Pati and BeeBee had a flight from Hanoi to Da Nang today. Luckily, it was a short flight, only 1 hour 20 minutes in the air.
Their seat numbers were 18 E and F, which are a window seat and middle seat on the right side of the plane. When they got to their seats, there was a man sitting in the window seat. They showed him their tickets; he examined them, smiled, and stayed where he was. Pati sat down in the aisle seat, with BeeBee in the middle seat beside the man.
He was tall, slender, aged somewhere in his 30s, and nicely dressed with a light brown suede jacket.
He was nervious.
As more passengers got on, he swiveled his head to inspect them. Perhaps he was expecting a traveling companion. Perhaps he expected to be sitting with someone else. Perhaps, BeeBee began to hope, someone else would come to their row and tell him that he was in the wrong seat. This did not happen.
As the plane began to taxi, he turned his attention to the view from “his” window. Leaning toward the window, he pressed his head into it. Instead of the outside, BeeBee saw only the back of his head. While his medium brown hair was nicely trimmed, it was not as interesting as the outside.
As the plane launched itself into the air, his long legs began to bounce and twitch. For the duration of the flight. Very quickly, he claimed the armrest between himself and BeeBee (in addition to the armrest on the window side), and, when his legs were not twitching, his arms and hands were. BeeBee first squeezed herself away from him, but then reclaimed the space above her seat. His arm did not yield.
(Note to the sensitive reader: This man was neither physically nor mentally impared. Just rude.)
When the cabin crew brought around bottles of water, BeeBee lowered her tray table and left it down for the rest of the flight. This seemed to deter him just a little, yet soon his sharp elbow was digging into BeeBee’s ribs. He fingered the seal that BeeBee had removed from her water bottle and laid on her tray. (Only a short flight, she thought.) When he finished his water, he pulled out his flight magazine to read and claimed all the space between the trays. (Thank goodness for the tray, BeeBee thought.)
When the flight crew announced their imminent arrival, BeeBee reluctantly closed her tray table. He did the same and put away the magazine. He pulled the airsickness bag from the seat pocket ahead of him and examined it closely, turning it around in his long slim fingers. (Please, BeeBee thought, not that!) For a few moments, he put his arms on the seat ahead of him, as if braced for a crash landing. Then the elbow returned to BeeBee’s ribs. (His arm was hot.)
For the final touchdown, his left arm left BeeBee’s ribs to brace itself against the back of her tray. Once on the ground, he again screwed his head tightly into the window. To BeeBee, it looked as if he intended to exit the airplane by squeezing himself through that small porthole.
As soon as it was allowed, he called someone on his cellphone and spoke rapidly but not for long. BeeBee imagined a dismayed person on the receiving end thinking “It’s you again. Already!”
When it was possible to unbuckle her seatbelt, BeeBee followed Pati into the aisle crowded with other passengers. It was a relief to have even a tiny bit of breathing room. Glancing back, she saw that the man had already scooted into the aisle seat. Pati and BeeBee did not let him out into the aisle.
When the line started moving to exit the aircraft, BeeBee courteously stood still to allow passengers to exit their seats ahead of her. After they exited the airplane, BeeBee glimpsed the man a few times but soon put him out of her mind. Until writing this blog post.
(Ladies: You have been seated next to this man or his cousin many times. Gentlemen: Take note. Ladies do not like this behavior.)
(Footnote: This story, unfortunately, is true.)