I went to a boxing match the other night and an overbooked flight broke out.
It may be a new twist on an old joke, but it is no laughing matter.
OK, actually, it is. I am sorry, but for anyone who has ever flown, the notion of a ringside seat on an airplane is a pretty entertaining thought.
As long as it is on someone else's flight.
I have been flying a lot lately, including some long trips to California. It is not a pleasant experience. Flying these days is not for the impatient, the claustrophobic, or the passenger over 6 feet.
Being a tall man wedged into cramped airline seats, I have learned how to quietly eat my knees and retreat into my the inner sardine. Some call it Transcendental Meditation. But it is more like entering a coma with headphones on.
But boarding a plane is a highly demeaning experience akin to stuffing peas down a straw. The first passengers rush in to throw their stuff in the overhead bins and sit comfortably down. From experience, this seems to me to be the slighter, shorter people who have booked far enough ahead to snag aisle seats.
Then come the families with small kids carrying lots of stuff.
At the end of the boarding process come the large people like me who have the unfortunate luck of sitting in the middle and have foolishly obeyed the last-on boarding instructions for Group 4 issued by the gate agents.
As I make my way to the back of the plane, the people sitting comfortably in the aisle seats look up in l fear. They are praying that I am not sitting next to them. I can see it in their eyes. Oh please don’t let him set next to me . . . oh please don’t let him sit next to me.
And when I arrive at the unlucky sod sitting peacefully in aisle seat 25C, and I nod to the middle with my boarding pass in hand, the unfortunate lottery loser dejectedly stands up to let me struggle into my seat.
Of course the overhead compartments are completely full of small items, including somebody's smelly shoes, and I must cram my backpack under the seat in front of met—the place where my feet are supposed to go. But first I take out the things I will need to survive the flight.
Headphones, a book, Xanax.
Because once the backpack is under the seat in front of me it can only be retrieved by a contortionist.
My seat companion politely masks his unhappiness as he forces his way out into the still crowded aisle in an attempt to give me a fighting chance to stuff myself into my seat. Now we are both holding up angry passengers who are being forcefully prattled toward the back of the plane by frustrated flight attendants in imminent danger of losing incentives for an on-time departure.
I stumble my way into the row and inadvertently step on my companion's feet. Then I hit my head on the overhead compartment knocking out a purse which lands on a poor lady still standing in the aisle.
It is not until I have inelegantly plopped myself down into the seat and the person in front of me has pushed the seat back hard into my knee caps that I realize that I am sitting on the seat belt.
My poor aisle row mate must stand up again so I can maneuver the belt out from under my big bottom which is stuck hopelessly between the armrests.
And then, when we are finally settled in again, the poor woman who has been struck by the falling purse holds out her boarding pass. She has the window seat and we start the process all over again.
It is time to depart and angry passengers are still boarding.
There is an announcement from the flight attendant.
Ladies and gentleman, we are currently over capacity and federal regulations demand that those passengers still standing deplane immediately. For your trouble today we will give you a voucher for free peanuts aboard any flight in the continental US.
We also ask that those passengers traveling with small children kindly stow them under the seat in front of you as there is no room in the overhead bins.
Followed by an announcement from the captain that our flight is being held indefinitely at the gate waiting for a mechanical error to be cleared.
There are audible groans throughout the airplane. Tempers are flaring. The airplane is stuffy and crowded and hot. I look and feel like a roast chicken.
Now the poor lady next to me has to go to the bathroom. It is an emergency. She has a small bladder she says by way of explanation to the flight attendant. But the flight attendant will not allow her to get up while we are still parked at the gate.
A heated argument ensues in front of my face.
A baby starts to cry uncontrollably. I can hear someone speaking loudly up front as the flight attendants are nervously transitioning to fight attendants.
Begin a seasoned traveler I have come prepared for this event. Because among my carry on items I have packed boxing gloves.
Unfortunately, I realize, they are in my backpack.
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