Air Travel Is For Assholes
That, by the way, should be read in the cheesiest, radio-most voice you can manage:
And we’re baaaaack!
Then, someone pushes buttons and makes fart noises, monkey hoots, and plates breaking.
Yes, that’s right. We here at terribleminds (and by “we” I mean me, myself, and my tapeworm) have returned. No thanks to the joyful rigors of air travel, mind. Sure, you’ll see a more cogent “trip report” from me in the coming days, but for now — whilst I’m properly addled on cold medication and jet lag! — it seemed a most excellent time to unzip my fly and deposit a golden stream of wisdom on the heads of airline travelers the world-around. Pssshhhhh. Feel that? Tastes like wisdom. Smells like Sugar Smacks. Mmmm.
Now, you might think this post will be about the airline industry itself. After all, traveling is usually an event that contains as much pleasure and efficiency as a prostate exam performed with a rusty egg-beater. Sure, you get shoved in a metal can and sling-shotted through the air. Yes, you must endure the bitter sting of disgruntled airline employees. And of course, there’s that whole thing where you get wadded up into a very small space like a pair of used panties stuffed in a half-crumpled Pringles can (“Here is your pre-defined square foot of wiggle room with proscribed borders clearly defined by your inability to move at all, ever. Please do not struggle, or you will be anesthetized and flushed out of the plane via the aircraft’s vacushittatorium. Enjoy your flight, Mister Wingding”).
Thing is, though, traveling was fine enough, at least from the industry perspective. It was blunt. It was not exactly friendly. But it was functional. Planes left on time, always got there early (and in the last two weeks I’ve been on six different planes of various sizes). I got my free drinks. Life goes on.
No, what amazes me are the absolute douche-donkeys that travel the airstream these days.
See, anybody can buy a ticket. Which means that flying no longer possesses any of that Mad Men magic where you see dudes in suits sipping Manhattans next to pretty ladies clutching big purses. Now, it’s right on par with bus travel. You know how hobos can wander onto buses? They can wander onto planes, too. So that’s what this is. This is an ode to all those shitheads, to all those fuck-for-brains, to all those asstacular wankernecks who somehow ended up on a plane seated somewhere in my general vicinity.
Creepy Perm Guy With Dubious Credentials
We’re sitting at O’Hare, waiting for the last leg of our journey home to board, and we’re sitting across from a trio of… well, unemployed faux-pagan Ren Fair types in their late 40s (I’m not stereotyping, this is all information I learned while sitting there), and who should wander up but some too-tan, bug-eyed white dude with a greasy Jheri curl slash mullet combo-pack going on upstairs. His jeans, like his posture and overall demeanor, are simply too tight. The guy is stock straight. And he just wanders up into the middle of us and stands there. Then kind of totters this way and that, always looking at the world with his eyes bulging, his head cocked, like he’s an alien who hasn’t yet parsed the vagaries of Earth living.
Later, when the flight has boarded and we’re mostly full, he wanders onto the plane. Again with the sense of, “What is this strange Earth conveyance? It is nothing like our Martian spice-gliders!” feel. He wanders around trying to find a seat when finally the itchily-nervous flight attendant accosts him and asks him to sit, and the guy shoves a piece of paper in the attendant’s hand — the flight attendant says, “This is just a piece of paper, you need to go get an actual boarding pass.”
And greasy perm guy wanders away.
I’m like, “How the fuck does he get onto a plane without a boarding pass? How does he even get to the gate without one?” Is he some kind of air travel ninja? Puff of smoke, the whiff of hair gel, and there he is?
Eventually he wanders back on, shows a boarding pass, and sits down. Then he read a magazine. Or, as I like to think of it, “Telepathically communicated with his cosmic masters.”
Old Asian Dude Who Wants To Rest His Head On My Pillowy Thighs
First flight. Old Asian guy in front of me jacks his seat back far enough where he almost crushes the iPad resting delicately upon my seat tray, and then leans back further — so far, in fact, I assume that he wants to give me a goodnight kiss or maybe some oral favors. The top of his half-bald head is, quite literally, five inches from my mouth. Fine. I decided that, for the remainder of the flight, I would cough (with mighty spittle release) upon his scalp endlessly. And I also thought I would massage him gently by constantly punching and kicking the seat.
Dude, that seat isn’t a cot. We’re not sleeping in bunk beds. Get off my crotch.
