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Adventures In Flying – From Boston To Orlando, A Trip To Remember
I should start by saying I don’t fly very often. The usual fears that we all have when walking into that big metal bird are one reason. But my recent misadventure on a flight from Boston to Orlando illustrates perfectly my reticence to fly.
Mind you, I’m not picking on the airlines or the pilots (especially not the pilots and while we’re at it, especially not the air traffic controllers) because I don’t want to seem petulant and have karma come back at me and slap me upside my head. Karma has been very good to me in my flying experiences. I hope to keep it that way.
I’ve said that I don’t fly very often which is true. However, I have traveled many miles, logging two trips from the US to Australia alone with 24 takeoffs and landings on one particular trip. But I avoid flying for as long as I can, much like one tries to avoid the flu, quite often going years in between flights (and ironically avoiding the flu for the same amount of time).
So it was quite a shock when I flew from Beantown to Otown recently and noticed the decided change in passenger behavior and manners and well, just plain common courtesy and decorum since I’d last flown. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I asked all my co-passengers what decorum is I’d get answers anywhere from an avant garde style of decorating, to a lovely bottle in which one keeps a favorite brandy.
What I learned on this trip was, when flying make sure you pack extra patience along with your bags! You’ll sorely need it. Oh and don’t forget to include a healthy dose of humor. That may stand you in better stead than the extra undies that you’ve packed or your brand new Manolo Blahnik shoes. Okay I don’t really have any of those expensive shoes but sometimes it’s fun to pretend you’re Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City and let your imagination fly.
Uh-oh, there’s that “fly” word again. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, it keeps popping up. Probably to remind me of the reason that I sat down to the keyboard in the first place.
Ok, let’s begin the adventure. It was off to an auspicious start until the lady behind the microphone announced those dreaded words that no passenger wants to hear – Ladies and gentleman, Flight number 1234 has been delayed due to mechanical problems!
Just what this Nervous Nellie did not need to hear. What kind of mechanical problems? Did one of the wheels fall off, one of the engines? Did they discover a crack in the fuselage as long as the Grand Canyon? What? You have no idea how fanciful an imagination you have until you hear those stomach churning words.
Having very few alternatives to get to my destination, I toughed it out along with the other brave souls and within 15 minutes the mechanical problems had been resolved…at least we hoped so.
We boarded the plane and to my sheer amazement, one of the most profound changes I noticed, since my last flight many years ago, is how the size of the seats in Coach class has shrunk. Seats that I used to fit in quite comfortably now threaten to expel me if I so much as exhale too deeply.
Now it occurs to me that perhaps it is not the seats that have shrunk but perhaps this passenger has expanded! Not a pleasant thought so I’ll stick to my premise that the airlines have reduced the seat size to intimidate and bully us into being good little boys and girls and to just stay put reading those boring magazines that they stuff into the backs of the seats in front of us.
Boring? Did I say boring? Oh no, not this flight! This was the Flight of The Albanian, The Punk and Mr. Baba Boo.
The Albanian, or Mr. Albania as I came to think of him toward the end of the flight, at first did not endear himself to me at all. As I had already settled in my seat, checking and double checking that I had the correct row and seat number, I was suddenly aware of a very large man hovering over me using hand language to indicate that I should move over to the window seat. What, was he kidding me? He had no idea of the trials and tribulations I endured just to get an aisle seat on this almost sold out flight. I may be petite, but I think big! And no man was going to bully me into changing seats.
As nicely as my already frayed nerves would allow, I told him that this was indeed my correct seat and he apparently had the window seat. End of discussion. Not so. Mr. Albania said to me in a very thick accent, “You move,” (or he could have been saying “You Moron,” but I’m pretty sure it was “You Move.”) all the while pointing to me and gesturing at the window seat in a furious fashion.
I knew I wasn’t going to move so there was no need for me to be anything but polite and not to use any graphic finger moves on my part, as tempting as the thought may be.
