The Phantom Kickers

November 26, 2009

in Seat Stories

When I was about 16 years old, my family and I took a trip to Maui and my parents were generous enough to allow me and my younger sister to each bring a friend along. We were lucky to get a direct flight from San Diego to Maui and were fully prepared with books, mp3 players, and cards for the five hour flight. My parents got four free upgrades to first class and my friend and I were gracious enough to allow my sister and her friend to take the extra seats and we ended up sitting by ourselves in coach. By the end of the flight, we had good reason to regret this chivalrous decision.

Fortunately, the boarding process and the take off were uneventful and we were far luckier than other posters on this site because a quiet and normal-sized man occupied the aisle seat of our row. Unfortunately, our luck proved fleeting. After about an hour, my friend and I became bored with our books and music players and we began to play cards on my tray table. About 20 or 30 minutes into our game, a middle-aged woman sitting directly in front of my friend asked us rather sternly to stop kicking her chair (he was sitting in the window seat while I was in the much-maligned middle seat). We were pretty perplexed because neither of us had touched, nevermind kicked, her chair. We told her politely that we hadn’t kicked her chair and went back to our game naively believing that the situation had been resolved.

To our surprise, a couple of minutes later the woman pressed the overhead call button which very quickly summoned a 30 something female FA. The frustrated woman explained to the FA that we were incessantly kicking her chair and that we needed to stop immediately. Being pretty well behaved teenagers and avid travelers, we were horrified and mildly embarrassed at the accusation and despite our best efforts, the FA believed the woman over our protestations of innocence. Looking back on the situation, her quick assessment was hardly surprising but at the time we were pretty irritated when the FA told us to stop kicking the woman’s chair.

We eventually went back to our game when, no more than five minutes later, the woman turned around in her seat and began chastising us for kicking her seat and for being annoying and unruly kids. My friend was fuming and at a loss for words while I (being the more talkative one) began to argue back and forth with her. I explained to her very clearly that I could see my friend’s feet (his tray table was up) and he was definitely not kicking her seat. I also pointed out that there was no way that our card game could be causing any disruption to her seat whatsoever because the game included no hitting or slapping and that we were playing on the tray table attached to the back of her neighbor’s seat. Apparently my unwaveringly calm tone and (I have to admit) a dash of mild condescension incensed her and she demanded to speak with my parents. To our dismay, my refusal caused her to press the overhead button again. By now she was quite agitated and was seething in anger when she repeated her story to the same unlucky FA. Unfortunately, it seemed as if the FA once more believed the woman’s story and I feared that she was about to lecture us on our “behavior” or possibly even talk to my parents in first class.

Thankfully, at that exact moment our luck improved just as quickly and unexpectedly as it had deteriorated earlier in the flight. The quiet man sitting next to me briefly looked up from his book and calmly informed the FA that we had in fact NOT been kicking the woman’s chair. I was delighted to see the look on the FA’s face shift perceptibly as she very quickly realized that she was not dealing with two unruly teenagers but instead with one increasingly irate and apparently hallucinating woman.

From there, the situation deteriorated rapidly as the woman began to babble loudly about her fear of flying and our phantom kicking which quickly attracted the attention of most of the passengers within 20 feet. After quickly hopping over her neighbors, she began to pace up and down the aisle and eventually became so dissociated from reality that the FAs took her to the back of the plane where she remained for the duration of the flight. Because this episode took place not long after 9/11, I was not totally surprised and experienced a healthy dose of schadenfreude when I overheard the FAs discussing using some kind of restraints on her.

While I didn’t see what happened to the woman at the end of the flight, the unfortunate FA came up to us at the end of the flight and apologized profusely for both the behavior of the woman and her own initial reluctance to believe us and handed us two of those pilot wing pins. While we were a little old to be excited by the pins, her sentiment was appreciated and I harbor no ill will towards the airline or the FA. Fortunately for us, this incident was definitely the low point of an otherwise fantastic trip and the incident has quickly evolved in our memories from a very frustrating experience to one among many humorous episodes in our long friendship.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Demotage November 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm

OK. You are off the plane now and safe from punishment, so you can go ahead and admit it now. You should be ashamed if yourselves for driving that lady insane.


Kad December 15, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Nice Demo!

He might be ready to 'feel pretty' about his air rage when he is in his 40's. Give him time. He will admit to driving another human being crazy.


D-Money November 27, 2009 at 11:12 am


Have you ever had a phantom-phone call? That is, you feel the cell phone in your pocket ring (in vibrate mode) so you reach into your pocket only to find it empty? (You then remember that you left your phone at home).

People missing limbs have phantom pain/itches on the missing fingers or toes.

It’s entirely plausable for a lady to feel phantom kicking, especially if she was a few cans short of a 6-pack to begin with. 😀


Kyle March 31, 2011 at 4:37 am

I know i don't know why now and again i hear my name being shouted. It is so freaky.


CLMT Lady November 30, 2009 at 10:01 am

I thought wing pins were banned after 9/11?


Kad December 15, 2009 at 5:29 pm

He said 'when' he was about 16 but gave no indication as to how long ago that was.

In my day they were still giving youngsters guided tours of the cockpit…..scary when you think about it. Especially when one of the pilots turns to you and says, "See that switch there?" (nodding) "Don't touch it or we could go down". Of course he smiled to let me know it was a joke….but for two seconds, I wasn't sure. Different times huh?


xxx March 23, 2013 at 12:56 am

OK kad,
what part of "shortly after 9/11" do you not understand?


Jodi November 30, 2009 at 10:46 am

OMG but what a great story you have now to share with people!


Kad December 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Great story, and well written.

Except for one small detail. Lucky to fly direct from San Diego to Maui? Look, I don't want to seem like an ignoramus, but I'm sure there are regular direct flights from SD to Maui. There are also likely regular connecting flights through LAX or other airports (most of you would probably understand how counter-intuitive connections can be sometimes if you don't care about living in purgatory – Toronto-Cleveland-Orlando-Houston for one.) The aircraft carriers were a little too short for safe wide-body landings, and Guam is a little out of the way….. I don't get the luck part. Direct flights are pretty regular on that route.


Kevin August 10, 2010 at 6:39 am

_That's_ what you're taking offense at? What the hell. Seems like most of the posters on this site have to find -something- to bitch about in every story. Sad.


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