I hate flying. When I was a kid, I traveled by plane often, as many children of divorced parents do. Back then, it was a fun & exciting adventure. Because I was a wee one traveling alone, I received special attention. The flight attendant would bring me a little plastic pin with wings on it. “A gift from the captain,” they’d say.
I’d read my books & listen to my Walkman. The person sitting next to me was always nice. Or, at least quiet & polite.
Over time, things changed. I got bigger. My legs grew longer. My patience, shorter.
I take more international flights now. The airlines have changed, too. Now there’s a lot more seats crammed into a single airplane in order to squeeze more money out of every flight.
Flying anywhere — even a 2 or 3-hour flight — has become a fucking ordeal that one must survive, rather than a fun & exciting adventure. It’s no longer the happy beginning of a vacation to a new & exotic place. It’s a goddamn penance that must be paid for having the audacity to leave your home.
That’s without getting into the bullshit about customs, body scans, TSA & the inquisition of foreigners in the U.S., which I won’t get into here.
Most of my flights going back & forth between France & the U.S. have been a headache. Once, a crazy lady sitting next to me on a flight to Paris instantly poured out her life story to me & Olivier. It got to the point where we started speaking French to one another as a civil way of asking her to shut the hell up.
On another flight to Paris, the woman behind me got out of her seat & started shrieking at me in irrational hillbilly-speak, causing a scene on the plane, while her husband was scolded by the flight attendant for referring to the attendants as “honey.”
There was also the little old French lady who fell asleep on me on a flight to Paris, but she was nice to me, so I let her sleep.
All of these things were quite pleasant compared to our recent Air Europa experience.
About a month ago, Olivier & I, along with a couple of his coworkers met up at Orly airport in Paris for a flight to Buenos Aires with a stop in Madrid. We knew it would be long, but we planned ahead with snacks, gadgets & books.
Like any flight, we had to bum around the airport for a few hours before boarding. Lucky us. While waiting for our boarding time, who should walk by right in front of us with a couple of police officers but former French Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen.
She strolled by, smoking a cigarette. Yes. Smoking a cigarette. In the airport. Because of course, the law doesn’t apply to everyone.
Paris to Madrid went smoothly. It was about 10pm in Madrid when we arrived, so the place was mostly deserted. Our flight was delayed, so we ate potato chips & Oreos as we marveled at the long line of passengers waiting to board the flight. Dozens of passengers who were using fucking trolleys for their carry-on luggage. No, I’m serious. They had too much carry-on luggage to carry.
Olivier & I, each with a single backpack, were stunned.
A little after midnight, we finally boarded our flight to Buenos Aires.
We got to our seats, which unfortunately, were located in that shitty middle section of the plane on a full flight. Immediately, I discovered that the guy next to me had already been discarding trash, blankets & pillows on my seat, leaving me with a pile of shit to deal with before I could sit down. Once seated, the douchenozzle in front of me reclined his seat. Sure, sure… you’re allowed to do that during certain times of the flight — usually once the fasten seat belt light has gone off. Reclining before take off, during the meal, or not putting your seat back up before landing is dickish. If I were boss of everything, they would never recline at all.
Of course, none of the Air Europa flight attendants seemed to be too concerned with safety regarding seat back position, or people’s garbage & bullshit cluttering up the aisles.
Not to mention the fact that Air Europa has the smallest seating area of any plane I’ve even been in. I’m 5’7″. My knees were touching the back of the seat in front of me before it reclined. Once reclined, I had about 6 inches between my face & the seat in front of me.
The trash dumper next to me was encroaching. I became enraged. Claustrophobic. Olivier switched places with me, being much larger & much better at counter-encroachment. He won the turf war, but we discovered that Trash Dumper was also a nose picker who liked to chew gum with his mouth open. I don’t know him, but I hate him.
So, I’m in my new seat. In front of me, the seat reclines. I don’t want to lean back. It’s uncomfortable to me. But I have to, in order to get this greasy, bald scalp out of my face. I turn in my seat, giving the polite, “I’m gonna lean back now” look, then slowly put my seat back… & the douchenozzle behind me tells me, “no” I can’t do that.
Seriously… fuck these people.
After 2 weeks in Argentina — which I’ll get to later — it was time to fly back to France via Madrid. I began dreading it about 2 days before we left Argentina. Incredibly, the flight & cast of characters we encountered on the way home was even worse:
- A couple at the airport in Buenos Aires, pushing & shoving to the front of the check-in line. “We have a passport problem,” they said. Really? So why wasn’t an airline employee assisting them, rather than letting them piss people off at baggage check-in?
- The couple to our right on the airplane, wiping the little plastic dishes from their meal with their tiny napkins, shoving them into her purse. They cleaned all the plastic cutlery & took that, too. And she kept stretching her legs out, putting her feet on every chair they could reach.
- The lady sitting to our left who kept crying, bouncing around hysterically, opening several boxes of creams, perfumes & bullshit, rubbing them all over herself, stinking up the plane & tossing the empty boxes everywhere. Oh, yeah… then she blew her nose & collected her snotty rags on her tray table.
- Whoever shit all over the toilet seat in the airplane lavatory.
- Whoever pissed on the floor in the airplane lavatory.
- The dozen people who were having some kind of party, drinking yerba mate in the aisles, being loud, sitting on other people’s armrests while they were trying to sleep & preventing anyone from going to shit all over the toilet seat.
- The chick in front of me who kept reaching back & hanging her hands behind her head so that they dangled in front of me, covering the little movie screen that was too close to my face when I was trying to watch The Words, forcing me to flick her fingers out of my face.
- The weird & very large lady sitting in front of Olivier who decided to stand next to my seat, her body oozing into my tiny bubble of personal space, hovering close enough for me to smell her weird large lady scent, leaning one hand on my headrest & the other hand on my fucking movie screen while I was trying to watch The Words.
When we caught our sunrise Madrid-Paris flight, I thought I’d finally get an hour or two of sleep. Wrong. We were sitting right in front of the shrieking, seat-kicking kid whose parents did nothing except attempt to placate their howling larva with loud, musical toys.
And I didn’t even mention how the baggage handlers like to go through the side pockets in your luggage to steal shit.
Luckily, the two weeks we spent in Argentina were nothing like the flight there & back. Quite the opposite. But, like I said, I’ll get to that. This is enough for one day.
You have two ways to know right away if someone is an asshole; two infallible personality tests that can tell you right off what kind of a person another human being is.
The first one, as you already are aware, is how they treat the waitstaff in a restaurant.
The second is how they behave on a plane. If they respect personal space, use some common courtesy & have a modicum of common decency, they’re all right. There’s still a chance that they’re shitting on the toilet seat when no one’s looking, but, hey… at least they don’t interrupt the movie.