I’m not one for air travel, even though I have been sitting in planes since I was two years old, over time my fear of flying has only increased. Still, I somehow manage to fly, keeping track of all my pre and post flight superstitions and by praying like there’s no tomorrow before, during, and even after every flight.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel, and no matter how safe flights are and what statistics say, I still am a bag of nerves when I am in a plane. I can feel every slight bump vibrate though my body and my eyes are always fixed on the seat-belt sign mentally telling it not to light up.
This anxiety that I suffer – I am making it sound much worse than what it really is – isn’t helped any further by the type of people I end up meeting during these flights. I know everyone is tired, and everyone has somewhere to go, and I’m not being a snob, well, okay just a little bit, but there are some considerations I hope people would take when they, along with everyone else, have paid an enormous amount of money to be in this “flying tin can”. Mind you, I do travel economy, so those of you who travel Business or First and cannot sympathize with me, you can take you hard earned money and do some shoving – in you know where – with it.
So before Mitch Albom could take this title (see some of his book titles if you don’t get it), I decided to come up with a list of 11 annoying people you are likely to meet during a flight;
The Queue Jumpers – You can tell the type of flight it is going to be by counting the number of people who try to board the plane by jumping the boarding procedure. The amount of time airline staff wastes on telling every third person that their “zone” hasn’t yet been called is not even funny. That’s why I make it a point to travel with kids, because for us economy class folk, that’s the only way we can jump the queue – and you thought kids were of no use at all. To those who enjoy jumping queues for pleasure, I hope your zone is called right at the end.
Space Fight – Once inside the plane human nature comes out fiercely as the fight over “overhead space” begins. Since we can’t move around our seats, everyone aims for the next best thing. It seems property has value everywhere for if I had a penny for every fight I saw over overhead luggage space, I’d still be traveling economy class unfortunately. I’m sure you know the person I am talking about; the one who will open up an overhead cabinet, see that it is stuffed, but still spend the next five minutes taking everything out trying to fit in his/her bag only to end up with one bag in their hand, that does not even belong to them, and then go around the plane asking whose it is. Of course they are careless about handling the baggage and thus screaming and shouting begins as they are informed of valuable and breakable items in the bags they have just removed. The only thing I wish for such people is that they get to sit next to the toilets.
The Seat Switchers – The bags are in place and I have just sat down on my chair. There has been this one person who has been eyeing me for a while now but I choose to disregard that – big mistake. I buckle my seat-belt, yes I do that as soon as I sit down, and just when I am comfortable enough, that person who was eyeing me, remember them, well, they decide to come over and request that I change seats with them because for whatever reason, it doesn’t even matter at this stage. Then I have to explain to the said person that being tall I prefer an aisle seat, and not their middle seat, which for some reason is beyond their comprehension as they look at me with a blank face and all the hatred they can conjure up in that moment because now for the next 8 hours they will have to sit 5 feet, in place of 1 feet, away from their relative or get this, “a friend they made while they were queuing outside to get onboard”. For them, I wish that their overhead luggage keeps falling down when they open it for the umpteenth time during the remainder of the flight.
The Movers and Shakers – And finally we are off… flying, without turbulence, at the right altitude. Everything is fine, smiles all around, and the person next to me decides to go for a walk. On his return he or she rests for about 5 minutes when they realize that it would be a good idea to use the bathroom before the food is served. Good thinking, but apparently another visit to the toilet is required just when the food is served, and a walk after. As you can imagine, this for me involves removing the headphones, pausing the film, removing my blanket, moving out, and because I don’t know how long the person will be gone for, settling in again only to repeat the same procedure upon their return, and evident departure, and return, and departure. In addition, this is also the person who will have the urge to use the loo just when the “fasten your seatbelts” sign goes on or when we are finally descending towards our destination. They pay no attention to the air-hostesses, who by the way is now sitting and strapped, calling and asking them to sit down. I hope the next time they use the toilet, it is clogged and they get a nice scolding from the air-hostess for clogging it, even if they didn’t do it.
The Aisle Grabbers – As long as there is no turbulence I really don’t mind getting up once in a while and stretching my legs. You would imagine it is not such a complicated task, but think about it, 300 odd people in an airplane, all at different stages of restlessness, and you realize that everyone is just waiting for time to pass. Among such passengers are the ones who believe that along with the seat that they have bought, the aisle comes as an added bonus. They sleep with their legs hanging out, or will roam around making conversations with other known passengers while their arse is protruding into the aisle, so that every time I have to cross, I have to strategically twist and turn to avoid certain body parts from touching each other. Then we have the joggers and the stretchers making the most of all the common space available. Joggers on a plane! yes that’s what I need, someone jumping around. While it is essential that you exercise on long flights, let’s just remember that it’s a good idea to use the seat you’ve paid for as well from time to time. For the compulsive aisle users I hope you gain an extra few kilos even after walking throughout the flight.
