A short man in madras shorts came scooting down the aisle weighted down with both suitcase and duffel bag. Upon closer inspection, the duffel bag was a modified dog carrier. Tucked inside was a dachshund without a boarding pass. Madras was a needy individual, requiring ample space for his dog, his carry-on, his in-flight slippers. In the middle seat was a most unhappy woman; we hadn’t even left the ground and there was simmering conflict between the two seatmates concerning legroom. Just before take-off, the third of the threesome arrived, taking his window seat. I can only describe the man as larger than life. The seats are narrow, the dog carrier is not soft-sided and refuses to fit beneath the seat. Dachshund whimpers, eyeing me with that sad Dachshund expression. Believe me little doggy, with five plus hours to travel, I’m whimpering too.
In order to stretch their legs, the folks seated across from me must stand in the aisle. As they spill out of their seats, there is no longer an aisle because they are basically wedged against my personal space. They are shuffling themselves, and I am leaning as far to my right as is humanly possible. There is something vaguely and painfully Cirque du Soleil about this move. The most considerate of the bunch is the dachshund who it appears, is not on the plane’s manifest. There’s a heated exchange of words between Mr. Madras and the flight attendant. I bury my head in my book and pray for tail winds. It occurs to me we’re heading west and tailwinds won’t really come into play until my return flight. I can only hope that traveling from LA to NJ will feature different players. Be careful what you wish for.
On Wednesday, I am once again wading through the high tide of security. Having forgotten Blondilocks’ travel mantra, Jam is a Liquid, my carry-on bag is checked. Other than terrorism, turbulence and unforeseen Acts of God, my only concern is protecting a slice of raspberry rhubarb pie tucked into my small tote bag. In front of me, a man, a woman and a very new baby are navigating an enormous baby stroller tethered to a pair of fluffy dogs. I lose them at security only to be reunited with them at Gate 34, bound for Newark. The dad is cajoling the crying baby with an irritating sing-songy platitude. I am appalled and terrified; what if this traveling dog and baby show is seated in row 16?!
The good news is that I am seated several rows behind the dogs and baby. Quite honestly, I would have been happy to sit with the adorable dogs. The bad news is that the baby cries for a solid hour before being drowned out by the intermittent screeching of a child seated behind me. I wanted to cry, too. The young woman to my left finds sitting a challenge and wants to stand in the aisle, except when she doesn’t want to stand in the aisle. There’s an awful lot of up and downing until I finally call it quits. “Look,” I suggest to the woman with acute restless leg syndrome. “Maybe it would be better if you go and stand in the rear of the plane with the flight attendants.” I am desperately trying to protect my small tote bag, neatly tucked beneath the seat in front of me. Behind me, a leggy traveler feels the need to wedge her feet between my armrest. I didn’t think that was humanly possible unless you were in the throes of a Vinyasa class. Namaste.
With just an hour of the flight remaining, I retrieve the brown paper bag from Sqirl. The oversized slice of raspberry rhubarb pie is as delicious as it is restorative. With each forkful, I am closer to the gate.