Weird Dial Turned Up

April 16, 2010

in Weird People Stories

Years ago when I was a travel agent, I would fly space available. I was trying to get to Boston for a New Year’s party on what was then America West. I thought I was out of luck, as the flight I was hoping to catch filled up with the exact number of passengers as seats. I was looking at the schedule for my other options as the gate agents closed the flight. The phone rings at the podium, and one agent walks over and punches the code to open the door. A perfectly normal but slightly distressed looking woman walks off quickly.

I make eye contact with the person at the door and they wave me on. I hand them my ticket, and rush on board. Overheads are full, so my bag is quickly gate checked. Obviously there’s one seat left. Obviously it’s a middle seat. The woman in the window seat looks at me like I’m a savior of some sort, the disheveled guy on the aisle is just looking straight ahead slightly wild-eyed.

I sit, we taxi, and aisle guy starts to rock. And mutter. And twitch. Rocking, muttering, twitching. Rocking, muttering, twitching. We’re in the air (too late for me to turn back now) and he takes out the in-flight magazine. But he doesn’t read it, he shreds it. Pieces flying, pages tearing, paper everywhere. And twitching. And rocking. And muttering.

Then the snacks come. Now, twitching, tearing, rocking, muttering guy has a knife. Plastic, thank god, but a knife nonetheless. I don’t know about the voices in his head, but in my head, John Fogerty is singing about a Bad Moon Rising.

Now it’s time for drinks. What would you expect a twitching, armed, muttering, rocking mass would order to drink? Oh, it’s coffee. Neat! Caffeine!

This is about the time he turned the weird dial up to 11. Imaginary insects seemed to be buzzing his head; he would jerk out of the way at what I assumed was the last second. Now the rocking, muttering, armed, caffeinated, twitching, bug-dodging guy picks up his (thankfully empty) coffee cup in one hand, and in the other… the knife.

Repeatedly stabbing, stabbing, stabbing the cup, styrofoam pieces flying everywhere, muttering words I can’t understand but hope have nothing to do with me being next, I push against the opposite armrest. Styrofoam and magazine pile deep on the floor.

Of course, at the risk of attracting attention from this man, no one – flight attendants, passengers, anyone – is willing to say anything, or make eye contact. Occasionally, a flight attendant would pick up a few shreds of magazine, but otherwise, he’s left unmolested. I was, however, quite afraid to sleep.

About an hour later, I heard the only comprehensible words to come out of this man for the entire flight. His quote: “Pull ya over in a Greyhound, but ain’t no cops on airplanes.”

Now wide awake for the rest of the journey, I brushed myself off when we got to Boston, pulled off the small pieces of magazine sticking to my legs, and got off the plane. My bag didn’t come to the jetway upon arrival, I was directed to baggage claim instead.

About 40 minutes later (remember, I said America West) I was waiting at bag claim when I had my final sighting of the Wild Man of 9C. He walks through the terminal, up to the America West carousel, sticks his head behind the curtain separating the terminal from the tarmac, then walks through, apparently off to find his bag.

I’ve often wondered if he had a round trip. I returned on Continental just in case…

– Jon P

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Clare April 16, 2010 at 6:37 pm

He sounds a lot like some of the autistic people I know.


kad April 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I'm not gonna call fake, since this could indeed have happened many years ago, before FA's morphed from flying waitresses/waiters into 'informal' flight marshals.

But it was well written.

John Fogerty is singing about a Bad Moon Rising.

I laughed several times. This equals most of my fictional writing. I'm not judging, since reality is often better than fiction.


paul April 16, 2010 at 9:17 pm

very true clare…………..


Evan April 18, 2010 at 3:56 am

The quote from the crazy rowmate was absolutely hilarious.


D-Money April 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Reminds me a bit of Bronson Pinchot's character from The Langoleers. 🙂


crella May 15, 2010 at 3:18 am

'muttering words I can’t understand but hope have nothing to do with me being next'

Thanks for a great story, very well written. I'm glad nothing happened to you!


lisa May 25, 2010 at 2:27 am

This made me really choke from laughing so hard. I could see this easily happening before 9/11.. Had a similar flight from Jamaica but the guy was also smoking during most of his antics. well written.


Cline June 7, 2010 at 5:41 pm

hahah! Sounds like the crazy paper-shredding man from Stephen King's Langoliers.


Maggie May 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I really thought you were going to explain the distraught woman who deplaned in more detail…


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