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I flew home yesterday from Minnesota to Arizona. Luckily, I had planned far enough ahead to reserve myself an aisle seat, though it was towards the back of the plane. Oh well…at least I wouldn’t be stuck in the middle between two strangers, or tucked against the window, having to crawl over two other people if I needed to get up.
What I couldn’t predict was the slave ship nature of this Delta flight. There were at least 250 Canadians, Midwesterners and Snowbirds smashed into the plane, and we became unsettlingly intimate upon departure, rubbing far more than elbows. Each passenger’s seat was about one square foot, which was fine for the children among us, but the adults couldn’t help but engage in good touch/bad touch. We uneasily felt up our seatmates who, under normal circumstances, we would never have found attractive. Information about our homelands and the loved ones we left behind was forcibly squeezed out of our mouths as our rib cages contracted from the crush of us against each other. Arranged marriages quickly took place to account for otherwise embarrassing exchanges of flesh. That’s what we do Up North.
As Julia Roberts flitted around free, free at last, on the video screens in Eat, Pray, Love, I sat stiffly in my aisle seat, shoulder to shoulder with—as I couldn’t help but discover—an elderly cancer survivor with one and a half lungs and no breasts. Over and over passengers passed me by on their way to the bathroom, big denim-clad butts brushing against my arm, parkas swishing against my head. I have never been so close to so many body parts at once as people of every size and shape pushed down the aisle, rubbing stomachs and butts and hands and crotches against my left shoulder and ear.
When the young couple seated in front of me decided to change their two-year-old’s diaper right there because they were afraid of joining the forced march to the toilet with a toddler, the pungent smell of poo filled the air, making me wish I had chosen an emergency exit seat. When the flight attendants started rationing out drinks, the cart came so close to me that I simply crawled in and stole a few fish and several loaves of bread. They came back later to collect trash; I gave back the bones and the crusts. I would have liked to give back the crumpled and shameful experience of flying Delta, but it was oversized and would have cost me an additional $25.
The 45 calories of pretzels you’ll get during your passage on this airline are not nearly enough to sustain you as you tussle with your seatmates, get shoved down the aisle, and try to protect yourself from the bad touches of good people—especially if you have to watch Julia Roberts gorge herself the entire time. Definitely bring a snack if you can, and don’t forget your loincloth.