:46 am

      I am right there with ya! I think I’ve had one successful in-flight conversation with a stranger. Considering how many times I’ve flown, the odds are not in my favor!


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