I explained carefully and slowly as one would when speaking to a small child or an annoying telemarketer, that Seat 28 D was the aisle seat. I even went above and beyond my usual patience, sorely limited as it is during the best of times, (remember me saying that when traveling today one must pack an extra amount of patience) and triumphantly showed him my ticket.
Mr. Albania then just as triumphantly showed me his ticket. I thought for sure it was going to show that we had both been assigned the same seat and the thought of me sitting on Mr. Albania’s lap or…shudder…him sitting on mine, was at the same time horrifying yet oddly amusing.
His ticket showed that he was assigned to the window seat. Whew! Finally catching on that I wasn’t about to move he huffed his way past me, muttering “Seat A, B,C,D, what’s the difference?” Says I in response, “well there must be a difference big guy or else you wouldn’t have made such a fuss!” Ha! I told him!
I am not one of those travelers who likes to chitchat with my row mate. I like quiet and solitude so that I might live in my head and conjure all kinds of things that will go wrong with the plane. (Remember the flight started out with mechanical problems so I was already primed).
Most people take the other approach and talk their heads off so that they might take their minds off any problems. Not me! The Born Worrier! The only thing that will stop me from worrying is my occasional imaginary conversations that I carry on in my head with the famous people who I imagine are sitting beside me.
I’ve had wonderful conversations with many famous, kind people, telling them how humbled I am to be in their presence, or telling them how much I totally disagree with their politics or even indulging in a pleasant fantasy with a certain news anchor on MSNBC. These little sojourns in my mind can keep me occupied for the entire trip…unless there happens to be a Mr. Albania sitting next to me.
Apparently he was not turned off by my American rudeness and my audacity, as a woman, to stand up for myself. Of all the flights in all the world, he walks onto mine. And he wanted to talk…and talk.
Never mind that I had my eyes closed resting as comfortably as one can in those newly downsized seats! He would poke me on my arm and point out the window to the beautiful sunset. If he was going to sit by the window by golly he was going to share his view with me. A strange sort of punishment indeed.
Turns out Mr. Albania was not such a bad sort after all from what I could glean from snatching about every third word of his conversation. What is really ironic, and probably the reason I allowed him to intrude on my reverie, is that I had just finished reading a short, supposedly true story that took place in Albania! What are the odds?
I asked Mr. Albania if what I had read in this story is true, that people in poorer sections of the country, in the towns, actually keep a cow in their room, on the third or fourth floor of an apartment, for fear of said cow being whisked away by robbers. Yes! Mr. Albania assured me this was true.
Of course with our language barrier he could have misunderstood me and agreed that yes of course people keep cats in their apartment. I didn’t want to moo to indicate that I was speaking of bovines and not felines but still I think he validated the story. I think.
Sitting directly across the aisle from me in the window seat was a twenty-something year old Punk and I do mean Punk with a capital P. Apparently rules are for other people and said Punk refused to turn off his cell phone, even after being ever so politely asked to by the charming male flight attendant.
The Punk was dropping F bombs so loudly that the people in First Class could have heard, had they not been protected from us riff-raff in Coach by that scary, strong curtain separating us! Woo woo.
Young Mr. Punk was yelling and F-bombing and glaring at anyone who dared to look his way. And I had thought the plane’s mechanical problems were the worst thing that would happen. Ha!
The Punk’s row mate finally had enough and asked the flight attendant if he could move elsewhere. As luck would have it there was one seat left a few rows back so he moved which now gave the Punk all 3 seats to himself, which should have made him happy. Too easy! The Punk was not going to be happy unless he could keep his cell phone on and continue his abrasive and loud diatribe.
When the flight attendant told him that they would turn the plane around and kick his sorry butt out the door (well he said it nicer but that’s how I heard it) the Punk finally turned off said cell phone but not without an outstanding flourish that would have made any entertainer proud.
I don’t know what possessed me to stare at Mr. Punk. Normally I would avert my eyes from such a disaster, as I do when driving down the road and come across an accident or a dead animal. I am not one of those looky-loos, but I found myself staring at him when he caught my eye and he suddenly jumped up in his seat and flailed his arms over his head and waved his hands in a motion that I can only describe as what one would do to scare a small child. Had he yelled Booga Booga I could not have been more unnerved.
