August 28, 2013
If you travel for business with any frequency, then like me, you probably have had your share of trying experiences. The flight delays. The loud talkers. The lost luggage. There are so many opportunities for things to go so terribly wrong.
For me, one of the worst things is the people. Because sometimes I just can’t stand people. I know that sounds like a generalization or perhaps an exaggeration, but it’s true. People can be the worst.
Over the years, I’ve had some really unforgettable flying experiences – for all the wrong reasons. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few. These all seemed terrible at the time, but have slowly become fun stories in the years since. Time heals all wounds, right?
A Hairy Situation
Several years ago, I boarded a plane bound for Portland to visit a good friend for a long weekend. I was upgraded to first class, a sweet perk for a four-hour flight. Seated in 1B, I glanced to my left and found my fellow passenger to be a nice-enough young lady with very curly, very red hair worn up. Nothing out of the ordinary aside from the romance novel she was absolutely crushing.
But it didn’t take long before I noticed a lot of “activity” in my peripheral vision. Minding my own business while solving a Sudoku puzzle, I began to realize this woman was systematically pulling a single strand of hair out of her bun, yanking it from its follicle, placing the strand INTO HER MOUTH, then pulling it out (imagine putting a popsicle in your mouth, then sucking as you pull it out), then shaking the wet strand from her fingertips, where it was left to fall to the floor.
Maybe it fell on my shoe. Maybe on my bag. All I knew was wet, red hairs were all over the place because this continued, non-stop, no lie, the entire four-hour flight — INCLUDING during our lunch service. Let’s just say my stomach was turning way too much to enjoy the chicken marsala.
Stink at 35,000 Feet
In 1999, I flew to Rapid City, S.D., for an event at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which was amazing in more ways than one. Want to know what else was amazing? I sat next to a very thin woman with long, black hair… probably around 40 with breath so bad it should have been confiscated at security. I mean this was a stink I hadn’t experienced before and thankfully haven’t encountered since. She was a mouth breather, and she was a talker.
She was a nice woman, and my instinct was to chat back, but my gag reflex was in full effect. For 2+ hours I closed my nasal passages down as though I were swimming underwater and muscled through. I like to believe I’m a better man for it.
On a 2004 flight to Boise, I was trapped in the last row of the plane. I mean the LAST row – the one that butts up against the bathroom.
I was seated next to a couple… a very small and attractive woman and her very large boyfriend/husband. I’m on the window, and of course, the dude won’t let his lady sit by some other dude. So he took the middle seat.
There I am, bound for three hours of misery between a wall of plastic and a wall of man. But it didn’t end there. The tiny woman in the seat in front of me decides she needs to rest… and therefore recline. My knees were toast. My claustrophobia was at an all time high.
For hours I meditated, looked out the window, read… did anything to distract myself from this personal corner of hell. And as we came over the mountains, bucking turbulence as we attempted to land, this woman began BOUNCING in her seat as part of an animated conversation she had with her flying companion. The lip of the seat pocket dug deeper and deeper into my kneecap – over and over again – I was literally writhing in pain. I found myself with balled fists, ready to shove the back of that seat forward and send her crashing into the seat in front of her. It took all my might to hold back, but I did. Finally we descended, her seat returned to the upright position and the guy next to me stood up and walked out. All was right again in the world… except I was in Boise.
All in all, these experiences were tough to endure while they happened, but it’s all about taking the bad with the good. As much as I’m sometimes horrified by my travel experiences, I love to travel. I especially love relaying the horror stories, complete with my utter dismay – as long as it entertains others.
As I write this post, I’m flying home from Chicago. It’s been a long day and I just want to get home. But just now I got to enjoy a little gem of an experience. The flight attendant came by holding the snack basket. He offered it to 4C and me. I declined, but 4C took a piece of fruit. The attendant walked off, then came back, leaned in and said in all polite seriousness, “A napkin for your banana?” And I’m dying inside from laughter.
It’s the little things.
If you made it through this long post, I hope you found some humor in it. And if you have a story of your own, please share it!