Goulash Guy and the Kimchee Twins
Explain this to me. If I bring in a bottle of water — sealed! — from outside the airport, I can be detained and my rectal cavity might be searched for bomb-making components.
And yet, if I really want, I can bring my own food — in a dirty-ass Tupperware container, no less — onto a plane and nobody will bat an eye? How is that bloody reasonable?
On the one flight, and I think I mentioned this in an earlier post, some grumpy old dude wheels out a massive Tupperware container of goulash, then proceeds to unwrap massive hunks of crusty bread and sop up this heady broth with naught but his hands and the bread. Then, on another flight, caddy-corner to us sat a trendy punk Asian couple, and they were eating — I’m not kidding — a fuckton of kimchee. And these really strong-smelled sesame crackers, too. And these were not the only culprits! People all around us, chowing down on food they could not possibly have procured within an airport terminal.
Listen, I’m sympathetic. I know that inside the airport, you need to tap a line of equity just to buy a bagel. So, seriously? I get it. It’s just — here’s the thing. First, I don’t know why you’re allowed to bring on a bucket of gruel, but I can’t bring on a bottle of factory-sealed water. Second, newsflash: we are all trapped in a very claustrophobic aluminum tube together for four hours. What you’re eating? I’m eating. Were you to, say, bring on some kind of stinky concoction, then we will all smell your nasty corpse-foot soup.
You seriously couldn’t just make a ham-and-cheese sandwich? You absolutely unequivocally had to bring onboard pickled herring stuffed with gorgonzola cheese?
The Russian Kickdancer Kids
First flight, who should sit directly behind us? Two adorable little twins. So ginger! So cute! You know what else is cute? The way their parents pay zero attention to what their children — currently sitting in their goddamn laps — are doing. What they’re doing, by the way, is kicking the shit out of our seats. Now, listen. I won’t hit a child. But I will hose him down with Bear Mace. I think chemical sprays are the best ways to teach a child anything. Flash cards with math problems? Spelling bees? Life lessons? Confirm with pepper spray or bear mace. Teaches ’em every time.
Actually, I was amazed at the number of children traveling. Hey, that’s your bag, but I can’t imagine wanting to take my one-year-old child on a 6-to-12-hour journey to Hawaii. You think that kid cares he’s in Hawaii? He doesn’t. To him, swimming with a tire in a murky sinkhole is just as much fun (or of equal horror) as frolicking with dolphins somewhere. You’re the ones who want to go to Hawaii. The kid sure doesn’t — after all, listen to him scream! For six hours! Bear mace! BEAR MACE.
The “Hey, Thanks For Making Me A Racist” Terrorist Cabal
I’m generally pretty good in that I don’t usually play the “OMG TERRORIST” card. I see a Sikh, an Indian, someone speaking Arabic, I don’t freak out. Air travel is a cultural soup — people of different colors and creeds are on every plane, and that’s a good thing.
And then you have yesterday.
I walk into the gate and see what you’d describe as “shifty dudes.” They’d be shifty regardless of race — dark clothing, leather jackets, huddled together, looking nervous, whispering, always staying away from people. You get too close, they totter away. Coming, going. Rarely blinking. Then, add onto the situation a generous dollop of, “Hey, they’re also whispering in Arabic, and they look like every photo you’ve ever seen of the 9/11 hijackers,” and next thing I know, I’m suffering a full-bore racist meltdown.
My brain, ping-ponging: holy crap, terrorists! Right here! I could foil their plot. I could go tell somebody. Except, that’s wrong. Right? Wrong. Assumptive. Racists. I’m an asshole. A total asshole. I hate myself for thinking this. But then, but then — where’s the line? If I say something and it turns out these guys are actually terrorists, I’m a hero. If I say something and they’re, I dunno, vending machine salesmen from Jersey City, then I am a giant honking racist dick-mouth. Such a fine line! Should I damn cultural sensitivity? As they’re blowing up the plane, will I think, “At least I remained politically correct?” Or, as they’re being dragged off the plane, stripped of their vending machine catalogs and freedom as hoods are shoved over their heads, will I think, “Perhaps I made a horrible error?”
Then as we’re getting on board, two more shifty gentleman get on. One of them, a younger guy, maybe 21, is really nervous. He keeps swallowing noticeably. And he’s looking everywhere on board with darting eyes. It’s equal parts of, “I don’t want to be found out” and “Who will resist my martyrdom?” and “Could I stick a bomb here in the toilet? Maybe, maybe.”
Then I see these two shifty dudes sit with the other two shifty dudes.
