Oh airplane seat mate, when will this flight be over?
(Reader discretion is advised) :
Looking back on some of my worst airplane seat mate experiences, few could top that of a woman I once sat next to who repeatedly dug her hand into her crotch. No, it wasn’t what you think—it was something else (I think?). Still, crotch digging is crotch digging any way you look at it … or try to look away from it … or try very hard to get your seat changed.
Recently, on a warm, early morning flight from west to the midwest, I had a different kind of doodler sitting next to me. Meet my seat mate and a list of all the irritating and neurotic things she did. I finally had to put my hood up (my hood acting like a horse blinder) and block her out:
- Slowly shook the ice in her x-large McDonalds cup. Kept shaking. Threw the ice back in her mouth, slowly sucked on it, spit it back in her cup. Threw the ice back in her mouth, gnashed it with her teeth. Spit the gnashy back in the McDonalds cup. When the ice was gone, she sucked the last vestiges of the glacial melt inside the cup.
- Begin braiding her long, greasy hair. Let the braids out. Worked the braids in sections by going row to row. Let the braids out.
- Shifted her left elbow (she, an aisle seater) and continuously poked me, even though I had by this time, tucked myself into a fetal position.
- NO!!!!!! Say you won’t do it! Stewardess came to take drink orders. My gal sal ordered tomato juice with — NOOOOOOOOOO! Yes, ice. (Repeat all #1 steps: shake ice, throw ice, suck ice, gnash ice, spit ice, suck last vestiges of glacial melt).
- Aha! I had thought she was knitting. You know, a way to work off that nervous hand energy. But no. She was wrapping the 2 bottoms pull strings from her shirt around her fingers. Knit 1, purl 1, etc.
- Variation on a theme: she is now separating large swaths of her long hair and combing in with her fingers. Imagine: your fingers are like comb teeth, you run them through your hair. It is fall, she perhaps is getting ready for the hair harvest during the hair harvest moon.
- I note she has taken to pulling at a finger with her other fingers, as if her fingers are the most flexible in the world. I then note: a rubber band is intertwined between all the digits, like a cat in the cradle string game. She is pushing, pulling, elasticating.
No more, I can take no more. My hood is up, I have turned slightly askance. I can breathe again. That is, until I hear these dreaded words from our stewardess: “Can I get you anything else to drink?” (Can you bring me a valium?)
Photo: Angela Frucci
(The seat mate pictured in this photo? Not the seat mate protagonist of story.)