Our flight is now delayed by close to two hours. They’re routing us around a weather system which is adding another 40 minutes to our flight time. As a result my son and I witness a lighting storm from a heavier-than-air compartment hurtling through the sky. We just had some heat lighting in the cabin, too. Right as the last passengers boarded.
The lady in the first row is traveling with a much taller male companion. My guess is husband.
(These details don’t matter unless knowing a little bit about these folks matters to you. In that event, he’s also bald and seems older than her. She appears to be in her late 60s. Maybe early 70s. Their ages don’t matter. But it’s an interesting exercise in describing them to you.)
We’re flying an airline that boards from back to front. This couple is in the first row. So they get on almost last. Someone else is late. When that someone boards he fixes to place one of his bags in the overhead compartment across from the lady who is sitting in the aisle seat in the first row on the port side. He does this even though he is going to be sitting much farther back in the plane. There isn’t adequate overhead storage deeper in the cabin. He’s late, remember. I can’t tell if he sniffed the shortage out himself or if one of the attendants enlightened him. When he raises his bag into the overhead bin across from the lady in the first row that very same lady begins to mount an objection. Which is that passive-aggressive and terribly awkward kind where you make your disapproval known to the person but then acquiesce to them with a “Well, I guess you have to put your bag somewhere.”
So Johnny-Come-Lately says “Are you sure? I was late and there’s no storage left.”
With composed disposition she replies, “Yeah, well I was on time.”
To which he snaps back, “Yeah, well my kid is sick.” Johnny stuffs the bag in the disputed bin and walks back to find his seat. As he leaves, our friend in the first row says, “That’s not my problem.”
But that’s not all.
I lit the fuse for this whole debacle when my family boarded, before any of them, and I put all of our bags in the first overhead bin on the port side. That’s right, the one right above the lady in the first row. I introduced a complicating incident that would set in motion a most unfortunate series of events.
But you don’t believe the part about me lighting the fuse. These events actually do happen. But no fuse is lit by me. I simply act in the moment. Meredith actually put the first bag up there. Our seats are in the third row so the end of that bin kind of ends above Meredith’s seat. She made a choice that I believe falls within the spectrum of commercial air travel decorum. The other bins around us were pretty full and I needed to make a decision quickly as there were people behind me. I chose to put the other two bags beside Meredith’s which results in a full bin over rows 1-3 on the port side and one delicate spot to spare across the aisle.
Did I mention the lady in the first row sat down for a bit instead of putting her bag up immediately? The guy with the sick kid was late, remember? It was just a matter of bad timing at that point. And we can see where this takes us.
It doesn’t help that it’s late in the evening. Everyone is having a longer than expected day of travel. These factors make it only slightly less disappointing for some of us onlookers. Not in a way to damn the lady in the first row. But as it reminds us how susceptible we are to the wiles of the least common denominator.
You and I may never have said it. But every one of us has thought it.