By Royce J.
Baltimore to San Diego and back. With layovers, it would total four flights. The first three had been an exercise in human suffering. Would the last flight finally offer some comfort? Was an empty middle seat nothing more than the notion of a foolish red-eyed traveler?
Flight 1. Baltimore to L.A.-The Lunar Module (5 hrs)
Book an aisle seat, feel pretty good about yourself. Come to find that your aisle seat is next to man carrying baby and assorted baby accessories. Lean head forward in utter despair, get asked by baby-man to lean back so that he can see his aloof wife across the aisle. Consider locking self in bathroom for duration of flight.
Take a chance and offer to switch seats with baby-man to the middle, who then abruptly switches seats with the mountainous man from across the aisle in order to sit next to wife.
Find yourself wedged between two men who look like they’ve never substituted the fries for a side salad: the man who defected from across the aisle, whom you think you’ve seen marching menacingly into the ring as a former member of Mike Tyson’s protective entourage, and an aging leather-skinned farmer, looking like he could chop a cord of wood and still have enough strength left to kick your soft city-ass back to the overpriced condo you crawled out of, had his back not seized up on him, (entourage could have stepped in to finish the job if it had).
Envy the amount of room astronauts were afforded in lunar module. Consider how they never would’ve landed that damn thing with a screeching baby three-feet away inside.
Defeat baby’s cries, and subsequent institutionalizing, with searing lashes of downloaded heavy-metal from your ear buds. Go ice fishing for phone by gently tugging on still-connected headphone cord when it suddenly drops between legs while attempting to take tomato juice from flight attendant.
Take note of tendency for older male generation to load all personal valuables into breast pocket like human marsupial.
Flight 2. L.A. to San Diego-The Toy Plane (45 mins)
Picture four year old simulating a flight with plastic toy plane. Now, picture self inside said plane.
Flight 3. San Diego to Denver-The Cannon (2 1/2 hrs)
Enjoy aisle seat for about three minutes before very tall man with legs that could’ve almost kicked the pilot in the back if fully extended inserts himself between you and the huddled grey mass in the window seat.
Spend time unwillingly polishing the canon of an ass that the flight attendant is lugging up and down the aisle with your shoulder. Think about how setting it off could blow a hole in the side of the plane big enough to suck you and every last individually packaged pretzel bag and safety card out over the snow-capped Rockies. Consider proposing legislation to limit the diameter of flight crew posteriors.
Flight 4. Denver to Baltimore (3 hrs )
This is it. Last chance. Board in second group and tuck into window seat. Glance hopefully over at still empty middle seat, then meet eyes with early 30’s, black goatee sporting male on aisle seat, already tucked snugly into his neck pillow. Read each other’s thoughts with alarming clairvoyance: nobody sit here, nobody fucking sit here. Passengers file by: petulant child, mutton chops, biker chick. So far so good. The stream turns into a slow trickle.
Black goatee breaks down,“Close the god damn door!”
This draws the attention of man with official looking uniform, who now strides over to your row. You look away so as not to be associated with demonstrative row-mate. Overhear uniform man explaining to Black Goatee that there is one more female passenger waiting to board, and that she would be placed in the only remaining seat on the plain: your middle seat. Hear Black Goatee groan. The official man responds.
“We gotta put her somewhere, sir.”
“Well don’t put her here!”
Uniform man walks off down the aisle. Your dreams of pain-free legs and full arm-rest access walk off with him.
You and Black Goatee are now all out of options. The middle seat has been targeted for termination. Your only recourse is to let your minds ponder the physical attributes and condition of this mystery women.
“She’s gotta be on a walker,” Goatee concludes.
“What if she’s a bombshell?”
“Nah, I’m not that lucky. Oxygen tank probably.”
“Debilitating skin condition?”
You both shudder and stare at the door, helplessly awaiting your fate. You’ve been on blind dates like this, but there was usually a table between you, and a much easier way out.
“Here Comes the Bride,” keeps playing in your head. A twisted laugh arises at the idea of this woman making her grand unwanted entrance, resplendent in full white gown and vail.
All of a sudden Goatee perks up, “We could say that she’s a drug mule or something, get the air marshall to drag her ass out of here.”
You smile “Yeah, I can smell it! And I’m also pretty sure I heard her say the b-word, officer.”
You both chuckle for a second, then the illusion is over, displaced once more by cruel, cramped reality. One minute goes by. Might as well be an hour. Safety video starts.
“They can’t stick someone on the plane after the safety video, right? Black Goatee meekly offers. Was that in the fine print somewhere? You don’t remember reading that. Another minute painfully ticks by.
Here comes the first mate’s voice, then the plane starts moving, and finally you realize that the unthinkable has just happened: For the next two hours and 59 minutes, you and Black Goatee are now the proud owners of 18 inches of unoccupied seat space. You think you hear your crotch cry out in pure, unfettered joy.
You laugh the giddy laugh of two fat, succulent wild pigs who just trotted straight past the hungry tiger without being devoured.
Soon the flight attendant stops her rickety metal cart next to your row. You open up the middle tray table and place both your drinks on it. There they stand, two dancers on their own private dance floor. You look over at Black Goatee and bump fists. Its gonna be a good flight.