I sit back and await takeoff. The seat is cramped but it is undeniably mine. My ticket says so. I know this, without question. Unlike the woman next to me, I required no assistance in finding my assigned place. I kick my bag beneath the seat, clutch my book and try to relax. The masses file in, many of them brushing heavily against me with their carry-on luggage and steamer trunks. My head is clipped by a large cumbersome object which I can’t identify.
The man several rows ahead appears confused. He has blocked the aisle, stopping the flow of traffic. Ever so slowly he turns clockwise in place to view every angle of the passenger area. The rotation reverses as he scans the plane from the other direction. Time has stopped. He is looking for something. But what? The number on his ticket should correlate to the numbered tags posted above each row. He does not understand.
Breathing anxiously, I gag slightly at a horrid realization. The old woman next to me is emitting an unsavory odor. A sour milk and urine mix has been personified in Seat 19B. I shield my face with my open book and discreetly enjoy the smell of its musty yellowed pages.
Yet another man has stopped in the aisle, albeit only briefly. He has quickly stowed his luggage in the overhead compartment and courteously sat down. Less than a minute later, however, he has decided that he doesn’t need to wear his coat on the plane. He is on his feet again, inducing gridlock as he stashes his outerwear up above. Inadvertently, a woman in the aisle gets smacked in the face with a swinging parka sleeve. The man is unaware.
My attention turns back to the first confused man. He was ultimately seated by an attendant who responded to his distress call, allowing other passengers to once again pass by. He looks comfortable and relaxed, now. His wife is whispering in his ear. She needs something. The man looks up towards the storage compartment. The object of her longing appears to be in their suitcase. He stands up obstructing the narrow aisle. The line of people backs up so far that the attendants cannot close the airplane door. The man stands on his toes as he rummages through the luggage in the overhead storage compartment. He is looking for something of vital importance. Minutes later, a bottle of water is drawn from the bag. He sits down.
The passengers have stopped stirring and appear settled. At last, the pilot has announced our imminent departure. Time to buckle up. Upon hearing this, the woman with the water bottle stands up. She looks first towards the front of the plane, and then the back. Excusing herself, she steps into the aisle and looks around yet again. She has chosen the restroom towards the rear of the plane. A fine choice, I am sure. Eleven minutes later, she walks slowly back to her seat. She appears ill. Her soiled bottom leaves vapor trails by the nose of each seated person she passes. I cringe and bury my face further into my book.
I close my eyes and ponder the feasibility of international bus travel.