I’m a strong believer in placid air travel. Let’s everyone sit down, strap ourselves in, and be quiet. This metal canister hurtling through the skies at alarming speeds and dizzying heights is not a mall, it’s not a happy hour, and it sure as hell is not Tinder.
Against all hopes, our flight back to LAX from Guangzhou proved anything but the calm and subdued environment that I was hoping it would be. To begin with, we boarded a sweltering cabin. The air conditioning was to be turned off until the engines were turned on and the plane started taxiing down the runway an hour and a half later. Normally this would not be an issue, but with the heat index at 102 degrees Fahrenheit that day, this was suffocatingly unpleasant. I’m certain I lost at least ten pounds in sweat which my seat gained in liquid as I slowly melted into it during the boarding process.
When I asked a flight attendant if Michael and I could move up one row into the empty bulkhead seats in front of us to get more leg room, she looked at me gravely and told me that “when turbulence come, that seat very bad”. Because sitting six inches behind makes a world of difference. And I wanted to point out, if that seat is “very bad” why is it designated for a baby bassinet? But this was not the time or place for me to unleash my inner Shaquisha.
Before we reached cruising altitude with the seatbelt sign still illuminated, the plane broke out in a flurry of activity I have never seen before in all of my international flights over the last fifteen years.
A mother (who was now sitting in the bulkhead row in front of us) decided that her sleeping baby needed the bassinet that locks into the wall in front of her seat immediately. Two flight attendants, failing to secure the baby bassinet in the bulkhead row, broke out in an argument. A random man who decided minute eighteen into a fourteen-hour flight to stretch his legs, had walked up to the emergency aisle to lean against the bathroom wall, sip his water, and take in the view of the bassinet ordeal. His curiosity got the better of him and he came closer, stepping over the seated dad and hovering above the struggling flight attendants, peppering them with his verbal assistance that proved as useful as Ugg boots in Southern California.
Simultaneously, an eight-foot tall American basketball player asked another flight attendant if he could sit in the exit row diagonal from me to have more leg room. As passengers started to, for some reason, shuffle seats around the exit row, the confused flight attendant started pointing and yelling at random passengers “Who sit here? Where you sit?” Which added to the confusion and made more passengers get up out of their seats. Soon there were more passengers milling about the aisles than there were seated in their seats.
At the same time, ignoring the still-illuminated seat-belt sign, a cluster of folks had formed by the bathrooms. The woman sitting next to us climbed on her seat to get her overhead bag. A random child, seemingly belonging to no one, ran up and down the aisle. A passenger, on his way up the aisle, decided on a detour to peer out the window of the exit row. What he thought he would see at eleven at night is beyond me since it was pitch black outside. The grandma behind me couldn’t figure out how to turn on her overhead light and logically decided that she should bang her fist on the actual light to turn it on. I’m surprised she didn’t crack the plastic. This resulted in a heated exchange with a flight attendant who came rushing down the aisle to reprimand her.
The eight-foot tall American basketball player, a strapping young blond-haired, blue-eyed man who must have been bred in the cornfields of America, and who now inhabited one of the exit row seats diagonal from me, decided to pass his fourteen hours of flight time by chatting up all of his neighbors in a 360 degree radius as well as every passenger who passed by him on the way to the toilet. He wasted no time in spying the honey he wanted to holler at and put all of his energy into wooing a red-headed Australian woman who was on her way to the loo. Thankfully this mating dance was short-lived as the Aussie had taken an Ambien and was on her way to take out her contacts before falling asleep.
Having no new passerby to chat up, he briefly made eye contact with Michael and they exchanged head nods. I could feel his eyes boring into my head, but hell no, this hamster is not into social hour at 38,000 ft.