Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fly The Friendly Skies

It's Thanksgiving week, and people all over the US are preparing to travel and see family & friends. I enjoy traveling, whether personal or business, and especially like long business flights where I can dive into work or a book and log a good 3-4 hours uninterrupted. Like many frequent travelers I have road stories. Amazing things observed and endured through the years.

Early last year, I was flying from Nashville to Los Angeles. A good 4 hour flight lay ahead, and I had chosen an aisle seat during check-in. I hoped and prayed as always that the middle seat would stay open.

The inevitable words were uttered by the flight attendant; “good morning- we have a full flight today and blah, blah, blah, blah…” Didn’t catch the words after the bad news.

Sure enough, a large gentleman (about equal in size and stature as me) boarded the plane and walked towards my row. He glanced around, gave the universally known glance communicating “that seat right there next to you is mine, please get your butt up so I can get in.”

We settled in. Buckled up. The lady right behind him, RIGHT BEHIND HIM, watched us do the dance, then said the window seat in our row was hers. We both got up, moved out, let her in, and settled in again.

The plane was packed. Except for two empty seats- directly across from me- the aisle and middle seat, with one frail old lady in the window seat. Perfect. The plane door was still open, but I got ready to make my move. Just then a flight attendant walked by closing the overhead storage bins and I got her attention.

“Excuse me, ma’am, is it ok if I take this seat?” I said pointing at the open aisle seat.

“Sure- please wait just a few minutes though, we are still expecting two more passengers, but we are about to close the door. Once we do, you are welcome to take that seat.” She said.

So I unbuckled, gathered my things in my lap, and made ready to move. I noticed that when I had this exchange with the flight attendant, several passengers turned, watched and listened intently our brief conversation. I remember one man in particular, in front of the open seats, on the aisle. He watched and listened, and then shot me a smile when I looked at him. I smiled back.

Moments before the door closed, as I started to stand up, that same man jumped up, quickly slid one row back, and plopped his rear-end right in the empty seat and started intently reading his book. I was flabbergasted. Stunned. I knew without a doubt he had heard every word spoken between the flight attendant and I.

I don’t mind confrontation at all, so I started a friendly dialogue with him. “Excuse me, sir, but that’s my seat. Please move back to your seat” I said as I stood up and loomed over him trying to be both friendly and threatening.

He refused to move, and just ignored me. Didn’t even look up or acknowledge me. Just then, the flight attendant up front noticed me standing, and made a general announcement that we couldn’t take off until everyone is in their seats (the kind of announcements they try to make sound like is for everyone, but is really meant for the one goofball that isn’t sitting down).

I returned to my ticketed seat, and my adopted position of leaning half-way into the aisle due to the combined size and mass of my next-door neighbor and I. Then the guy looked at me, and smiled.

After we had reached cruising altitude and the captain turned off the seat-belt lights, I squared off with the thief and repeatedly, and in an increasingly louder voice, forced him to acknowledge me. I explained the situation, reminded him that he heard the entire conversation I had had with the flight attendant, and asked him to kindly move back to his seat. Just then, the guy that was in the middle seat in front of him (who I gathered was a friend of said thief), got up, and moved to the aisle seat that the thief had originally occupied. My new friend smiled and said sorry- he couldn’t move back because someone was in his seat now.

After some additional words were exchanged, he said something that got me thinking. “Listen buddy, anyone can take any open seat- you don’t own it because you asked about it. If its open, its fair game.”

Ok, I thought, you got it ‘buddy.’

“Fine, then I will take this open seat” I said, pointing at the open seat in the middle of his row, right between him and the old lady. He laughed, assumed I was joking, and didn’t move. So, I made my move.

I placed one leg over his body, foot planed firmly in the open middle seat, my butt to his face. Grabbed onto the headrest in front of my new seat, and hauled my rear-end up and over him, plopping down heavily and loudly in my new seat. I then took out MY book, pushed his elbow off of my new arm-rest, and made myself as wide as a male peacock in spring.

WELL….that went over real nice. He was livid. He started arguing with me, complaining, saying what I was doing was being rude to the old lady, everything he could think of. I repeated his quote about anyone’s right to any open seat. After a few minutes, he unbuckled, got up, and asked his friend to move back over so he could have his seat back.

I got up and took the aisle seat, giving the old lady some breathing room. Several people around us laughed, and a couple even clapped. The old lady leaned over to me and said “that guy is a jerk.”

What fun! I love traveling.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to the DigitalRichDaily
E-mail update. Place 'subscribe' in the subject line.


DigitalRich said...

Featured on Carnival of Courage:

Anonymous said...

Hahaha! I'm glad you posted a list of your top 'hits'! I might have missed this otherwise. I travel for my job and have seen my share of rude behaviour on flights. I applaud you for your in-your-face approach. Hehehe on what you put in his face! I'm definitely emailing a link to this post to my fellow travelers.

Anonymous said...

great post, rich! you have much determination and guts! way to show him who's BOSS!