Recently, I was on a plane trip from DC to San Francisco. I am on planes a LOT now-a-days for my job. Most of the time, the trips are uneventful. But, this time I was seated next to a, how you say in America, character.
I sat in the aisle seat in the first exit row on one of those big ole 777s and for a while it looked as though I might get the two-seat side row to myself. However, a well-but-sloppily-dressed and heavy-set middle-aged fellow eventually showed up and said, "That's me there," pointing at the window seat. I started to get up to let him in but he demurred. He made it clear that he'd just do a few things first.
In order: He tossed his Jack Spade man bag across me onto his seat where upon it rocketed off and into the wall space between our row and first class. He shrugged sheepishly and next tossed his glasses onto the seat, where upon they, too, bounced off and ricocheted under the seat in front of us. He laughed awkwardly, took better aim, and proceeded to caroom his book off the seat cushion, seat back, and tray table and onto the floor. He shrugged. Then he tried to put his luggage in the overhead rack three different ways (wheels in, wheels out, sideways) before adopting the original wheels in approach. He continued to insist that I not bother getting up and just scooted by me into his seat -- like a well-heeled but unkempt bear trying to be polite in an unfamiliar social situation-- affording me a gratis close-up view of his posterior.
Once seated, he retrieved his scattered belongings with much huffing, puffing, and grunting. After take-off, he opened his glasses case to pull out a brand-new pair of reading glasses complete with price tag. He unfolded them, placed them on -- price tag still hanging Minnie Pearl style -- and started reading approximately two billion newspapers. With each, he carefully hand-tore out any article that caught his fancy, folded it into a neat square, a careful rectangle, or other geometric shape and added it to an increasingly tall stack. This process took about two full hours. The bulk of these papers, which did not merit personal rending and collection, were added to a growing rat's nest of newsprint that littered the airplane floor at his feet.
Woefully, interspersed with the paper rustling, tearing, and folding were a continuous, irregular but prolific set of burps, farts, and yawns. The yawns, in particular, deserve their Boswell. Tired, I had endeavored to catch some shut-eye so, at first, I did not realize what was happening. But, as I emerged from the disorienting fog of war that is sleeping on long-haul air travel I realized that my seatmate was making an odd series of noises that indicated enthusiastic agreement, a kind of laconic orgasm, or a successful itch scratching. The man would periodically say, "yeahyeah," with a drawn out first "YEAAAH Yeah." It took me a while to realize that he was, in fact, yawning.
Now, the odd thing is that this man was obviously quite well off. His rumpled clothing was high-end stuff. I checked the price of Jack Spade bags when I got home and they run to $400 a piece. He was perhaps the eccentric scion of some industrial age fortune? An odd but brilliant dotcom founder? A well-funded performance artist secretly videotaping my reaction for a planned MOMA installation? Who knows?
I was particularly grateful to the "flight deck" for their announcement that we would be landing soon.
PS - Naturally, as we landed I needed to go to the restroom to relieve
myself of the copious amounts of water and Coke I drank on the flight.
But, I was sufficiently traumatized by our time together that I
deliberately let him precede me off the plane and waited until he veered
into a Men's Room before I made my selection of a lavatory much further
down the hall. I am as sure of this as anything I have learned in my
life: I did not want to find out what peculiarities accompanied his
ablutions. Oh, and while my fellow traveler was clearly well off, both Aloe Blacc and I Need a Dollar; now playing on iTunes.
One Hundred Thousand Flashbacks
4 years ago