The last thing I saw was the glint off the metal and then everything went dark…
It started, like these things always do, innocently enough. It was a full flight. I didn’t ask for the center seat. I didn’t want the center seat. I got the center seat anyway. It was one of those big planes with 3 seats on either side of the aisle. I’m not sure if it was a 737 or a 787 and, quite frankly, I think people who know those details are weird.
“A plane ain’t nothin’ but a big ol’ bus in the sky,” a man once told me, but that man was a bus driver and I always suspected that he drank himself out of flight school.
On my right was a youngish black woman clutching a stuffed panda: a foreboding omen to say the least. On my left was an oldish white man. He was dressed snappily in a jeans, button-down shirt, and sweater combination. Neither seemed like they would be a problem. Or at least they wouldn’t be a problem that I couldn’t handle.
Behind me was a family with two lap babies. I was under the impression that the TSA now limited us to one lap baby per flight, but feeling generous I didn’t call security to have the uglier baby evicted. Both babies were crying before takeoff. Luckily I’ve had 2 children of my own so I’m well schooled in the art of ignoring babies while judging their incompetent parents.
When I’m flying I usually do a combination of three things: 1) watch an old movie; 2) try not to think about going to the bathroom (I have a tragically small bladder); or 3) listen to music and enter a half-sleep/half-trance state. As the flight wasn’t long enough for a movie and I had just been to the bathroom in the terminal I opted for the trance state.
And then those damn babies started up again. Jerks! Even James Carr couldn’t drown out their stupid cries. I resign myself to writing and got out my teeny-tiny laptop.
An hour goes by. I’m pleased with my efforts. Captain Jack makes the announcement that we’re starting our descent so I start to shut down all of my stuff. And then it happens.
“What do you say you give me a chance at that armrest for the rest of the flight?” angrily barks the old man.
A thousand snappy comebacks immediately flash into my mind. But I’m in a good mood so I calmly reply, “I’m sorry. Was I hogging the armrest? Why didn’t you say something earlier?”
It starts to dawn on me that old man isn’t just peeved, he’s furious. I’m talking throbbing vein in the forehead furious.
“Grrrflurgh! Why do you think I was hanging out in the aisle the whole time?”
Was that true? Let me think about what I noticed about old man: full head of hair and nice clothes (good), reading the Financial Times (douchey), drank 2 Heinekens (questionable)… occasionally stood in the aisle! So it WAS true!
“I’m sorry, I think you’re overestimated how much I was paying attention to you. I was listening to music and writing. I figured your back was hurting or something. Here, enjoy the armrest.”
Old man grunted and that was the end of the story. Or so I naively thought.
Now I was too distracted to enjoy iPod backgammon. Did I hog the armrest? Was I in the wrong here?
First, let’s establish that I’m definitely big for the middle seat. I’m not seat-belt extender big, but it’s still not a comfortable fit. Obviously the old man and I both wished I was smaller, but that wasn’t going to happen over the course of a one-hour flight. It did, however, call into question my long-standing “you can’t gain weight on a business trip no matter what you eat or drink” theory.
Then again, I was writing the whole time – on a teeny-tiny laptop. Which meant that I was leaning forward and crunched in towards the teeny-tiny keyboard. I don’t think I was using the armrests at all. Maybe old man was just angry/crazy/drunk on pre-skunked beer?
Furthermore, who really owns the armrest? Old man has his left armrest all to himself. Black lady has the right armrest all for herself. What does middle seat man get? Nothing? Both? What’s the official etiquette for this situation?
The more I thought about the situation, the more that I realized I was probably in the right. I was prepared to roast the old man at his very next misstep. His ass was mine.
And then I noticed that he was sitting there and stewing, clenching and unclenching his fist like a very angry, very crazy, slightly drunk old man. Perhaps I shouldn’t mess with him after all.
As we disembark I grab a used piece of gum from my seat pouch, because I am a great guy that picks up after himself. Entering the terminal I look for a trashcan and spot one off to the left. I make a bee line for it and throw my rubbish away.
And then I spot him. Hovering over me and glowering. THE OLD MAN WAS STALKING ME! HE WAS CLEARLY GOING TO KILL ME!
Naturally, I have a macho reaction upon noticing him and let out a surprised yelp, which I cover up by saying, “sorry again about the armrest!!!!” And then I casually ran away.
His eyes! They burned!
On my way to the taxi line I ducked into a men’s room to relieve myself. (And to ditch to the murderous old man, obviously.)
I made it! I’m outside! I’m free! Old man is nowhere in sight and the taxi line is a mere 50 yards away.
A door on my left opens up.
And there he is, mad as hell and staring right through me.
I underestimated my foe. He deserves to win. I accept my fate.
The last thing I saw was the glint off the metal and then everything went dark…+
I gave the cabby directions and sped off to safety.
But I can still see the old man’s face.
And I can still feel his eyes on me.
And I know he’s still out there. Searching. Stewing. Clenching and unclenching. Patiently waiting for his revenge.
Learn from my mistakes people. Don’t use that armrest if you know what’s good for you.