I’m back in Seattle again, working hard to get a lot of little things done that I couldn’t from Bolivia.
On my way down I did not have the best of flights: it was long, tiresome, and stressful. Flights usually are, unfortunately. My flights (3) back were more enjoyable though–thankfully.
My first flight, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia to Miami, FL took off late, but everything worked out well in the end and I was able to get quite a bit of sleep. The second flight, from Miami, FL to Houston, TX was also enjoyable. I had a Mexican woman from Tijuana sitting next to me and she was overjoyed to find out that I knew Spanish, and subequently most of my trip became a long conversation.
I must’ve interested her quite a bit, because after ten minutes of talking she fumbled around in her purse and pulled out a few pictures of her daughters. She said they were both beautiful and single, going on the tell me the attributes of both and where they worked and such.
“This one is 32 and her sister is 29”, she said, “Just right for you, right?”
“I’m 20,” I replied. She moved uncomfortably for a bit and then put the photograph nearer to me and responded:
“They look younger than they really are,” she pointed to the picture and said, “You see?”
This is not uncommon for me, unfortunately. It is part of Latin culture where parents are often “selling” off their daughters to the highest bidder. Not literally, of course. But Latin girls do quite well themselves, as professional flirts. Yet I would say that the parents and their girls try and attract guys for different reasons though. Parents are looking for a husband to take care of their children, while girls are looking for a guy who is easy to get and has money. Of course, this is a generalization, and the exceptions are plentiful. This mother fit the generalization though, perfectly.
“Sorry, I’m not interested” I finally said, tired of the nonsense. And so we started talking about cooking, and then politics, and then religion, etc.
But my third flight, from Houston, TX to Seattle, WA is what I really want to tell you about.
I got on the crammed (and cramped) 767 and drearily waited for takeoff. Who knows what time my biological clock was recording, but I felt exhausted and my eyes were sore and heavy. All I wanted was a nice four hours of sleep.
Things seemed good when I sat down and looked about me. A couple was sitting to the right of me, and across the aisle two kids were resting peacefully in their parents arms. So I put on my headphones and closed my eyes as the plane rolled onto the tarmac.
I opened my eyes again and glanced quickly and cautiously around the large man to my right. There was a woman next to the window that was bothering me, ever so slightly. I kept hearing this murmuring and monotone humming coming from that side and I couldn’t figure out what it was. It sounded as if she was complaining about something, and the words I could decipher seemed to imply an angry and stressful feeling, yet her voice remained quiet and monotone. I tried to ignore it and I closed my eyes again, but she wouldn’t stop.
To make matters worse it seemed like she was simply talking to herself since the husband made no response as he stared straight ahead, his eyes looking to burn a whole through the fold-down table. This continued for about ten minutes. I was confused and a little on edge, so I looked around and started to put the pieces together with some simple detective work.
I looked carefully at the tall man next to me and he really began to confuse me. It was his hands: his fingers would not stop moving, almost as if they were running on strong nervous impulses. Yet it was the only part of his body that was moving, he was otherwise a statue.
Something is strange here, I thought. Then I noticed a couple of cardboard boxes that were stuffed in the seats in front of them. I had seen them before, but was just now realizing what they were. They had strange writing on them, and looking around I saw that no one else had these same boxes. Strange.
Then came the moment that scared me silly. I didn’t scream or even act surprised, but internally it blew me away.
I had, up until this point, refused to look at the enormous man next to me in the face, but I decided to. I looked up slowly and all of a sudden he turned towards me and stared at me in the eyes. It must’ve been three or four seconds that he looked at me, without saying a word, without even moving. His gaze was what bothered me so much, and the fact that he did not blink sent cold chills up my back. I turned away and looked down, bewildered.
Who were these people? I could still hear the wife in the background, seemingly chanting the same thing she had been since I had entered the airplane. I glanced back at the man and he had turned back and resumed his same posture, motionless, emotionless. His eyes still would not blink.
I think they are mentally ill. That must be what the box is for, so that if one acts up the other can give them the medicine. I didn’t want to think it, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that these people were not OK. I’m not safe. What if they both go ballistic on me at the same time; takeoff could be a problem.
The plane was now revving up so I buckled my seat-belt slowly and closed my eyes. What if he attacks me and grabs my neck when the flight takes off? Stewardess! No, no, calm down…calm down…
I breathed deep and lay back in my seat. I reminded myself to be calm, that everything would be OK. It’s only your mind playing tricks on you.
The two kids across the aisle from me were now starting to be upset and were crying louder and louder. This was going to be a long flight, yet all I wanted to do was get some sleep and maybe eat some food.
The airplane then turned on its jets full throttle and powered down the run-way, pressing me into my seat. I looked at the man next to me and his fingers were now moving faster, yet his body remained like stone, tense and statue-like. So I closed my eyes and prayed, because I am a wimp (but I have a big God!).
The jet glided into the air and we began to gain altitude. A few minutes later, we had reached the right elevation at 35,000 feet and the pane leveled off. The woman by the window had stopped reading. I glanced over at my Michelangelo’s-statue of a seat-mate and saw him retrieving the box out of the seat pocket in front of him. He lowered the fold-down table and set the box on it. Then he looked at me and asked:
“Would it bother you if we finished our Papa John’s in front of you?”
“Uh…” I gasped and half-laughed, “Yeah, go ahead…no…no problem…”
The wife leaned over and smiled at me and then leaned back again and reopened her book. She had been reading it the whole time.
I would like to say that the rest of the trip went to plan, but it didn’t. One of the kids next to me ended up screaming his head off for almost two hours, to everyone’s dismay. The altitude was obviously bothering his ears, but the mother was clueless. I put on headphones and drowned it out, and when I looked over during this I could see the woman still reading, with rolled-up toilet paper stuffed in both of her ears as she swayed back and forth.
King David would be proud of them, they sure know how to pull of the I’m crazy! look and make you think they belong in an insane asylum. Turns out he is an engeneer and she is a high school teacher. Who knew?