This is Part II of my documentation of a recent family trip. If you missed it, Part I can be found here.
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– Any time I walk through the jet bridge tunnel that goes to the airplane, I think about the scene from Dumb and Dumber where he proclaims himself a limo driver and then falls off the open end. It makes me feel a little better momentarily. Then I remember that I’m voluntarily climbing aboard a large soda can that’s about to hurtle through the sky 500 miles per hour at 30,000 feet, just because my fairy ass doesn’t like it when it gets a little cold in New York. Cue anxiety.
– Walking back towards my seat ends up being relatively harmless. There’s a few minor blips, but nothing out of the ordinary: the very small Asian lady comically trying to lift a suitcase double her size and refusing any help; the frazzled stewardess having to hump her way past everybody in the cramped aisle; the couple who forgot to check in online and pick their seats, now attempting to barter their way into sitting next to each other. So far, pretty normal.
– Regarding the husband-wife couple trying to trade seats with someone: For the first time I witnessed an outright rejection.
The wife was seated a solid 15 rows away from her husband; she came over and asked the man next to him if he’d maybe consider switching so they could sit next to each other.
“What seat do you have?” the guy asked, doing his due diligence before agreeing to a swap.
“26 D,” she answered, wincing as she said it. She was clearly hoping he wouldn’t ask; D on this flight was the middle seat. I suppose her plan was to get him to agree to the deal, then quickly yell out “NO GIVE BACKS!” and he would be stuck with the middle seat (in accordance with Rule 10a in Section IV, Article 9 of the International Airplane Seat-Trading Bylaws).
Instead, the wily veteran wanted information. Remember, this is a flight from Newark to Hawaii – direct. 11 straight hours. Count ’em – ELEVEN. That’s an entire day just sitting in one spot staring at a small screen, occasionally going to the bathroom, and daydreaming about a sunny destination… or, as it’s more commonly referred to, “work”.
– “I’m sorry, I’d rather not sit in the middle,” he replied, sort of shrugging but not really. I loved the way he did this. He wasn’t apologetic at all. It was basically the polite way of saying, “Are you fucking nuts, lady?”
She paused for a second, then looked at her husband. I’m sitting there watching this whole thing unfold like it’s an episode of “Real Housewives – Air Hawaii,” and clearly my imagination is taking over. Why’s she looking at her husband like that? Is she silently looking for approval to offer this stranger a mile-high blowjob in exchange for the seat?
– In the end, she just retreated back to 26 D, looking very disappointed. To my knowledge, there were no sexual favors offered in exchange for the switch – which is outlawed anyway, but does happen time to time under the table.
– A man two spots to my left asks the stewardess “if there will be bagels on this flight.” To fully understand the dumbassery of this question, allow me to paint the picture. The poor lady is trying to wedge a suitcase into the overhead bin and the jerkoff is seated behind her – wearing a visor, to nobody’s surprise. When I see someone in a visor, it’s a 60 second countdown until they reveal themselves as an asshole by doing something douchey like berating a waiter or discussing lacrosse.
He’s basically speaking directly into her ass; his lips may have grazed her buttock while he spoke.
– She manages to politely groan out through her clinched jaw that she “isn’t sure” while continuing to grapple with the suitcase like a competitive weightlifter. She is in the fight of her life. The effort required to get those few words out almost causes her to drop the luggage, but she heroically rights herself and stuffs it in, slamming the door shut and exhaling for the first time in nearly 90 seconds. I briefly consider standing up and giving her a rousing ovation, but I look around and nobody else appears the least bit impressed; instead, someone asks when the drink cart is coming around. What she just did was more challenging than half the shit that got people gold medals in Sochi. What a professional.
– I am not overly tall by any measure – six feet on the dot, also known as “the height where you can call a girl too tall and not come off like you have a Napoleon complex” – and yet every coach seat I’ve ever sat in doesn’t have enough room for my knees. How is this possible?
– The seat next to me has been open for a while, and the plane is almost full. I begin to have delusions of grandeur; I picture myself sprawled out across two seats like some head of state, ordering shrimp and watching a movie with my legs spread-eagle and a smile on my face. Airplane swamp-ass would be but a distant memory from my time as a single-seat peasant. “More wine, your grace?” the stewardess would inquire. “Or perhaps a complimentary testicle scratching?”
– My daydream is ruined by a man taking the seat next to me. In an attempt to channel the Hawaiian spirit, I tell myself to be thankful; he is not obese and appears to have average-or-better hygiene.
– I have always believed that every arm rest should go to whoever wants it more. Nothing is given to you in this world; if you want it, you need to go out there and take it. That’s why, despite having an aisle seat and thus at least one guaranteed armrest, I drop my right elbow directly on the one between us. This, in airplane parlance, is a declaration of war. I have just announced my intent to rape and pillage; I have made belligerent demands that he cannot possibly acquiesce to. There is no appeasing the dictator now; this must be settled by force.
