After working a string of 17-hour days on the West Coast, I was more than ready to leave SFO and head back east. Unfortunately for me, doing so meant traveling mid-day on a Friday in the summer – which, if you don’t know – means kids galore. Flying during the afternoon in the summer is like boarding a school bus that’ll be darting through the sky… and boy, was I not prepared for this.
Usually I upgrade to premium economy on cross-country flights, knowing that it cuts down on the probability of having to sit next to some of the world’s most amateur flyers. Unfortunately for me, all of those seats were booked.
No matter, though, I’m usually pretty lucky when it comes to seatmates. I like to look around the gate at boarding to play what I call “airline roulette” to determine who I’d least like to sit next to (hint: kids. Always kids). The odds were very much against me at this SFO gate.
We board. I’m in a window seat on the left side of the plane one or two rows behind premium economy. In front of me are two small children, about four and six years of age, with their mother in the aisle. Behind me are two young boys about similar age with their mother in the middle. Great. Here we go.
Upon taxi, the younger girl directly in front of me decides she does not want to wear her seatbelt and starts screaming to get it off her. We are precisely zero minutes into a six hour flight, so I pop a Xanax.
I’m just about to doze off into that lovely little narcotic-induced haze when I’m jarred awake by young Messi behind me, who has decided to practice soccer by kicking the hell out of my seat. I turn around and shoot his mother a nasty glare. She says nothing. I start to watch a movie.
A few minutes later, the girls in front of me get into a screaming and hitting match over their shared iPad. Their mother hands them a Ziploc baggie of blueberries (this will become important later).
Behind me, the kicking starts again. I wasn’t aware the flight came with a free shiatsu massage. I turn to the mother and ask if she could please tell her son to stop kicking my seat. She ignores me.
I watch some crappy TV shows while being jostled by Messi as we cruise the flyover states. A few miles east of Toronto is where the fun really begins: our descent.
The young girl in front of me decides she has had. enough. of. this. plane. and. she. wants. off. right. now. (Her punctuated screams, not mine). I do too, except we’ve got an hour to go. Her screams continue through descent into EWR, but they’re now joined by the retching of a woman in the middle seat using her airsickness bag.
The cacophony of unpleasant sounds comes to a dull roar before we plop onto the tarmac 45 minutes late. I rush to grab my bag and get out of this hellhole as soon as possible. I’m halfway down the aisle before I feel wetness on my back. Without thinking, I reach back to see what the issue is. I feel something squishy on the bottom of my brand new backpack, which had been under the seat in front of me. I consider my retching seatmate and decide right there that I am ready to die a very undignified death. This is the end.
Then I recognize the culprit: Blueberries. So many blueberries smashed into the fabric of my backpack. I’ve not eaten one since out of protest.