Friday, November 10, 2006

Flying Freak Show

When I fly alone, I am a freak magnet. Undoubtedly, the weirdest, smelliest and/or most annoying person on any given aircraft will be assigned to sit next to me.

And I can see them coming. As the plane fills, I watch people file past me looking for their seats. All normal, tired, impatient travelers. Then I'll spot the freak. And inevitably, he or she will happily plop down next to me and subject me to his or her freakiness for the next 2 - 4 hours.

Case-in-point #1: The Snuggler

I was flying up to Rochester a few years ago to visit some friends and do some work for a former professor. Once I got to Rochester, I had a 2 hour drive ahead of me. My flight, originally scheduled to leave at 10, was delayed until midnight. So that meant that I would reach my ultimate destination at 4 a.m., at the earliest.

I get on the plane, find my seat, and lean against the window, trying to sleep. My seat mate, a rather large man, clumsily hauls his crap into the seat and plops down next to me. He then proceeds to remove a very large Mexican blanket from his bag. How it fit in there, I will never know.

Freak #1: You scared?
Me, visibly annoyed: No. I'm just tired, and I just want to get to Rochester.
Freak #1: Oh.
[Long Pause]
Freak #1: Want some covers?
Me: NO.

During the flight I put on my headphones and managed to sleep a bit. I woke up when we were descending. It was raining and I knew we were going to have bumpy landing.

Freak #1, leaning over me, peering out the window: Is that LIGHTNING?
Me: No. It's the light on the end of the wing reflecting back into the window.
Freak #1: Oh.

Case-in-point #2: The Drunkard

I used to fly standby on Delta pretty often, which meant I was issued the very last tickets on the plane and always ended up in the shit seats. This was no exception.

I got my seat, and thought I might be lucky enough to have a seat to myself for this particular flight. No dice.

About four seconds before the cabin door closed, Freak #2 comes rolling down the aisle of the plane, headed right towards me. He was dressed in a basketball jersey and shorts, and his hair was all greasy and nasty. I was seriously convinced he had rolled out of bed and onto the plane.

The guy sits down next to me, and while his appearance was slightly disconcerting, I didn't think anything of it. Until I realized he smelled like a distillery, that is.

Freak #2 apparently worked on an offshore oil rig somewhere down in the Gulf of Mexico, and on his few days off, had flown to visit some friends and drank the entire time. Which I could have figured out even if he hadn't told me.

I essentially spent the entire flight facing the window because this dude smelled so bad. Alcohol was seeping out of his pores, and it's quite likely he'd tried to cure his hangover that morning by continuing to drink.

Let me tell you, it's fun times flying for two hours with your nose pressed against a tiny airplane window.

In any case, there are plenty more freak stories I have stored away. I'll try to think of more and post them later.

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