Friday, July 11, 2008

Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies

I think that I quite possibly have the worst airplane luck of anyone I know. Not that all my flights are bad. And I’ve never been in an actual crash, thank heavens. But it’s just that I’ve never met anyone with so many bizarre airplane stories. Now this might have something to do with the fact that I’ve logged nearly 600,000 miles with Delta alone—probably 1 million total miles over the last 15 years or so. But it doesn’t seem like enough to justify all the weird things I’ve seen. I mean I’ve driven tons and tons of miles and I don’t have hardly any driving stories. But flight stories? Here are a few examples.

Once I was on a plane that was getting ready to close the doors and pull out onto the tarmac, when this guy who looked remarkably like Owen Wilson boards. He seemed like a nice enough guy. Maybe a little weird, but nice. As he gets on, he heads to his seat which was 16D singing, “Ah, sweet, sweet 16. I love 16.” So people generally smile and carry on. After he sits down, he leans across the aisle to these two older women and says, “How are you two lovely ladies?” They laugh, blush, you know. He starts chatting with them, and turns the conversation to God, saying something to the effect of, “Have you discovered God? Because I wouldn’t fly anywhere without him. I know God. Do you know God?”

By now the ladies are starting to get a little uncomfortable. They try to ignore him, so he starts talking to the whole plane, shouting that he has been saved and the plane needs to be saved too. Quickly a flight attendant approaches him and asks him to keep his voice down. He gets this little embarrassed smile and whispers an apology. Then as she starts to walk away he shouts, “Because I wouldn’t want to bother anyone with God would I? I wouldn’t want to bother anyone!” Shortly thereafter he was escorted off the plane by a nice security officer. Turns out he was supposed to be on some medication that he had stopped taking.

Then there was the husband and wife who boarded the plane with their three small children. I was on one aisle, the husband, sat on the other, and the three children sat between us. The wife sat one row back. When I offered to change seats with her, she smiled sweetly and said, “No thanks.” About half an hour into the flight, the kids wanted hot chocolate to drink. The flight attendant put all the drinks on the father’s tray and said, “These are very, very, hot.” So of course the dad hands them right over to his kids, the youngest takes a big gulp and begins screaming wildly—and understandably. I turned back to the mother who was reading a book and offered again to let her come up and help with her child. Another smile. Another, “No thanks.”

That was a long flight. But not as long as the flight I took where I was given the last seat on a flight that left a few hours earlier than the one I had originally scheduled. First, I have to point out that I have a semi-serious case of claustrophobia. I can go in an elevator, plane, etc. But caves are generally out, and anything where I start to feel cramped can get pretty bad pretty quick. So it turns my seat is in the very last row in the plane. It only has seats on one side of the plane, and only two seats, as there is a lavatory across from it. I am given the window seat back where the plane starts to narrow. Not good, as I am already going to be pushed up against the side of the plane. Hopefully I have a small person sitting next to me. Can you see this coming?

Have you ever seen those 18 inch seat belt extenders? Well this guy needed two. I have nothing against big people, but this guy could not—and did not—fit in one seat. Instantly I am smashed between him and the side of the plane. My first—and wisest thought—was to get off right then. The two reasons I didn’t were that it was only about an hour and a half flight, and I couldn’t think of a polite way to tell this guy I was leaving. During the flight, I managed to lose myself in a pretty good book, and I did okay. Right up until we landed and taxied to the gate.

As soon as we reached the gate, though, the engines shut down and all that nice moving air stopped. This is not good for claustrophobics. We need moving air. Of course everyone with an aisle seat stood up—except for my friend. Now I am counting down the minutes, watching as each row exits. I’m sweating like crazy and trying not to begin pounding the guy next to me, when a man opens an overhead bin and a metal briefcase falls out and knocks a woman unconscious. You think I’m making this up? I wish.

We were stuck on the plane for an extra half hour with no moving air, while they brought on a backboard to carry the woman off. And not once did the guy beside me even offer to move. I know, I know, the woman with the head wound was worse off. But I would gladly have been the one knocked out if given the choice.

I also had a flight redirected over the Atlantic after a truly terrible and possible fatal accident with a cart elevator. You really don’t want to know the details on that. I’ve been on many, many flights where they asked if there were doctors on board. I’ve got tons of these stories.

So yesterday when I had a perfectly good first class upgraded seat on a 7:30 flight from JFK to Salt Lake, you would have thought I’d stick with it. But the Delta agent at the airport assured me I could catch the 3:30 flight. She even changed my ticket so I’d get another first class seat. Of course when they actually filled the flight, somehow my first class seat disappeared. “I don’t know who told you that, honey. But you’ll lucky to get on this plane at all.”

“What seat did I get?” you ask. Middle seat, non-reclining in the back of the plane. As I am the last person to board, I ask the smiling flight attendant if there is room in the overheads for my duffle bag or could I put it in the front closet? (I pack light and I don’t check bags unless I have to. Want to talk lost bag stories?) She assures me there is room for my duffle bag and computer bag in the back. That’s fine. But as I start by, the other flight attendant gives me a wink and moves some things in the closet so I can put it in.

“Thanks,” I whisper. “You are awesome,” as she tucks the bag down. Five minutes after I am seated, here comes the first attendant with my bag. She gives me a glare, opens an overhead compartment and literally throws it in.

“Is there a problem?” I ask.

