yesterday on the flight back, i had way too much baggage. not in the proverbial sense— just in the fact that i haven’t made a child support payment in a few months and my parole officer has been on my case lately about cleaning up my act.
i kid. i kid.
i had there bags stuffed full. there was one small rolling suitcase filled with christmas presents. and then there was a big rolling suitcase that i checked. i borrowed that one from my mom. and then there was a big ole tote with everything else. once past security, i pulled a smaller tote out of the big tote and put the essentials inside, anticipating that i might be able to squeeze two carry-ons in the overhead compartment and just have one small tote to tuck under the seat in front of me.
BUT HERE’S WHERE OUR STORY BEGINS!
i got on the plane. i placed the rolling suitcase in the overhead bin. i sat in my seat and waited a bit. it seemed like a crowded flight, but not crowded enough to snag another spot overhead.
‘only one bag in the overhead,’ a voice behind me said. I sat back down with my big tote bag on my lap. deflated.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, she glanced at her ticket once more and looked me square in the eye: ‘i’m 12E.’
i got up and scooted out into the aisle, not taking my eyes off of her. short hair. rosy cheeks. a long, pointy nose. she looked like lady elaine fairchilde from mister roger’s. ’you look familiar,’ i wanted to say, but didn’t.
before she stepped into the seat, she took off her long, navy duster. it was a very fluid movement. quick, concise, concentrated. and then i saw it: the american airlines silk scarf. the gold buttons.
she was a flight attendant. i was on high alert. i stuffed my big ole tote under the seat. and then i placed the smaller tote right in front of it. i thought i saw her give me a look like ‘we’ll see if that flies with the crew,’ but i might have just been paranoid.
her jacket was somehow folded neatly and she placed it on top of her bag and slipped it fluidly under her seat. she buckled up and stared straight in front of her.
‘hey jan,’ one of the flight attendants said while preparing the cabin for departure. from their short conversation, i learned that jan, my neighbor, was hitching a ride home to boston.
i was on high alert. i turned off my phone in front of her. i buckled my seat belt and tightened it. i have never before fully followed the captain’s suggestions of when to have on your seatbelt, but i made sure to only use the restroom when the icon was not lit.
jan was an exceptional flyer. she ordered a club soda with lime. once she finished it, she consolidated her waste so neatly. the trash transaction was so smooth, i was impressed. she took a fifteen minute nap with her arms crossed on her lap, her elbows only dusting the armrests so we both could share. she didn’t once go to the restroom, even though she drank an entire can of club soda and sucked all the ice away.
when preparing for arrival, jan reminded me that my setback was not in the upright position. and that pissed me off.
we landed smoothly and were taxing to the gate and everyone started unbuckling. the plane stopped and the flight attendant came on to remind us to please stay seated with your seat belt fastened until the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign. the sign was still illuminated, and jan’s hands were on her buckles. slowly, and without any sound, she slipped the buckle off. she looked straight ahead like a cold blooded assassin.
‘excuse me, but the captain hasn’t turned off the fasten seat belt sign.’