Adventure, Relationships, Travel

Unexpected In-Flight Entertainment

With airplane seatmates, who knows where the chips will fall?

When I arrived to Logan Airport last night to fly to Denver, I imagined a half-empty plane.  The flight was to arrive at midnight and I figured most people traveled at a more civilized hour.  But the Jet Blue staff announced that the aircraft would be full.  I looked around and wondered who my seatmates might be.  There were a few women in bold saris and headscarves, an athletic man with an orange LL Bean backpack who was missing his left leg, lots of families with young children.  Standing towards the back were two women, both smiling and chatting.  One had long blonde hair and wore dungarees and a black t-shirt.  White block letters proclaimed:

“Life is Short. I am Not.”

She was at least six and a half feet tall.  I wondered how she navigated all of life at that height, let alone cramped airplanes.   When it was time to board, I slipped into my window seat and squeezed my backpack and purse in front of my feet.  Within minutes, these two women filled in the rest of the row and immediately started talking.

“We’re so glad we’re sitting next to you.  We were watching this woman who’d had too much at the baah.  We thought we’d end up next to the drunk.”  They giggled.  “At least you look nawmal.”   That’s how folks with heavy Massachusetts accents say “bar” and “normal.”

“Don’t be so sure,” I said.

They seemed to be in their late 40s or 50s, so at ease in each others’ presence that I thought they might be a couple.  The shorter one wore a wedding band but the other did not.   Somehow, she managed to fit, although her knees brushed the seat in front of her.

“Why are you going to Denver?” I asked.

“Well, we found cheap tickets so we decided to start a tour of the West there,” said the shorter one in the middle seat.  “We’re going to rent a car and drive around.”

“For how long?” I asked.

“A month.  We were thinking of driving to Idaho Falls tonight,” said the tall one.  “But the AAA guide didn’t list a hotel there.”

“Do you mean Idaho Springs?”  It’s about 45 minutes from Denver.

“Yes, that!” they laughed.

“Are you sure you want to drive there at night?”  I said.  “The road is curvy and not well lit.  You need to be careful of wildlife.”   Hitting a deer or elk could be fatal: to the animal, the passengers, and/or the car.  “You might want to wait until daybreak.”

They said nothing.  I felt like I had burst their balloon.

“Well, I’m afraid of driving on mountain roads in the dark.  But maybe you’re braver!”  I tried to recover the good vibe.  They looked at each other.

“Do you know if there are rest stops along the highway?” asked one.

“There might be but I haven’t had a need to notice them,”  I said.  “You mean you don’t have a place to stay tonight?”

“No, we’re renting a car and we thought we’d drive to Walmart to pick up camping gear in case we decide to do that.  It’s open 24 hours.  We can just sleep in the Walmart parking lot until dawn.”  They looked at each other and chortled.  “Seems a waste to spend money on a hotel.”

I wondered if they were crazy.

“We’ve done road trips like this before,” said the shorter one.  “And we found that we had more fun on the unplanned parts than when we made arrangements to be somewhere at a specific date.  This time, it’s all open ended.”

They weren’t crazy, just deliberately adventurous.

“Good for you,” I said.

“We’re sistahs,” said one. “Can’t you tell?”

“No,” I said.

“Did you think we were lovers?” they asked.

“Yes!” I admitted.  We laughed and exchanged names.  They were Debbie and Diane (I think Debbie was the shorter, older one).

“What’s the difference between you?” I asked.

“Eleven years and eleven inches!”   More giggles, even though they probably had used this line a million times.  They were like the female version of Click and Clack, cracking each other up round the clock.   It didn’t matter where they went or stayed; they were going to have a blast even if they got flat tires daily, even if they ate granola bars for days, even if their Walmart tent leaked.

The flight attendant came by with the basket of snacks.  Diane and Debbie had never flown Jet Blue so I told them they could pick more than one and stock up for their trip.  I chose the blue potato chips, they selected chips (2), cookies and mixed nuts.   I ate a few but didn’t want to finish them or take it with me.

