When Randy Petersen says, “Tell us a story!” I obey. Here’s a story 😉
This is a tale about my worst seatmate ever. EV-ER.
2009. I was on the longest Southwest flight of my life, from Rhode Island to California. I had the window seat, plus a supply of distractions, so I thought the six-hour trip would be a cinch. At first glace, the guy next to me seemed fine. Actually, he was tall, dark, and handsome, but I’m married, so I was more interested in short, dirty-blonde, and gruesome (the latest episode of Dexter).
I had just settled in with my headphones when I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me?”
I took off my headphones. That was my first mistake.
“Do you know how to turn on the overhead lights?”
I smiled (my second mistake). Then I reached over and showed TDH what to do. He was grateful. I put my headphones back on. Things were cool for another ten minutes, until he tapped me on the shoulder again.
“It’s okay if you want to raise the window shade,” he said. “Or keep it lowered. Either way.”
I nodded and replaced my headphones. But he kept talking. Because it seemed incredibly rude to ignore him, I took my headphones off for the third time. He launched into a super long story about why he was taking this flight. Something about a construction job. I was only half-listening, because I really wanted to find out how Dexter was going to get out of his latest jam. So I just smiled and nodded.
Then the drinks cart rolled past. My seatmate ordered a double vodka, which he gulped, then began to tell me about his brother, who had died tragically two years ago. At one point, he began to cry. “His life was so short!” he sniffed. “And I miss him so much!”
“Of course you do,” I said. Then I got up out of my seat. I walked down the aisle and hung out by the lavatory for awhile. Good times. I was hoping that by the time I got back to my seat, my seatmate would be all cried out.
No such luck. In fact, he was waiting for me with a fresh round of stories. I heard all about his childhood, his abbreviated modeling career, and his difficult relationship with his father. The stories were enhanced by several more drinks, and punctuated by more sobbing. At one point he literally cried on my shoulder, his tears soaking through my shirt.
I wasn’t really sure what to do. It was a full flight, and the man in the aisle seat was asleep. I finally put my headphones back on and tried to watch Dexter, but my seatmate (who was now completely wasted) continued to babble at me, touching my shoulder and occasionally bursting into tears.
I walked back to the galley and asked one of the flight attendants for help. She shook her head sympathetically. “At this point, there’s not much we can do,” she told me. “As long as he’s not disorderly.”
“What does ‘disorderly’ mean?” I asked. “Because he is disordering my flight!”
She laughed a little. “Sorry,” she said.
I returned to my seat. I put my headphones on, pulled my travel scarf fully over my head like Red Riding Hood, and turned my body completly away from my seatmate. This didn’t deter him at all. He shook my shoulder. “Do you think this looks ugly?” he asked me, pointing to a blemish next to his eye.
I shrugged and pointed at my computer screen. “I’m watching Dexter!” I told him.
“Do you have a mirror?” he asked.
I ignored him, but he was undeterred. Instead, he braced one elbow against me and proceeded to squeeze his blemish. I was completely horrified, but also completely trapped.
“Got it!” he yelled.
I stood up and pushed my way into the aisle. For the rest of the flight, I hung out in the galley. The flight attendants let me sit in their jump seats, and they gave me free snacks and drinks. When I got home, I wrote a long email to Southwest, and they gave me free flights.
Since then, every so often, when I’m on a long flight, feeling annoyed by the people around me, I remember this man. And while I am sure that someone out there has a story that can top this one, I have yet to hear any.
Anyone want to share?