– The next 10 minutes of hand-to-hand armrest combat looked like this. Eventually, I wore him out – he looked about 50, experienced but lacking my youthful vigor. He also realized he could just settle for annexing the opposite armrest from the fat lady on the end; natural selection in action. Darwin would be proud.
– The bagel-obsessed arse asks yet another stewardess “if there will be bagels on this flight”. The question is repeated verbatim, which leads me to believe he asks this on every flight, and probably in every situation in general. Excuse me – will there be bagels at this sex party?
– We have a delay before taxiing; something related to luggage weight and a missing whatchamacallit. Runway delays of this variety – mechanical issues and such – elicit a weird feeling. On the one hand, my first instinct is to bitch and moan. Then I imagine myself out on the tarmac talking to the engineer who’s trying to fix it.
Me: “Hey, asshole! Hurry up! We’ve been sitting still for almost 20 minutes!”
(The engineer looks at me, then back into the belly of the airplane where a bunch of loose screws and wires are laying around, then back at me. He shrugs and shuts the mechanical door closed.)
Engineer: “Your call, boss. It’ll probably be fine.”
Me: “Errrr…actually, take your time, let’s not rush this.
(As if talking to the plumber) You want some lemonade or something? Water? You good?”
– After an hour-long delay, we’re off. The takeoff goes relatively smoothly, and soon enough we’re soaring amongst the clouds. The Louis C.K. bit about people bitching about flying comes to mind. He’s right.
– One useful skill of mine is my ability to fall asleep in almost any situation or setting. My friend’s dad likes to tell a story from our 6th grade travel baseball team that touches on this.
We met at our field before our first big playoff game, which would be taking place at another school’s field. Coach gave a big rah-rah speech; all the suburban parents living vicariously through their 12-year-old sons got pretty fired up, and everybody piled into amphibious minivans, ready to storm the beaches of Suburbia.
Less than five minutes later, on the way to the field for the game, my buddies dad asks us all a question. I didn’t immediately respond. “Jack?” he asks, turning around at a red light. There I was, in all my gear, snoring away in the back seat, my face pressed against the window.
We won the game anyway, with me riding the bench. I like to think my calm demeanor helped everyone keep their cool under the high-pressure situation of a sixth grade travel baseball playoff game. I’m not afraid of the big lights.
– I sleep the first six hours of the flight. You can have your sea-parting Moses and Olympic hockey team triumphs over Communist nations – catching 6 hours of sleep on a flight is what I call a “miracle”.
– I wake up because the drink lady slams into me and doesn’t apologize. There’s a chance she just popped my ACL; I’m going into the locker room for further evaluation. I think all the bagel questions put her in a bad mood.
– Ordering drinks on a plane is a science. Are you looking for quantity or quality? Alcohol or non alcoholic? Something to pep you up, or something to put you down?
If you order water or juice, you’re just getting one cup…and by “cup”, I mean “the short, stout Airplane Cups that do not appear anywhere else in nature”. Make sure to ask for no ice, otherwise you’re only getting a sip. I know, I know – OJ with ice is a glorious thing, but sacrifices must be made.
If you’re ordering a soda, you’ll get the rest of the can on the side, which is a big bonus (apparently Big Air doesn’t care about your teeth or general health). If you’re one of those weird people who orders tomato juice on planes, you’ll get a can too.
– On this particular flight, I opt for a coffee. I’ve slept for a while so I won’t be knocking back out, and coffee tends to put me in a bit of a good mood. Plus, anything that makes me poop is a good thing in my book.
– We are about two hours away from Honolulu, somewhere over the vast Pacific Ocean, when the pilot’s voice comes onto the speaker. The seat belt sign goes on while he speaks.
“Flight attendants, please be seated.”
His voice is a bit more terse than usual; very to-the-point. There wasn’t any of that lovable Pilot Drawl that they teach you in flight school. Normally, he would have said it like this:
ErrrrrrrrruhhhhhhhhhhLadiesandgentlemen … gonnaaaaaaaa goaheadandaskthat … uhhhhhhh … you please remain seated … (long pause) … We mayyyyyyyyy … encounter a … bitofsometurbulence coming up here … (long pause) … errrrr … thankyou *click*
This time he forgot to do the voice, which worries me.
– 60 seconds later, all hell breaks loose.
In one violent, jerking motion, the nose of the plane dips. Not to go all Brian Williams on you, but it’s how I’d imagine it would feel if there was an explosion near the plane, but not actually hitting the plane. The entire cabin lets out one of those Airplane Screams in unison – uuuuuuhhhAAAAAhhhhhh! – and shit goes flying EVERYWHERE. Popcorn, pringles, drinks, you name it – for a good two seconds, the entire snack aisle of 7-11 was airborne.