The Shifty Comfortable Neighbour – While on the one hand it can be a problem if you end up with a neighbor that needs to use the loo or just walk in the aisle ever so often, what is worse is sitting next to one that is fidgety. They will move about, trying to get in the best possible position for themselves, living under the impression that by doing so the airline provided space will miraculously increase, and in complete disregard to you. They can be annoying as they tend to move just when you have managed to fall asleep. They won’t apologize for hitting your rib cage with their elbow during this body adjustment routine or when their pillow keeps falling over you. To them, I wish a slightly itchy heat rash, because it will compliment their fidgeting really well.
The Form Fillers – Alright, enough about people hogging up space while we are in space – see what I did there. The person next to me is now fast asleep. He is snoring, but that doesn’t bother me that much. I take this time to fill up the miscellaneous immigration/custom forms in the gentle glow of the seat-light – big mistake, again. Now, everyone around me is under the impression that I do this for fun. First I get handed over a form by an elderly lady and I am more than happy to oblige, even though it takes me a while to explain to her that I cannot fill just “any number” as her passport details. What follows this is a barrage of questions from a few others around me who too are by now filling up the forms. “Do I have to enter my present address or that of my relative in the form?” “But the house I live in is in the name of my wife.” “I am carrying homemade food for my uncle, is that allowed?” “Where in India are you from?” “What do you do for a living?”… Wait! What? I am more than happy to help someone fill up their forms if they are unable to do so for a reason, but I just hope that those able would take a little time, actually read them and fill them up on their own rather than asking total strangers to do that for them. To such folks, I wish the plane bumps a little when they are about to finish filling up the form and now they have to fill it up again as this one has ink all over. It should be noted that the said bump should not happen when I am in the plane and during their next flight only.
Bottoms Up! – Oh look! Just as I finish filling up the form and settle down again, food is being served and my neighbor is up and he has a smile that would give the Cheshire cat a complex. What can be so exhilarating about airline food? Apparently it’s not the food but the free drinks, of the alcoholic nature. Yes, free “booze” can apparently bring a smile on anyone’s face. But, it’s not just the anticipation of free drinks, rather the idea of taking a few extra on to their destination that is making him smile. So every time drinks are served, or in some cases on special request, two of each drink is asked for. Two wine bottles, two beers, two whiskeys. One is drunk, while the other is placed with stealth in the handbag. All through this routine he has this smile on this face which resembles that of a villain in a Bollywood film just before he is about to do something evil with the hero or heroine of the film. You would imagine that this person is in their teens and just discovered porn. What annoys me the most is when after a while they gather up the courage and “demand” that I too should ask for two of each drink and if I don’t want the extra, should give it to them. I am one for making the most of “getting back” from the airline, but come on people, draw a line somewhere. To them, I hope one of these bottles crack open in your luggage so that your clothes tell your relatives that you’ve just come for an alcohol infused holiday – which in this day and age would probably make this guy more popular – sigh!
The Rebel – Another annoying model of a person is the one who will do the exact opposite of what is asked for by the airline staff. They get up when they are not supposed to, use the loo when they should be fastening their seat belts, and eventually will be the first to take the luggage off the overhead compartment once the plane lands, and I mean the plane has just touched the tarmac and is still traveling at a good speed, but this person is already up, with a smile on his face that changes into a clueless look when the air-hostess asks them to sit down. You can hear the air-hostess shouting, requesting the person to take their seat. Somehow this reminds me of school. I just wish that the air-hostess would get up, walk to the person, and give them a nice scolding, while the rest of us, like little children, can smirk and laugh about it.
Let Me Out – We are finally out. The race to take the checked luggage begins. Everyone is in a hurry. I always love to read people’s faces during this time. Who could be carrying contraband in their baggage? Is there someone who might have a few extra iPhones that they bought for cheap during their visit to the US? But wait, I can’t really do that because I am being pushed and shoved around by those trying to grab their luggage. Big bags that they pull off from the conveyor belt and in the process knock off everyone around them. It’s a conveyor belt people. No need to push and shove others aside. What goes around comes around on these belts… literally. I just wish that these folks who were in such a hurry are stopped by the customs and have to spend a few hours while their baggage, and they, are checked thoroughly.
I’m tired and just want to go home now. That’s the end of the trip and I’m happy to have reached my destination. Everything is okay with the world. I thank God for a safe and non-bumpy flight. It’s time to hit the sack and sleep off the jetlag.
PS: Those of you keeping a tab and wondering about what happened to the 11th annoying person. Well, that would be me, the guy who thinks too much of himself and just observes everyone else with a smug smirk on his face, so he can go back and write a blog post about it. Bloggers I tell ya!