“Would you like the rest?” I held out the crinkly bag to Debbie.

“Sure,” she said.  “Why not?”

“Do you want a cookie?” she asked me.

“I’ll take one to wash down the chips.” I reached into the pouch.

Suddenly I wished I were going with them.


About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais champion, Aikidoka and explorer of internal and external landscapes.


6 thoughts on “Unexpected In-Flight Entertainment

  1. Suddenly, I was surprised your story had ended. I wanted to know more. Were they invited to stay the night at your house? Did you three make a piecrust promise to see each other again? That I wanted more, though, is a good sign of an incident well told. Remind me, sometime, to tell you about my telling a joke in a Baahston baah.

    Posted by kenlutes | June 20, 2012, 3:13 pm
  2. Funny, I would have offered them a place to stay if I had room for 2 (I don’t) and, more crucially, a place to park their car (alas, not in Capitol Hill). Seemed like theirs was an adventure designed for two, not three. I will try to channel their happy-go-lucky attitude next time I find myself arriving somewhere without a plan or a clue!

    Posted by ilona fried | June 20, 2012, 3:19 pm
  3. After a family wedding in Florida I attempted to fly back to Boston during a major northeaster. Several delays and many confusing announcements later, I decided I was going to be stuck. For at least a day. I noticed two women traveling with a baby with a feeding tube and ended up striking up a conversation. When our flight was cleared through Baltimore I became suspicious. Stuck in the spacious Orlando airport seemed like a better option that stuck in Baltimore with few rerouting options to Boston. The two women with the baby seemed anxious and I asked about their supplies. Turns out the baby is technology dependent, they have only 2 days worth of supplies. The baby’s mother lived north of Boston and Grandma, who lived in Orlando, was helping her daughter and the baby travel.

    While clearly intelligent and insightful, neither had extensive travel experience. I have had more than one job with extensive travel requirements. As we were already past the departure time for out Baltimore to Boston flight and as I already knew that there were no flights leaving anywhere to go to Boston, Newark, NY, etc. I was a skeptic.

    After haggling with the airline representative and assuring him that I did not expect any compensation or hotel arrangements, I was able to confirm my suspicions. Flying via Baltimore was a 2-day process at best. After checking with the women, I negotiated with the representative, on their behalf and mine, to be re-booked from Orlando, the next day. The agent seemed curious as to why I would want to help these women and stated that I was concerned about the baby.

    The women called “Grandpa” to come and pock them up. I helped the three women collect their belongings and escorted them to the pick-up area outside the terminal. I expected to spend the next day or so sitting and sleeping in the airport and negotiating flight options. I had a book, a phone a computer and a plan to get my work projects completed.

    These women would not hear of it. After a lengthy discussion, I went home with them to a large lovely home in a gated community. I had use of the guest room with a private bath and I spent the next morning enjoying the view of the swimming pool, eating healthy and delicious food and, had the use of “Grandpa’s” home office – complete with a very chummy picture of Grandpa and then President George W. Bush. In the afternoon we all went back to the airport and arrived in Boston in time for me to be home for dinner.

    Oh, one last item: I called my parents to let them know where I was. (They had dropped me in Orlando on their way to Ft. Lauderdale.) After semi-scolding me for “going home with strangers,” my mother wanted to know how I managed such good luck and to find such nice people.

    Posted by Cindy-jo | June 22, 2012, 5:48 am
  4. I loved reading this, Ilona! Such a terrific story– and you have them captured so well… I hope to read more of it someday, either here or in a literary journal. 🙂

    Posted by Denise Turner | June 27, 2012, 5:13 pm
    • Thanks, Denise! Alas, there isn’t much more to the story…we all dozed off at some point; when it was time to say goodbye, I told them I expected to read in the newspaper about all the mischief they’d cause…I just hope they’ve steered clear of the fires.

      Posted by ilona fried | June 27, 2012, 5:20 pm

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