It was 4 months since my Mom had passed away. My birthday was fast approaching, so we hopped on a plane to Vegas. It was a much needed holiday from the deep sadness and loss I had been experiencing for months. We stayed for a few days taking in shows, horseback riding, gambling and just decompressing. We boarded our plane home, satisfied that we had made back the money we lost by winning Keno at the airport. My partner, Glen and I, had booked our seats so that he had an aisle (can get up and go pee, stretch his legs) and I have a window (so I can sleep).
Most times, when we fly together, I end up with the middle seat due to the fact that Glen always chooses to have the aisle (if he had the middle or window seat, you may as well stand for the whole flight based on the number of times he thinks he needs to go to the washroom). So…if I want to sit beside him, it would be in the middle seat, which I personally find uncomfortable. This time around, I chose not to be uncomfortable. I chose the window!
As luck would have it, when we checked in, we noticed that the middle seat was empty. Everyone had boarded and were seated, belted in, waiting for the door to close when the flight crew comes over the intercom saying we were waiting for one more passenger.
I had been in that position once before, running the marathon through the airport, gasping for breath (because I don’t run marathons), anxious that I would miss my flight but almost more embarrassed than anything to have to walk the aisle of shame upon entering the airplane.
We all waited, fidgeting patiently. In my mind I was preparing for an after take-off lie down, where I would curl my feet up against the window and bury my head on Glen’s lap. I would pop in my earbuds and listen to Bach, eventually falling into a half aware sleep.
After 5 minutes of eternity, he sauntered onto the aircraft almost comically, nonchalant-like. There was no huffing or puffing with this young man. He seemingly had not a care in the world. Smiling amicably-not embarrassed in any way or showing any sort of acknowledgement in his demeanour that he was sorry he kept everyone waiting-he made his way down the aisle…toward us, glancing up now and then to look at the aisle numbers and then back at his ticket. After each row of seats that he passed, my dreams of reclining in econo comfort waned. I cheered myself up though by remembering there were still many other middle seats available and prayed that his ticket wasn’t the one which would dash my dream of stretching out.
He stopped at the aisle in front of us and said loud ‘hellos’ and then laughed with a young women, (who I surmised later on, was his girlfriend). He then turns a quizzical eye to Glen and myself, holding up his ticket, indicating that he has the seat between us. I smile (even though I am gravely disappointed) and Glen stands up.
The young man, somehow recognizes that Glen and I are ‘together’ and says,
“Well, well! I’ll take one of your seats- if you want to sit together?”. The look on his face was one that reflected an apprehensive excitement, almost as if he had said out loud “I can’t believe my good fortune at getting an aisle or window seat!”.
Now, I usually am a pretty accommodating kind of person. This time, however, the young man would need to accept that he had lost this hand and would spend the next 2 1/2 hours, squished in the undesirable middle seat. I had booked the window because for once, I wanted to be comfortable. There was no doubt in my mind that he (and his friend directly in front of us- in the middle) booked their seats last minute. I, for one, was not going to be the accommodator and looked toward Glen, who was still standing, either oblivious to his question or ignoring it.
I replied “No, thats okay, I’ve sat in the middle enough times” and smiled. Glen is still standing, ‘people watching’ and waiting for the guy to sit down. At this time, a storm cloud passed briefly across this young man’s face and then a cruel, tight smile appeared. Swinging into the seat beside mine, his words were not mumbled, but almost conversational, meant for a direct hit. He says to me, “My God, I can’t imagine what a miserable life you must have when you can’t even sit beside your own spouse!’. Then he chuckled, shook his head, and settled into his seat.
I was completely stunned.
I mean, he could have THOUGHT it. But to say that. Out loud. Brashly and unapologetically. It hurt my feelings so much. So much in fact, that I was mute.
Devastated by an unwarranted attack. My usual reaction to such behaviour would have been a complete and total verbal dressing down-perhaps for the whole flight. But…I said nothing. I was absolutely ‘gob smacked’ as they say.
I waited for Glen to say something-anything. But there he was, oblivious to the evil who sat between us. He hadn’t heard a thing.
Before the plane even took off, I had run the statement he had made to me through my head a dozen times. He didn’t know who I was or why I wanted to sit at the window. He didn’t know anything about me! I looked out the window as the plane took off, tears streaming down my face. I didn’t have my Kleenex and couldn’t ask Glen for my jacket because I couldn’t bare to look at this piece of shit beside me and have him see me crying.
I finally calmed myself, wiped my eyes on my coat sleeve and began to fantasize my revenge, which allowed for a heroic moment of me telling his girlfriend that he had a wife she didn’t know about. After a while, the flight attendant came by with drinks. He ordered a double rye. It was 10 am. I silently judged him.
After some time, the flight attendant came by again with customs forms. I furtively glance toward ‘middle seat guy’, (aka, piece of shit or P.O.S. for short…) who appeared to be sleeping. Glen, noticing the guy is sleeping, gets my attention to ask me for a pen-miming that he needs to fill out the form. I mouth back to Glen that the pen is in the backpack and also ask him for my book.
It is then that I notice the P.O.S. has stirred. Keeping his eyes closed, he begins to shake his head with a smart aleck smirk on his face. He then opens his eyes, looks my way and starts slowly, admonishingly, shaking his head as if to say ‘you both are pathetic’.
In that moment, I wish I could tell you that I punched the smirk off his face. I wish I could say I called the flight attendant to say I was being mentally abused. I wish I could say I got Glen’s attention and told him POS made me cry (but then, Glen would be arrested and that wouldn’t have been very satisfying).
I wish I could say I saw his parents at the airport and that I told them what a massive failure as a person he was. In that fleeting moment, I could have said or done a lot. But I didn’t.
Something came to mind that my mother once told me. She said that when someone was being rude, to simply say “I’ll pray for you” and they wouldn’t know what to say in rebuttal. I had used this ‘line’ in a few situations, the outcome being laughter and apologies.
I didn’t use the line. But thinking of her again made me tear up. Because her line was sweet and maybe a little naive…and so very like my Mum. And because it was funny in a passive aggressive way.
I’ve flown with strangers who were highly intoxicated. I’ve sat in a window seat with someone throwing up beside me off and on the whole flight. I’ve had people sit next to me who talked to themselves for hours, or who continually picked their nose and wiped it on their pants. However, nothing could beat this POS experience.
I memorized the tattoo on his arm and have occasionally thought, if I ever see him again, I will make it my duty to explain to him, loud and clear, who has the miserable life…
But then, I know I wouldn’t. Because I don’t know him.
I don’t know who he is or why he is the way that he is. I don’t want to know.
All that I know is he didn’t even know me and he hurt my feelings. And I know… that I don’t ever want to make someone else feel like I did that day.
A reminder to be kind…from a P.O.S.