Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Joys of Airplane Travel

I feel like I’m teetering dangerously close to bad stand-up with this topic, but I’ve had some pretty interesting experiences on planes, I swear, so bear with me. They may be sadly devoid of gremlins and thus not up to a Shatnerian level of greatness, but I’ll do my best to be a worthy replacement. After all, my parents didn’t name me Russell Kirk Nickel for nothing.

I’m under the impression that everyone shares the fantasy of meeting a tall dark stranger on a plane, hitting it off over a mutual hatred of the shoddy in-flight entertainment and, thanks to the cramped seating that ensures levels of intimacy which would normally take months to develop, deciding to share a cab fare to the hotel (for the sake of economy, of course), and as long as you’re both staying in town for a couple of days, there’s really no reason to waste money on individual rooms when hotel beds are so sizable…and so lonely.

At least, I know I’ve been waiting for this to happen ever since that whole puberty fiasco. This unspoken desire that I assume is shared by every passenger adds an exciting and erotic undertone to all those forced conversations of uncanny politeness. The people who refuse to talk to me when I assail them with an unending barrage of friendly inquiries into their line of work, reading material of choice, and sex life aren’t actually trying to sleep or work; they’re using body language to convince me that they’re not particularly interested in getting a hotel with me. Most likely because they’re already spoken for. What else could it be?

But I don’t let failure after failure get me down. Every flight, I disregard my A-priority seating, wait until about half the passengers have boarded, then try to sit next to the person who looks most receptive to hours and hours of friendly conversation and a little flirting. College was a golden era for this, since every flight to or from Spring/Christmas/Thanksgiving break was packed with students.

The very first time I flew home from Stanford was at the end of admit weekend. I spent the whole weekend wandering campus and taking in life with a beautiful girl (with whom I was very honorable since my then girlfriend was waiting for me back in San Diego), and before I knew it, I was taking a flight home. And just by chance, aforementioned beautiful girl Emily was on the very same flight. So of course I sat with her…and her mother, who’d come along to keep her safe from predators like me. Having a girl you’ve just met’s mom sit a foot away from you makes hormone-driven dialogue a difficult endeavor, and age-specific innuendo becomes the better part of valor. I kept having to engage her mom in conversation to seem polite, and somehow the discussion shifted rather unfortunately to their belief in Catholicism, a topic that God in no way intended for in-flight banter. What followed was nigh on an hour of high-minded philosophizing that my half-semester of Dante could never have prepared me for. Attempting to atheistically deflect the good-natured religious prodding of a cute girl’s mother is like walking on eggshells (or water), and meeting the parent(s) after just 2 days made me feel like things were moving faster than locusts on plague day. Still, I must’ve been sufficiently charming and uncontrarian, because during the descent, Emily offered me her number.

Before I’d left for admit weekend, Klaus (the ex) had informed me that I’d better not come home with any cute girls’ phone numbers. But how could I turn down Emily (especially in front of her mother)? It would’ve been one thing if I’d simply input her into my phone, but this was a plane, and apparently turning on a free-with-a-two-year-contract piece of technology causes multi-million dollar flying contraptions to crash. So good, ol’ fashioned writing it was. I didn’t have anything to write on, so Emily solves this problem by retrieving a giant colorful pen from her purse and scrawling her digits across my entire arm, then decorates my guilt-limb with cutesy hearts and stars.

I got off the plane, bid her farewell, headed toward the baggage claim, and ran right into the girlfriend, who’d come to pick me up as a surprise. Yay! Well, at least I had fond memories of the flight to keep me happy throughout my stay in the dog house.

But wait! There’s more! Like that time the pilot made an announcement on the P.A. during our descent. Apparently someone had left one of those extremely useful and cost-effective Juicy Couture handbags in the bathroom, and when they’d gone back for it, it was gone!

Suddenly, the plane was abuzz with rumor, and the witch hunt was on.

No one would fess up, and the plane quickly became a cramped prison, but without the amenities. The pilot announced that no one would be allowed to leave until the purse was recovered, and once we landed, police would be brought on board to search our belongings. Chaos broke out. People erupted in anger, jumping up and yelling at anyone and everyone, and I huddled in the corner attempting to appear as unobtrusive as my massive girth and witty t-shirt would allow.

The shouts continued, the threats escalated, and the pilots promised ever-increasing retribution, from “we’ll turn this plane around and go straight back home” to “we’ll force you to eat a second in-flight meal.” Finally, from just a couple rows in front of me, the purse hurtles through the air, flung with the vigorous abandon only a criminal fearing his or her capture can achieve. In this case said criminal was a her, and the her was a 6-year-old girl. Everyone watched as the purse sailed over their heads, bounced off an elderly man’s shoulder, and came to rest in the aisle, the lone testament to the purloining atrocity that had occurred.

Or what about that time I sat next to the very professional looking Asian man? We made a bit of small talk but mostly kept to ourselves. Then halfway through the flight an old man collapses in the aisle literally right next to me. A woman starts screaming, and a flight attendant rushes to the situation, then shouts those classic words: “Is there a doctor on board?!”

The guy next to me is already leaping into action, checking the old man’s pulse, looking into his eyes, trying to rouse him to consciousness. I can’t believe I actually got to experience that scene from all the movies, and first-hand, too! Dr. Lin helped the guy regain consciousness, then helped him back to his seat and administered some friendly and charming advice along the lines of “no more collapsing!” As the old man stood, the plane erupted into cheers and applause, and the doctor waved graciously. “Just doing my job,” I think I heard him say before he proceeded to get all the ladies.

I’ve found myself on some flights even that soulless character from Up in the Air would’ve found interesting (including a four-hour flight during which this guy paced up and down the aisle the entire time like a crazy person, casting waves of anxiety over every other passenger), but the most important flight of all was the one on the way to Stanford’s admit weekend. A lot went down going to and from that place. You see, that was the day I met life-long friend, sexy hunk of man, singer extraordinaire, and best artist in the blogosphere, Sam Julian. I guess technically we’d met before since we were both captains of our rival high schools’ Improv teams, and thus had needed to organize our fair share of competitive Improv battles, but it was on this flight that we truly got to know each other. Sam’s mom (in classic mom fashion) had forced him to get to the airport 3 hours early, you know, just to be safe, which meant that he arrived at the same time I did. Nothing particularly interesting happened, other than my sitting next to someone who would end up changing my life. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and look where it’s gotten us.

So even if I’ve never managed to have that airplane fling, I did end up with that special someone who’s more about the long term, and even though he can’t quite fulfill all my wishes (try being female, Sam. Seriously), he can certainly draw them.

Do you guys have any good plane stories?

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