It wasn’t just snacks, either. The first thing I saw – because it was such a striking image – was a dude about five rows ahead of me fly up out of his seat to the point where his head almost hit the ceiling.
The next 15 to 20 seconds was chaos. The plane jerked up and down repeatedly (@Freud) – not just those little “oh, we hit a cute air pocket and for a second it feels like your stomach touched your spine, and it’s almost like a second cousin to an orgasm or a sneeze” things. I’m talking about the nose and tail of the plane actually dipping and swaying, and some side-to-side movement thrown in for good measure. The cabin itself was rattling loudly like an old washing machine. Not gonna lie to ya – for a hot second, I thought I was about to be playing cards with Sinatra.
– A man will do funny things when he thinks it’s time to pay the fiddler. That’s what The Fear is, when you really boil it down: it’s the anxiety that comes when it’s time to answer for what you’ve done. I don’t care if you’re laying on your death bed or you think the plane is going down – when that moment comes, we all deal with it differently. Most people start making peace with their God, which I would advise against.
You see, I imagine contacting a higher being is like texting a girl. Let’s say a chick I used to hook up with but haven’t spoken to in months posts a really hot picture onto Instagram – it’s a #tbt to last summer, and she’s on the beach in a skimpy bikini. Five minutes after the picture posts, she gets a text from me.
Hey there! Long time no chat. Was just thinking about you. How’s life?
How do you think that’s gonna go over? If any ol’ broad can smell your desperation, you don’t think God can?
Typical, God says, watching the plane crash unfold on his iPad (Heaven is sponsored by Apple). Haven’t texted or called me since Christmas Eve, but the plane’s going down and nowwwwww he wants to talk!
Personally, I think the best time to contact your Lord and Savior is a week or two after the plane almost crashes – the same timeframe I’d suggest for texting a former lover who has regained a spot in your JO rotation. This way, you come off as genuine.
– After twenty excruciatingly long seconds, the plane steadies. Nervous laughter ensues. It wasn’t quite bad enough where people are hugging and crying, but there was definitely some back-slaps and head shaking. My 12 year old brother, seated across the aisle from me, handled the whole episode like a champ. I, meanwhile, am checking to make sure I have not wet myself.
– “They make you pay for that in Disneyland!” bellows the visor-wearing bagel connoisseur, chortling at his own joke. My hate for him burns with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.
– As we get closer to Honolulu, the pilot comes on the speaker once more and lets us know that there have been “multiple injuries” sustained during the turbulence. The moaning coming from the back of the plane is apparently coming from a stewardess who broke her arm; I had imagined that it was a husband and wife who were on the cusp of divorce, now passionately making love to each other like it was 1995 again after their brush with death.
– The TV on the chair in front of me has a setting where I can see a map and where the plane is; once we get within 100 miles of the islands, I loosen up a bit. I watch a ton of survival shows on Discovery Channel, so I’m confident that I could survive a water landing at this distance.
– Once the wheels touch down, the cabin erupts in applause; it’s obvious that everyone’s collective sphincter had been puckered up for the final 90 minutes of the flight (excluding the yuppie Bagel Boss; the only thing that makes him nervous is black people). The pilot reminds us again to chill in our seats while medical personnel tend to the injured people, who apparently are all stewardesses. Alright, fine, “flight attendants”. After really paying attention to the shit they go through on this flight, I’m ready to give up the cooler name, if that’s what they really want.
– The “medical personnel” come onto the plane and rush towards the back. They are wearing what appear to be hazmat suits for reasons that remain unclear; either the lady has Ebola or she’s an alien. Get me off of this fucking plane, please.
– One of the fallen heroines is slowly escorted off the plane with a makeshift sling around her broken arm. The crowd is either watching in stunned silence, or they don’t give a shit and are refreshing Twitter. I’ve got my money on the latter.
– After finally walking off the plane, we encounter a makeshift triage area. One of the flight attendants has one of those I’m Already Planning the Lawsuit™ neck braces on. I snap a few pictures, because anytime someone is in pain in public, the first thing that comes to mind is to photograph them.
Only after putting my phone away do I finally feel it: the warm, soft Hawaiian air that I risked my life for. I close my eyes and let the breeze kiss my lips, nibble my earlobes, bite my nipple just a little too hard to the point where I saw OW, jeez, calm the fuck down I told you no biting; it washes over me as I take a deep breath and –
My eyes shoot open. It’s the visor-wearing imbecile. He walks past me in a hurry, bumping me out of his way, his luggage running over my toes for good measure. He does not apologize.
Ah, the miracle of flight.