A Plane Ride to the West Coast
A few weeks ago, I had an interesting flight. I’ll talk about what it taught me at the end of this post, however, I think I need to share the events of the flight first for what I learned to make sense.
Note: The events in this story are real. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. And also because I don’t remember everyone’s name.
12:10ish pm, Chicago, Illinois: I’ve boarded a flight from Chicago to Sacramento. This is my second flight of the day. I’ve been up since around 6:00 am and am going to work for around 3-4 hours once I land in California. I board my flight, which is on a large plane with a 3×3 configuration. If you’re not sure what this is, scroll down to the next time stamp for a representation created in Excel. I take my seat on the next to last row of the plane. I’m in the aisle seat on the left side. The plane is scheduled to take off around 12:20 pm or so.
12:17ish pm: I was one of the last people on the plane, it seems. A family of a mom, her two preschool aged children, and a lap baby, have taken their seats behind me since our last update. An older man is sitting in the window seat of my row, though there’s an empty seat between us. The plane has filled up quickly, leaving only four empty seats that I can see on the plane. One is to my left, one is the seat in front of that. The other two are the middle seats on in the same two rows on the right side of the plane. Our seating layout looks like this. Ignore the names below for the most part…they’ll make sense shortly.
12:20ish pm: Two young women run onto the plane. The first girl is wearing a cowboy had with a bridal veil hanging off of the back of it. The word “bride” (yes, in all lower case, but with no quotes) is bedazzled on the front of the cowboy hat. This girl, who will be referred to as Bride from this point forward, takes a seat between me and Sleepy Guy 4. The second girl takes the seat immediate in front of Bride, directly between Sleepy Guys 1 and 2. Our second girl will be referred to as Sister. She’s not the bride’s sister though.
12:21ish pm: Bride begins telling me that she and her bridal party are flying home from her bachelorette party. She asks me if I’m willing to switch seats so that her bridal party could sit together. My response was something to the effect of “I’d prefer not to, but I can…where are they?”. In retrospect, I regret not just immediately saying yes. That said, before I could continue on, two more women come running onto the plane. Sister flags them down and they make their way back to us.
12:22ish pm: The lead woman running down the aisle cuts me off from saying anything else. She’s very animated with her gesticulations and very loud. We’ll refer to her as Loud Girl, partly because the changing the names I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but also because she didn’t mention her name until the end of the flight. Loud Girl shout talks at me “Hi. That’s the bride and I’m her maid of honor. I need to be with her.”. Having seen Bridesmaids, I chuckle a bit and ask where I’m moving to. Loud Girl points to the seat between Quarter Smoker and Sleepy Guy 3. I take my new seat, while Loud Girl takes my old seat and yells after me that she’ll send me $40 via Venmo for switching seats.The other woman who ran down the aisle, Ukraine, is seated behind me, leaving our configuration as such.
12:27 pm: Loud Girl hands me her phone and tells me to put my info into it so she can send me the money via Venmo. I had it back to her and say it’s okay. Loud Girl then hands me a McDonald’s cheeseburger — no pickles, add lettuce. I accept, despite my love for pickles because it’s free food. At this point, I start taking notes about my flight and times things happen, as I’m amused.
12:35 pm: Out flight has taken off and been in the air about five minutes, though the fasten seatbelts sign is still on. An elderly man begins walking back to the bathroom in spite of the light. One of the flight attendants tells him to sit down. The man is standing even with my row at this point, meaning he’s directly in front of Loud Girl and Bride. They motion for him to sit in the aisle, which he does to my surprise. The flight attendant is not amused. As the elderly man gets up with the assistance of Loud Girl and Quarter Smoker, I notice that Sister has already fallen asleep. She’s missed all the fun, but I think she’s got the right idea.
1:05 pm: I’m trying to sleep, particularly since Sleepy Guy 3 and Quarter Smoker are already asleep. That said, I’m failing because Loud Girl, Bride, and Ukraine are talking to everyone around them. Loudly. I have my headphones in but can hear them pretty well. I hear Loud Girl tell Ukraine to get my attention, but nothing happens. I lean up from my tray table and rest my head on my head rest, staring off into the plane in front of me as my music plays.
1:09 pm: A half-full bag of McDonald’s French Fries is slowly lowered in front of my face by Ukraine. I laugh at the sight of floating fries, but decline because I had eaten right before I got on the plane. Not to mention the fact that I still have the aforementioned cheeseburger. A back and forth conversation between me and Loud Girl ensues where I’m offered the following items as a thank you for changing seats with her.
- Three chicken nuggets
- The bag of fries again
- A second cheeseburger, this one with no lettuce
- Whatever beer I want from the flight attendant’s cart when it comes around
- The chicken nuggets again
- The $40 again
At this point, I tell Loud Girl that if she really wants to do something for me, she should buy my book, as I’d love to stop flying back and forth across the country for work. She hands me her phone and has me type the title of the book and my name into the notepad. Loud Girl insists that all four members of the bridal party are going to buy it, reading the book title and my name out loud a few times to Bride and Ukraine can hear it. I smile and go back to half resting, half playing Fire Emblem: Awakening.
