I don’t travel as much as many do. That said, I’ve spent a fair amount of time taxi-ing and learning the correct position to use if I hear “Brace. Brace.” I’ve spent plenty of woman hours hurtling through the air with a bunch of strangers, angling for arm space and eking out some elbow room. Between zoning out during the oxygen mask demo and listening for that blessed announcement asking the flight crew to prepare for landing, there’s been time enough to observe. People are creatures of habit, and there are behaviors you’ll recognize wherever you are.
I’m just doing my job taking notes.
Clueless Clive. It’s clear Clive hasn’t flown since the end of the Cold War. Unused to security measures put into place sometime in the last century, Clive mumbles and bumbles his way through the airport. Despite written, pictorial and holographic directives, Clive is astounded when he is asked to remove his belt, watch, loose change, shoes and the forty travel size bottles of gels and liquids he is carrying in his pockets. He reluctantly removes the offending items, one at a time, blithely unaware of the snaking line of passengers impatiently tapping their shoe-less feet behind him.
Overstuffed Olivia. Olivia stands at the check-in desk moving dirty underwear from suitcase to carry-on, from carry on to purse, shoving and stuffing and rolling to reconfigure her bags because they are .03 of a kilo overweight. Watching Olivia sweat and struggle as her dirty knickers fall to the floor is almost enough to take pity. Almost.
Reclining Ron. Ron thrusts backward immediately upon taking his seat. And there his seat remains, making it impossible to use your tray table, view your video screen, or feel anything below your knees. Ron’s further attempts at comfort include ramming his body repeatedly against his seat back resulting in spilled drinks, crucial bits of movies missed due to the angle of your screen and the very real possibility of developing deep vein thrombosis.
Screw-the-Rules Sal. Sal marches on board with a carry-on three times bigger than most suitcases, a duty-free bag, and a didgeridoo (true story) and then gets pissy when there’s no room in the overhead lockers. He keeps his seat reclined and his tray table down until the flight attendant has to come by and ask him to comply. He openly uses his electronics upon take off and landing. He probably doesn’t even set them to airplane mode. He’s up before the seatbelt signs go off, develops an urgent need to use the toilet during turbulence, and generally seems to enjoy making life slightly uncomfortable for everyone else around him.
Frank and Fran, the Freaked-out Parents. Frank and Fran are so worried they’ll be given the evil eye by their fellow passengers they spend the entire flight loudly making sure you know they are ON TOP OF IT. “Are you ready for the wild rumpus, Freddie? Are you? Is daddy’s Freddie ready for the rumpus? Ok, here we go. Ready? Fran, where’s the snack?? Oh no, we don’t kick the seat. No, no, we wouldn’t the nice woman in front to get upset. Here, have some Cheerios.” If you listen closely, in-between the lines of exaggerated hushes and pleas to stop eating Cheerios off the floor, you can hear their desperate cries for understanding.
Life-story Lena. Lena is lovely. She is going to see her family on a trip she’s been looking forward to for ages and ages. Her friend Madge told her which travel agent to use, (that nice place on the corner of Pine and Main, they sure gave her a good deal!). You know all of this before the plane starts to taxi down the runway. Lena is happy and smiley and full of memories and stories. And she wants to share Every.Single.One.Of.Them.With.You. Lena is not put off by sleep masks, headphones, hints of communicable diseases or the obvious fact that you are a mere twenty pages from finishing your who-dun-it.
Jiggling Jules. Jules is up and down the entire flight: to get his book, to use the toilet, to put his book away, to get his antacid pills. Every time Jules rises or falls, he holds on to the back of the seat in front in a Viking death hold. The seat ricochets like a pinball. Inevitably, Jules will need the toilet just as you are nodding off or be struck by a sudden desire to retrieve his word search book as you are about to take a sip of your drink.
Must.Be.First.Off. Mike. You know Mike. As soon as the plane touches down he’s got his finger on the seat belt release. As soon as the gate is in sight you hear the unmistakable sound of the metallic release. Mike is up and out of his seat, hand luggage in hand before the doors to manual cross check is complete. If getting off the plane first is a race, it’s one that Mike isn’t going to lose. Even if it means taking out a few grannies and toddlers on his way.
Ice-cold Irene. Irene takes her position as a flight attendant very, very seriously. Never have the words “sir” or ‘ma’am” sounded quite as cold as when they come out of Irene’s mouth. She’s off like a shot if someone is up before the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign. No tray table is left unturned on Irene’s watch. No sir. Irene makes “stow your bags and put your seat in a full upright position” sound chilling and ominous. There is evidence Irene “accidentally on purpose” knocks into stray elbows and knees with her trolley. And takes great pleasure in it.
Sat next to anyone like that recently? I thought so.
May the skies stay friendly, folks. And the passengers too.
I’ve had great fun with these ‘Nine X You’ll Meet” posts–so much so that I’ve decided to make them a semi-regular series. You can find the rest of them under the Nine Lives heading on the blog. Ideas of something you’d like to see? Leave a note in the comments below! x