“When I tell you not to use the closet,” she says, with a really dirty look, “don’t try to sneak your bag in.”

“I didn’t sneak it in,” your other attendant told me I could.

“I just asked her and she said she didn’t”

“Why else would I put it there? I brought my computer bag back here. I wouldn’t open the closet myself.”

“I have no idea why you did? I told you not to use it and you did anyway!”

At this point everyone is staring at me, and I’m thinking about the scene where Adam Sandler is escorted off the plane in “Anger Management.” “That’s fine,” I say. “Apparently I misunderstood.” I open my book and look up to see that she is just standing there scowling at me.

So eventually she leaves. But once the flight starts, I discover I am seated next to the incredible peeing man. He doesn’t look like he weighs more than a hundred pounds or so, but every ½ hour he nudges me and says, “Excuse me.” Then I and the French girl who speaks no English have to get out of our seats and wait while he hits the lavatory. At least it is close by. Right behind us in fact, with all its unique smells.

But all that was okay. Because I had just purchased a new book at the airport bookshop. It was a horror novel. A “national bestseller, now a major motion picture.” Stephen King proclaimed it, “The best horror novel of the new century.” And it’s even a whopping 500+ pages. How can you argue with that? It turns out this book is all about a bunch of people trapped on a hill with a horrible, intelligent, killer . . . vine.

I kid you not. A vine, for crying out loud. And kind of a stupid killer vine from what I can see. I mean, it grows everywhere—except on this clear path that it leaves for walking. It’s smart enough to tear down the warning signs other people put up, it’s fast enough to catch buttons out of thin air, and it’s hungry enough to slurp up a puddle of vomit when a girl throws up on the trail. But somehow it’s not smart enough to just wrap you up and eat when you tromp through the middle of it. And from what I can tell, it also does impressions of cell phones, and birds. Although I still haven’t figured out how it manages to makes these sounds since it has no vocal cords of any kind. To give Smith, who I hear is a great writer, the benefit of the doubt. I have not finished the book, so maybe it has a great ending. I like the beginning a lot. But come on. 300 pages of people whining about a vine? Oohhhhhhhh.

Yeah, well, rush right out and buy your own copy of “The Ruins” by Scott Smith if you are into killer vines. But if an older flight attendant from New York offers to let you put your bag in the front closet, just say, “No.”


DesLily said...

I used to fly more than I do now.. now it's rare.. however, if and when I DO need to fly I will be sure to ask if Mr Savage is aboard... and if he is ... I will change my flight! lol

Kimberly said...

And here I've been pouting because my husband is flying all over the place this summer and I'm stuck at home.

Suddenly I feel safe. And lucky.


Annette Lyon said...

No desire to switch places with you. And from one claustrophobic to another--if you ever find yourself in Jerusalem, don't walk through Hezekiah's tunnel. I about died.

Kyle said...

Wow, you do have bad luck when it comes to planes.

Brian said...

Ouch. And I thought that was the stuff you see on TV. Good luck with the next one.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I knew there was a reason I didn't like flying. You should let us know when you are flying so we know when to avoid taking to the air.

Tamra Norton said...

Thanks for the laugh! Yeah, I know it was at your expense but these stories are clasic!

And do you think there's a link between writers and claustrophobia? I avoid the window seat at all cost!

Rachelle said...

I don't fly enough to have such weird experiences, good thing!
Come on over to my blog today to check out the next stop on the Farworld tour.

Heather B. Moore said...

When you fly as much as you do, you're bound to run into these things. lol. That lady who refused to sit by her kids had probably made some kind of deal with her husband--so that "he" could take care of the kids. Funny.

Julie Wright said...

because of my excessive claustrophobia I HAVE to have a window seat. I have to have a seat where I can put on my headphones and stare out the window at all that open sky or I will start screaming. I also have to have a seat at the front of the plane. Or as close to the front as I can get so I am not stuck waiting too long to exit the plane. The exit wait from the back sends me into fits that I have a hard time controlling. So you have nothing but my sympathy.

And don't even get me started on the bubblegum twins I ended up bavysitting for an entire flight while their parents sat two rows ahead. And the missed flights due to layovers . . . and the lost luggage . . . and the terrible landings where I knew we were going to die.

But I've never had a crazy person on flight. I had one of those on my greyhound bus trip across country. The police had to haul her off kicking and screaming we were all trying to kill her in some mass conspiracy. Ah the joy of public transportation. You should read Lee Modesitt's blog on flight travel for his wife. It was hysterical if not wretchedly sad.

Crystal Liechty said...

I hate flying, too (just as claustrophoibic as the rest of ya!) These were hilarious! I want more plane horror stories!!!

Mindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mindy said...

Remind me not to go anywhere with you, even Middle Earth! LOL :)

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Oh my goodness! You should compile all your funny (and not so funny) airplane moments into a book. I bet it would sell really well! :)

Dan and Wendy said...

My favorite flying story was when I was sitting in the front row of the plane. It was a small, non first class plane. Anyway, the person in the seat next to me is rip roaring drunk.

I was worried that he would be an angry drunk and that it would be a long flight. However, during the flight he was a happy drunk. He kept leaning over conspiratorily to me and then talking loud enough for the whole front of the plane to hear him.

Every time he made what he considered to be a rather salient point he would put his fist up so we could "knucle bump."

I thought it was best just to go along with it, so we knuckle bumped all the way home.