This happened May 2011 on a flight from Chicago to Atlanta. I was going to visit my aunt and celebrate her daughter’s (my cousin’s) graduation from high school. My daughter (1 y.o.) and I flew down to Atlanta and had a great flight and a great trip. My daughter is well-behaved on planes and will typically spend half of the flight sleeping and the other half either staring out of the window or playing quietly with the non-noisy toys I bring for her. The return flight was a flight from hell.
As always I bought two seats (one window, one middle) for my daughter and me. Since she is very young we always pre-board and I make sure she has something to do so she is not bothering our “row-mate.” As I am a new mom, I do remember being bothered when parents would allow their children to scream and misbehave in public and promised I would never be that parent. As others boarded the flight attendant stated “Wow I have never seen such a young child play so quietly.” As I mentioned before my daughter is very well-behaved and I feel very blessed to have her. (Incidentally she is peacefully napping as I type this.)
As people continued to board a very large man (easily 350lb) began walking toward us. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against “persons of size” as I am not a small woman. I have hips and thighs to speak of and I am very proud. The man came to our row and immediately pulls up the arm rest. Once seated it is clear that he is taking up at least 1/2 of my daughter’s seat. Since she is a small child and would technically only be using 1/2 of the seat I did not mind… at first!
As he sat my daughter climbed into my lab as she noticed this rather large man was very close to her. As she did this he said (in a sweet but condescending tone), “Mommy is gonna need to keep you quiet because I didn’t pay for this seat to hear you.” Being a licensed social worker I deal with some very narcissistic individuals but this took the cake. I replied back (in the same tone), “And I didn’t pay to have you take up half my daughter’s seat and yet here you are.”
At this point I scooted over a bit into the seat I paid for and put my daughter closest to the window. And that is when the stench hit me. He smelled like old onions and unwashed body. Since my daughter seemed oblivious to the encroaching man I turned towards her and put my nose inside of my sweatshirt. Mr. Smelly asked if there was a problem and I simply stated, “Yes. You smell.”
About 1/2 hour into this flight both my daughter and I fell asleep. I awoke because I felt something wet and warm on my back. I turned around to find Mr. Smelly had moved further into my daughter’s seat and was now touching my back. I pulled my sleeping daughter onto my lap (still sleeping BTW) so that I could see why I felt wet. The lower back half of my sweatshirt was soaked with his sweat. I unzipped my sweatshirt, took it off and threw it on the floor. All the time he is looking at me as though I had done something wrong.
With 30 minutes left in the flight my daughter awoke and said “ju ju” (meaning juice), so I handed her a juice cup and a small container filled with Goldfish crackers. Once the FA announced that we would be landing soon I began to pack away my daughter’s snack. Seeing that there were Goldfish left over in the container, Mr. Smelly asked if he could have the rest. Now normally I am a nice person and would have given him the rest of the Goldfish, but in that moment I was annoyed that not only did I pay for a seat I did not use, but that my fairly new sweatshirt was now covered in the sweat of a foul-smelling stranger. So I said “No.” The conversation continues as follows:
Mr. S.: “Why not?”
Me: “Because I like to use things I pay for.”
Mr. S: “Just selfish.”
At this point the FA announced we were descending into Chicago. Although I could have lashed out at him, I didn’t and continued to ready my daughter and myself for arrival. But I was thinking, ” I’m selfish? You get on a plane, take up more space than you paid for, make an unwarranted comment towards my daughter, smell like you haven’t washed your body in three days, but I’m selfish?”
Now I get that we all deserve respect, but in what world do people think that they are entitled to encroach on other’s space?