I don’t enjoy scenes.
I grew up living in the midst of a few, and ever since have avoided them like a particularly unattractive plague. This childhood desire to evade confrontation, in fact, turned me into a world class people pleaser, so eager to make others feel happy and loved that I allowed them to leave stiletto marks on my face.
And while I’m proud to say that that behavior has moderated over the years, there’s nothing like meeting a sky freak to see just how far you’ve come.
When I fly alone, I make it a point to politely greet the person seated next to me and to find something to compliment them on. That way, when I insert my nose into a book or pretend to be asleep in order to avoid a four-hour discussion of rectal fissures or how 9/11 was an inside job, they don’t get offended. They’re happy, I’m happy.
Conveniently, this behavior is also advantageous should one’s plane crash into the ocean and you need to push them off the only floating piece of wreckage. (They’re less likely to hold a grudge, since, after all, you’ve thoughtfully praised their choice of flip flops.)
Thus, a recent flight from St. Louis to LA should have been a convivial slam dunk. But I was seated next to a skyfreak.
This flight was, as always these days, completely full. And, as a pretty, fashionable, 30ish woman – who I’ll call “Renata” – took the middle seat between a kindly older lady and myself, I silently thanked God (since, of course, He has nothing better to do than to coordinate seating on American Airlines). I smiled graciously as she settled into the seat, complimented her backpack, and, my work done, returned to my hilarious book, The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy.
It quickly became clear, however, that Renata had “issues”. It began with some simple fidgeting: opening and closing various reading materials every 20 or 30 seconds, followed in quick succession by a lean forward, then a lean back, then a sharp, 90-degree turn in either direction like she was auditioning her seatmates for a hot make-out session.
The older lady, mystified by this behavior, caught my eye as if to say, “Do you think she has a bomb strapped to her Spanx?”
Ever the accommodating one, I said nothing, choosing instead to close my eyes and attempt to nap.
At this point, Renata tired of fidgeting and got up to go to the restroom. This would not have been a problem had she only gone once. But after the fourth trip in one hour, her “I’m sorry’s” – as she climbed over the older lady and fell into my lap, startling me awake – seemed a bit pointless, since she wasn’t sorry or she’d have stayed in her seat and strapped a colostomy bag to her calf.
Don’t make a scene, I thought.
Realizing that sleep was out of the question, I opened my book and attempted to read once again. But Renata was just gearing up for her eleven o’clock number.
She then began – as God is my witness – doing aerobics in her seat. I am not kidding. These upper body exercises, apparently designed to prevent an embolism, were far more successful in nearly giving me a black eye and the grandmother in the aisle seat a stroke.
Grin and bear it, I thought. It’ll be over in an hour and fifteen minutes.
Deciding that her workout wasn’t utilizing enough muscle groups, she inserted three sticks of Bubble Yum into her mouth and began popping the gum in rhythm with her movements.
That did it.
Whirling around to face her (which consisted of a fairly imperceptible turn of my head), I announced in my best I sound like I’m joking but I’m kind of NOT voice, “Is your meth dealer meeting you at LAX?”
“I know, right?”
It took my brain a moment to untangle her sentence, given that it shot out of her mouth like a cannon. Renata was clearly under the impression that speed-speaking earned prizes and parting gifts.
“I-think-I-had-way-too-much-coffee-this-morning,” she rattled off in under a second. “I-probably-shouldn’t-drink-that-much-before-I-fly,” she added in a rapid fire coda. “Plus-I’m-used-to-having-a-window-or-an-aisle-seat-and-being-wedged-into-this-middle-seat-is-driving-me-insane.” That last sentence took well over two seconds, which appeared to upend her crack-fueled oral apple cart.
“Oh, trust me,” I replied, before the filter in my brain could clamp down on my mouth, “it’s not just driving YOU insane.”
There was a long silence.
Figuring that she may have fashioned a shiv out of her lipstick tube during one of those trips to the bathroom, I quickly tried to cool the tension by presenting her with what I imagined was a winning, adorable smile.
I was, apparently, the only one who imagined it that way.
“Why are you being such an ASS?” she announced in a voice that required no assistance from the on-board p.a. system.
I glanced at the older lady, who rolled her eyes and let out a heaving sigh.
“I don’t mean to come off that way,” I said in my most inside voice, trying – a bit halfheartedly now – to placate her. “It’s just a little hard to relax with you flailing around like an electroshock patient.”
She slammed her backpack onto the seatback tray table.
“Well, you know what?” she said in her most outside voice. “You can just go electro-f*** yourself!”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we spent the remainder of the flight in silence. And I discovered that pretending to be asleep for 74 minutes involves a lot of coordinated breathing and muscle control.
But as I sat there faking a coma, I realized that although I may still have issues with wanting to please people, sometimes standing up for yourself feels really, really good.
Every once in a great while, you just have to tell someone to go electro-f*** themselves.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 at 5:17 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.