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I was on a flight to Philadelphia last week from Logan. It’s one hour in the air sandwiched between a couple hours of airport hell. During Covid, flying has been mostly great. That blast of joy you feel when the flight attendant closes the airplane door and no one is in the middle seat of your row? Happens weekly.
I board the plane and find 14C (aisle). I don’t bother to settle in because there’s no one on the inside yet. I’ll definitely have to get up. A river of people flows down the aisle.
Eventually, the guy who’s going to be my row buddy stops at row 14. He says nothing, just stares at me when I say, “Oh, good morning. Are you in this row?”
He grunts something behind his mask that I take as a yes. I get up and give him a wide berth to sneak by. It’s early, I get it. He gets the full benefit of the doubt.
My new row buddy slides all the way in to take the window seat and plops a stinky brown bag of hot food in the seat between us. Looks to be a Potbelly Deli bag. Are they open at 5:30am? The middle seat is now his personal storage container slash dumpster. As the boarding process wraps up, he starts rifling through the bag. His hands emerge with an 18 inch monstrosity wrapped in white paper. The tray table comes down with a bang as he gets set up to feast through the safety briefing.
Since he first came into the row he’s also been making disgusting snonking and snorting noises and blowing his nose into a stack of napkins that he’s tucked in the seat pocket. He blows his honker in a grossly productive way and then tosses the crumpled rag into the bag that is between us. He doesn’t miss, but if he did, it would land in my lap.
He gets his giant sandwich unwrapped. It's a chicken sub smothered in a light orange colored sauce on a toasted roll. The sauce looks like a watery version of the stuff that comes with a bloomin onion. The shredded lettuce is drenched in it and you need to toast the roll so that it becomes sturdy enough to support a heavily sauced chopped chicken cheesy pile of shit. He starts attacking it. He takes a couple huge chomps, sets it down, blows his nose, and continues on. Somehow, he finishes the entire sandwich by the time we are taxiing to the runway. This is not a large man. He looks like an older version of Lil Wayne before the face tattoos. He empties his sinuses a couple more times, coughs recklessly, and shoves it all into the bag next to us. The bag now has 14B. It’s part of our row.
As we’re getting ready to blast down the runway, he gets himself ready for a nap. The first part of his process is keying up something on his phone. Ah, a little soundtrack to fall asleep to. When I’m in my bed at home, I typically like a white or brown noise to whisper me off to sleep. This is a bit different. It’s a never-ending, 11 second loop of an escalating, revving chainsaw punctuated by the slam of a heavy door. ReeeeeeeeAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH, THUNK, and then it starts again. RRRRRRREEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH, THUNK.
How do I know this? He’s got no headphones. The phone is in his lap. We can all hear it. I’m sitting there quietly trying to read David Whyte, while he’s napping to the soundtrack of the movie SAW. He’s asleep in about 8 seconds and snores loudly until he’s jarred awake by the wheels screeching on asphalt in Philly.