1:24 pm: Flight attendants are readying the beverage service. The lead flight attendant asks Book Man if he’s the dad of any of the girls/young women on the flight. He says no. It’s worth pointing out I keep referring to these women as girls interchangeably with women, as they’re in their early 20s, and at two months from 30, I’m old as fuck. Anyway, after Book Man says he’s not their dad, Loud Girl says they like Book Man a lot, but they love me because I was so nice to them. The flight attendant then asks me if I know them, I also say no. The flight attendant makes a comment to Ukraine about how Book Man is trying to read, then heads up front. Bride begins laughing at Ukraine for causing a commotion (even though it wasn’t just her), while Ukraine and Loud Girl begin debating whether they were told to STFU or STFO.
1:52 pm: After a relatively long quiet spell, Bridge and Loud Girl are now singing. It’s quiet and I can’t make out exactly what they’re singing, but you can tell they’re singing poorly. I think it was intentional, but I’m not sure. I come up in discussion between Ukraine and Loud Girl, both of whom are now referring to me as 32E, even though Loud Girl learned my name as part of the writing my book in her phone moment.
1:54 pm: In the process of trying to clean off my tray table so I can have space for something to drink, I accidentally drop my 3DS on my balls. It hurt.
2:05 pm: Drinks and snacks finally arrive. Loud Girl now tries to buy me a cocktail as a thank you, marking the first time a woman has ever offered to buy me a drink. I said no. I already have a shitty enough stomach on planes. I can’t imagine alcohol would help that. It’s at this point that I notice the flight attendant pushing the snack cart is named Steveo.
2:19 pm: All of the bridal party save for Ukraine has fallen asleep. Sister has been asleep this whole time, but Loud Girl and Bride are now sleeping too. Ukraine is chatting with Newlywed Man and Lady, as well as Loud Laugher about the bridal party’s adventures. Apparently Sister is Loud Girl’s sister and apparently they’re all kind of, sort of college friends. It was hard to follow. We then take an abrupt right turn into Ukraine talking about how her family immigrated from the Ukraine to the US before she was born, but that she wished they would have picked somewhere other than Sacramento because she likes seasons. The man in the back corner of the plane says “I literally have no clue what you’re talking about, but could you please do it quietly?” and is never heard from again.
2:35ish-2:42 pm: A very dark period occurs. I stand up to go to the bathroom and my phone falls out of my pocket. Between me and Sleepy Guy 3, we find my phone, but it takes quite a while. Sleepy Guy 3 goes back to sleep, as does Quarter Smoker after I return from the bathroom.
4:15 pm: A two-hour period of relative silence ends as the captain makes an announcement that we’ll be making our descent into Sacramento soon. Loud Girl is back awake and invites everyone in the back three rows out to a bar. Mind you, this is our seat layout.
Please take note of the small humans sitting directly behind her.
4:18 pm: The entire bridal party, including Sister, is now awake and discussing what their Halloween costumes are going to be. Bride, Loud Girl, and Sister are arguing over which Game of Thrones characters each of them gets to be as part of their group costume. Ukraine wants to be a wine bottle.
4:31 pm: The no smoking sign gets turned off for about 30 seconds. This is clearly an accident, but a couple of people notice. One of those who noticed is Quarter Smoker, who sighs heavily and says “Dammit. I could have smoked a quarter of a cigarette in that time.”.
4:40 pm: We land. The bridal party just broke out in a 916 chant. Loud Girl shouts out an invite specifically to me (well, to 32E, which is my seat number) to come to the bar with them. Bride asks me where I’m from, leading to the following conversation.
Bride: Where are you from?
Bride: Isn’t that where Drew Carey is from?
Me: Yes, but we don’t talk about that.
Sister: Understandable. Didn’t he kill Bob Barker?
4:46 pm: We begin deboarding the plane. Loud Girl formally introduces herself to me and thanks me for switching seats with her. She says she’ll buy my book and say the others in the bridal party will do the same. Ukraine says she’ll buy it first thing when she gets off the plane. Bride yells at Ukraine and tells Ukraine that she can’t even read. They argue about this throughout deplaning and are still arguing as I walk away from them in the airport.
I don’t know if they bought the book. I’ve had a handful of book purchases in the last 30 days, but I don’t get anywhere near that granular of data. That would be creepy. But that’s not why I told the story. I didn’t expect them to buy the book. I only brought it up because Loud Girl was insistent on doing something — anything — to thank me for switching seats with her. The interaction served as a reminder that kindness and compassion can be truly appreciated for what it is. Hell, that appreciation can come even when it’s not fully deserved.
I wasn’t overjoyed to be giving up my aisle seat, regardless of the reason. I should have just said yes I would give up my seat without all the additional commentary. I didn’t. And yet I was still treated with kindness in return. We don’t always deserve the kindness we’re given. We must, however, work to repay that kindness to others in some way.