Then I think, “Wow, if they’re terrorists, they’re awfully ballsy. I mean, they’re all sitting together.”
Then: “And, if they were actually terrorists, wouldn’t they be a little less conspicuous? I mean, sure, that guy who tried to explode his underwear was a bit obvious, but this really takes the cake.”
And finally, “I wonder if the reason that they’re nervous is because everyone thinks they’re terrorists.” That kind of constant scrutiny and racism from shitheads like me would make anybody shifty and anxious.
Half-hour into the flight I get up and wander back to the bathroom and see them all back there sleeping like mouth-breathing babies. Seriously: heads back, mouths open, heavy snoring. If they’re terrorists, I think, they’re awfully lazy. It occurs to me then that, hey, I’m kind of an asshole. I’m not saying they couldn’t have done a little more to appear less terroristic, sure, but who am I to judge? I mean, Jeebus only knows what I look like. People probably think I’m a crazy person half the time.
Sorry, not-actually-a-terrorist cabal. We’re all a little sensitive these days. Just know that we’re trying not to be total racist smackbabies. We white people suck at it, but some of us try nonetheless.
Hobo Joe And His Buttcrack Delight
And finally, the piece de resistance.
Hawaii to San Francisco, a big dude gets on board. Not fat, just lumbering. He’s an older guy: wisps of gray hair, a scraggly beard, spectacles. A little hobo-hippy chic. Some combination of MC Hammer-slash-sweat pants adorn his tree trunk legs, and his bare chest is exposed because he has not bothered to button his shirt. You can, at times, see his nipples ringed in gnarly gray chest hair.
I’m aisle. Wife in the middle. Hobo Joe by the window.
Hobo Joe proceeds to make the six-hour flight completely unpleasant.
First, he’s unaware of his own physical margins. He’s constantly bumping into the wife — *elbows and knees and jostle jostle jostle hip check steal armrest adjust balls jostle jostle shake*
Then he spills coffee on my wife’s hand.
Then he needs to go to the bathroom. Not once, but several times. He doesn’t just walk out of the seats like a normal human, ohhh no — he crawls over them. Seriously. And his nasty lice-caked sweat pants fall down around his butt so I catch a half-moon of his pale assyness.
Then he takes his shoes off. Puts his bare feet up on the armrests.
His pants continue to drift downward. He is not wearing underwear. You can see the mudslide shelf of his gut. You can see the flabby stretch-mark expanse of the skin that surely leads to his balls, balls that are probably home to various rodents and broken Christmas ornaments and old Band-Aids.
Sometimes he tries to talk to us. Mumbling. Then he gets excited about the Dallas Cowboys. The wife and I go back to playing a game on the iPad (Little Things, totally worth it) and he’s still over there yammering away to — who? Us? We’re not listening to you, Hobo Joe. Scratch your testes at somebody else.
Finally, we’re starting our descent and he decides this is high time to get his giant duffel bag (shouldn’t even be allowed on the plane). Why? Because “his keys are in it.” I don’t know what this has to do with anything, because it’s not like gremlins are trying to steal the keys, but whatever. He fetches the bag and — the guy already has a laptop with him — then tries desperately to shove it under the seat in front of him. Meanwhile, I’m standing up because he’s taking up our whole aisle trying to accomplish this epic and impossible task, and since we’re descending, we are experiencing turbulence. Turbulence no longer bothers me except when I’m not buckled in because that’s how people end up with brain contusions and shit — plane drops suddenly, I’m not affixed to any part of the plane, and thus I shatter my tender skull on the plane ceiling.
Finally I just snap at the guy — “That will not fit under your seat, dude. Stop trying.” He asks me, “Are you sure?” The wife and I both confirm: “Not going to fit.” And it’s not. I can barely fit my laptop case under the seat and this guy is trying to shove a dead pony under there. He finally says, “I’ll trust your judgment,” and then hands *me* the bag because now it’s my job to put his stinky hobo accouterments up in the bin.
Fine. I do it. We sit. He tries to babble at us again and we ignore him. We land and get far the fuck away from Hobo Joe. How’d he get onto a plane? I dunno. He’s probably an eccentric billionaire. But even if that’s true: one thing is money has not yet bought him is a pair of goddamn underpants. Dude, if you’re out there? Reading this? Buy underwear. Just one pair. For important occasions like, say, the Prom. Or riding on planes with other human adults.
People on planes are such assholes.
I now demand your worst “Asshole-On-A-Plane” story.