Anytime you travel alone, you run the risk of getting stuck on a plane beside someone bizarre. It doesn’t matter how intent you are at feigning sleep, if the motormouth beside you decides that she feels like telling her entire life story, you can either offend her by asking for silence and then deal with her pouting, or you can pretend interest in her multi-hour saga while secretly praying for engine failure to end your misery. While I was not the victim of one of these airline entertainers, I sat directly behind one and witnessed firsthand the agony she inflicted on another passenger during our nine-hour flight to Paris.
“You like to hear about my children? I tell you. I have five.” She was one of those elderly Asian women who spoke loudly and with misplaced authority. Her English was functional, but lacked fluency. Her neighbor was also a woman later in years, and I hoped this would increase her tolerance for seventy years of a stranger’s stories. I dozed after an hour or so, and when I awoke, she was still talking.
“So I tell him, you no get job, you no live here!” She jabbed the air for emphasis, and I had to wonder how loud the chronicles must have been in the seat ahead of me. Maybe her auditory hostage had slipped in her earbuds to obtain some relief. The dinner cart rattled our way and parked a couple of rows in front of our seats. I lowered the plastic tray attached to the seat in front of me, and the flight attendant asked the Eternal Storyteller her choice of entrée.
“What you have?”
Anyone listening for the past ten minutes would have heard the repetition of the same three options, but our server politely repeated them for the 170th time. “Pasta, chicken, or salad?”
“What?” Make that 171. The attendant uttered the refrain again, and the woman waved her hand. “I want simple meal.”
It was an ambiguous answer, so the flight attendant did her best to decode it. “The pasta is simple, so here you go.” She passed the woman a tray with a smoldering, plastic rectangle in the center, which immediately fell under verbal fire.
“What this?! This no chicken! You take back and give chicken!” The served tray was volleyed and returned, and the Delta attendant rolled her eyes and said, “Chicken it is,” and swapped one heat-wrapped food product for another. The elderly lady, delighted with this quality of service, responded, “Tank you, tank you!” and we had about eight minutes of silence until the beverage cart appeared.
“Red wine! I need red wine!” Gosh, what a coincidence. So did everyone else within earshot. “You bring me red wine,” she told the next attendant, who had the audacity to offer coffee or tea. “You can go and get me red wine? Tank you, tank you!”
Once the glass had been imbibed, a beautiful thing happened. She slept. And as I felt gratitude stir within me, I had to tank God from the bottom of my heart.
© 2013 – Traci Carver