Mr. Albania found this all very amusing as did I after my heart returned to its normal rate. We were also amused by The Punk’s head thrashing to whatever music he had going on in his earpiece, gyrating and enjoying his own little private party.
Mr. Punk eventually passed out, sprawling across the three seats with one long leg sticking fully out into the aisle. Finally there would be retribution! Someone would surely come along the aisle and ever so inadvertently bump into his leg.
It took three people to walk by him without incident, gingerly stepping over his leg, before the fourth passenger pushed into his leg as if it were a turnstile. Didn’t bother Mr. Punk one bit. He never woke up. Nary a grunt.
The flight attendants didn’t say anything to him, even when the seat belt light came on. Better to let sleeping dogs lie I suppose. I couldn’t have agreed more.
Then, enter the passenger I like to call Mr. Baba Boo into this little adventure, or misadventure as it were. Mr. Baba Boo, a man of about 45, I’m guessing, but emotionally much younger than that, had been laughing very hard during the flight, entertaining himself, even tousling the hair of the young man next to him and rubbing his scalp with glee. He was like a little boy, which in his mind I’m sure he was. But he was happy. He was so unlike Mr. Punk who didn’t appear to suffer from any discernible mental disorder, yet seemed so angry with the world. Still, we don’t know what goes on in people’s heads, so I won’t judge him. I’ll avoid him, but I won’t judge him.
Mr. Baba Boo earned his nickname from me for yelling suddenly and loudly, Baba Boo! And then he’d laugh uproariously. Then it would come again – Baba Boo! Maybe he had seen reruns of I Love Lucy and thought he was Ricky Ricardo. Whatever little fantasy he had going on in his mind, it was harmless and he was happy.
Then as if he’d heard the joke too many times and couldn’t get enough of it, he’d yell “Are we there yet?” accompanied again by peels of laughter which, in turn, caused Mr. Albania and I to laugh with him.
Mr. Baba Boo, (who was sitting directly behind The Punk), with all his childish traits then gave in to a typical child’s prank, and quickly and forcefully and quite gleefully I might add, kicked The Punk’s leg up into the air until it crashed into the arm rest, thus waking the sleeping dog.
Fearing what might happen now that the Punk was awake and maybe injured, I held my breath, afraid to let it go for fear of being expelled from the unforgiving seat and thereby being thrust unceremoniously at the Punk and into his lap, but nothing happened. Mr. Punk just pulled his leg in and promptly fell back into his stupor.
Mr. Albania and I continued our attempts at conversation, Mr. Punk eventually awoke and to everyone’s surprise, remained quiet and calm during our descent, and Mr. Baba Boo continued to laugh and be happy in his own little world.
The flight from hell, or really the flight from the Comedy Zone, had now ended and we sheep were all standing in the aisle waiting to deplane, when I heard the flight attendant talking to a young couple who had been two rows behind us. He was going on about what an adorable little baby they had and how quiet he had been the whole trip (especially as opposed to the other passengers).
Mr. Albania and I were quite surprised to learn that there was a baby on board who had not uttered one sound. I looked back to see this adorable little baby and indeed he was the cutest, sweetest looking baby I had seen in a long time. He just sat there with his beautiful little face sticking out of the baby carrier. He was a miniature Schnauzer!
Yes, after The Albanian, The Punk and Mr. Baba Boo, it turns out the best behaved passenger on the plane was a little dog. Maybe we could all learn a lesson here.
After we had all deplaned, and walked through the airport, I spotted Mr. Albania standing by the luggage carousel in animated conversation with a young lady. I walked up to him, shook his hand and told him how much I had enjoyed sharing the flight with him.
He smiled, said goodbye and then turned to his companion and I’m not sure but I think he might have said “There’s the woman who is shocked to discover that Albanians keep cats in their apartments.”
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