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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fly me to the moon, Alice!

And Away We Go! 
In support of Mr. Steven Slater -- though he does not appear to need my help.

This week, we were all elated by the dramatic exit of Steven Slater, flight attendant who had enough. We’ve all been there and some exits have had some drama but it got me thinking about the perils of traveling, not the journey or mode of transportation, but my fellow journeymen.  So I share the following story with you.

I was flying back from Florida to New York on one of my countless trips back and forth. I was booked in coach in an aisle seat during one of the holidays where every single seat flying betwixt and between is filled.  I was delighted because it appeared that the window seat in our row was vacant as we began to pull out of the gate.  The young man in the seat next to me took advantage of the situation and moved to it with a smile, wink and a nod, as we silently agreed that we now had appropriate room. 

The plane abruptly stopped moving, and my joy was short lived as I watched an older gentleman in his 70s, stooped, muttering under his breath and grimacing as he dragged down the aisle. He was sporting a smashed beige golf hat, a beige Statler Brothers jacket with epaulets, brown and beige checked casual flared slacks and white patent leather shoes with a matching belt.  I knew he was headed straight for our precious window seat.  As he moved passed me in the row toward his seat I noticed he had stubs from a racetrack hanging out of his pockets.  Once seated, the flight continued without incident.

As he settled in he took off his jacket and put it into the seat pocket in front of him. Then he took of his shoes and pushed them under the seat to make room for his stockinged feet. Once he took care of business, he sat back and closed his eyes while my other rowmate raised his eyebrows in an Oh Well shrug.

Coffee Tea or Me? 
This was back in the day when the flight attendants cruised the aisles with free soft drinks and juices and pretzels and alcohol could be purchased in those cute little bottles that my parents collected as souvenirs and kept on a shelf in our den for the children to play with.

As she took our order at 11a.m., I asked for a tomato juice with a slice of lemon, my young companion ordered a grapefruit juice and our undraped neighbor by the window asked for 3 bottles of vodka and a Bloody Mary mix.  We each lowered our tray tables to receive our bounty; politely passing said orders and necessary funds down the aisle.  Our window rider opened the mix, all three bottles of vodka and poured some of each into his iced filled cup.   

He took one sip and looked up at the valve above his head, which was apparently blowing too much cool air in his direction.  He rose to adjust it. As he did, his tray table began to tilt and I watched with my companion, one of those disasters we witness in slow motion, as his bottles and glass slid down the tray and tumbled in to the seat pocket.  We both started to speak out but our taciturn traveler realized what was happening as soon as we did.  It was too late to stop it and 3 open vodkas, open can of Bloody Mary mix, and full glass of his iced cocktail fell into the vented pocket. Just a moment later, in time to add insult to injury, the liquid began leaking through the vents into his abandoned shoes.

My seatmate and I exchanged quick glances, communicating more in our non-verbal exchange than would be possible if trying to speak.  Our gentleman at the window let out a scream and began thrashing the poor passenger in the seat in front of him who had nothing whatsoever to do with the disaster, would not have known what instigated the behavior and probably thought that this guy was crazy. Two flight attendants immediately appeared in the aisle and my young friend and I slid quickly out of our seats.  Mr. Polyester was carried out of his seat and subdued by the attendants in the back of the plane.  I heard him yell out once and then all was silent for the rest of the flight.

I didn’t have the nerve to look back and see what had become of him as our flight landed, I just wanted off the plane.  The only words exchanged between my neighbor and I after the incident were simultaneous “Whews!”

I was completely unnerved by the incident so I can’t imagine what the flight attendants were feeling about it. I just knew that the waitress in the sky job was not one to which I was suited. So, like so many others, I tilt my hat to Mr. Slater for lasting 20 years in the air with passengers like my own Mr. Polyester. 

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