Why is it that when on the smallest plane known to mankind, I will be seated- no, wedged– next to the tallest, beefiest, all-around big-boned males currently inhabiting planet earth? (Think Beef-cake/Meat-head status here; and you know my feelings on their kind.) Actually, the smaller the plane, the larger my seatmate. Exponentially. I could easily reduce my life on planes to a simple math equation. (This is not to say that I could solve said equation. But that’s just in the details.)
Anyway, I sensed it might prove to be an interesting journey as I neared the end of the concourse, only to be faced with not an airplane, but merely air. I’m no world traveler, but I at least knew the plane was a very important ingredient for this particular situation. I stepped to the side and let the aggressive New Yorkers behind me lead the way. I followed them down a set of shaky stairs and continued across the pavement, in search of my plane. I soon found myself shoulder to shoulder with men in helmets and reflective vests and big glow sticks, and I quickly decided it wasn’t even within the outer rim of the realm of safety for me to be out here, traipsing around this hotbed of danger where one hundred-ton carcasses of metal were inclined to dump themselves every few minutes. But, I forged on, in fervent pursuit of what was my idea of an airplane. A real airplane.
However, what I was being led to was nothing of the sort.
I was being herded into an “aircraft” that had absolutely no right to call itself such a thing. In earlier, happier times (i.e. before I boarded the Pseudo Plane) I had gazed fondly upon my 8F seat assignment, naively grateful for my desirable front-of-the-plane status. But reality hit in the form of eight rows of dingy seats the color of an ominous torrential downpour: my formerly coveted 8F “front” row was actually dead last.
I soon found myself seated next to the largest, hairiest, sleepiest Jewish man I’ve ever had the privilege of laying eyes on. Homeboy must’ve had a rough night before, because he wasn’t seated long enough to buckle his seatbelt before his legs spread open haphazardly and his head flopped to the side, mouth agape—this all occurring a dangerous 2.7 inches away from my face.
But, let me tell you, things were radically better when he was asleep; when he awoke, that’s when the real trouble started.
As if I didn’t already have enough problems at this point being held captive on a plane only slightly larger than my dorm room (or “The Cubbie,” as we so fondly refer to it), the plane ride was more turbulent than I am directionally and mathematically challenged. Turbulence in and of itself is disconcerting. Turbulence combined with the intermittent thigh-groping from a large hairy Jewish man is miles past the point of disconcertion…
And this was exactly my destiny that fateful plane ride.
With every jolt of turbulantic-bounce, this man’s hand would fly over the now-obsolete armrest and land directly into my unsuspecting lap. The first few times it happened, I willingly ignored it and feigned a prolific interest in the intricate inner-workings of the thick, grimy Plexiglas separating me from the clouds. But each bounce brought another visit from this man’s appendage, flopping and, at the peak of this madness, lingering on my vulnerable thigh. This man lacked any and all sort of control of his limbs … or did he?
To pass the time in between his next manhandle, I began wracking my brain for some sort of explanation. At one point I actually turned to look up at him after one of his crazy hand bouts. I thought receiving a look of inquisition from his victim would provoke an immediate and logical justification. But all I was met with was a sheepish smile and a silence void of any sort of explanatory elucidation. I quickly moved on to a different approach and decided to give this man the benefit of the doubt: maybe this assumed mal-intentioned stranger was actually a compassionate Samaritan, and this was simply his kind (read: creepy) attempt at comforting me during this terrifying flight experience. That would make sense, right? After all, I must’ve appeared to be absolutely petrified from my seatmate’s point of view, knuckles white from gripping the armrests, eyes wide as saucers, blatantly audible attempts of a desperate version of the Lord’s Prayer streaming from my lips, plus any other tidbits of religious chants I happened to recall from my days of “being a catholic.” I was legitimately doubting this plane’s capabilities. For the first time in my life, I doubted if I would walk (or swim, or crawl) away from a plane ride alive. I supposed my touch-feely friend could sense my obvious fear—so was he just offering a benign touch of comfort, a beam of hope on this harrowing journey?
No. He was just a creepy man. A creepy man who took up too much space on this tiny airplane and was, naturally, sitting next to me.