Mrs. Hocker

April 9, 2010

in Passenger Stories

In one of my trans-Atlantic voyages to Europe, I had the joy of sitting next to an expert in languages. I don’t remember the layout of the plane, but I normally take a window seat so I can sleep against the window so I am not completely zonked when I land in Amsterdam. I get on early due to my FF status (at least I can put my bags where I want them and don’t have to cram) and I am sitting there relaxing listening to my MP3 player as the rest of the cattle herd in for the flight.

Very slowly, an older woman approached the empty aisle seat and my heart sunk as she looked at me and rattled off something in Arabic – a language that I am completely clueless in. I kind of shook my head and shrugged. There was another woman in the center section that heard it and told her something in her native language and then informed me that it was indeed Arabic… and that she had told her that I did not understand what she was talking about. I did my best to be polite and wormed my way out of the conversation and stuffed my ear buds back in my ears and retreated to my own little world.

Sitting there listening to my tunes as the plane filled up, I thought it would be just another ride. We took off; things began settling down… they started throwing drinks at us… which I gladly accepted. She found the button that allowed her seat to recline… and quickly used it to lean back as far as she could. A guy in the next row who was well in excess of 6′ tall leaned his seat back just a little to also get comfortable. Well my new friend did not like that one bit and began chattering away wildly. I was spared much of the sound thanks to Shure’s sound isolation technology, but I could not escape all of it. She cycled through her three languages – Arabic, Arabic + crying, and Arabic + self flagellation. It was bizarre. Finally, she calmed down through intervention of an FA and the translator lady.

The real fun began when her coughing started up. She began coughing those wet, deep lung coughs that you can just visualize the phlegm oozing through the lungs. Soon there was no imagination necessary… as she began loudly “hocking” up material before spitting it into a tissue that she was holding. She then found the air sickness bag and began coughing and spitting into it.

I did my best to ignore the smell and sounds… and ate my dinner with as much booze as I could get my hands on (thankfully the FAs were sympathizing with everyone around her in the form of booze)… and curled up to my window ready for a sleep. They turned the lights off in the plane and Mrs. Hocker screamed and grabbed my arm shaking it. I jolted awake… and she was jabbing one of her claws at the ceiling… so I pushed the light button. She let out a relief sigh and began gabbing some more. Great – so she is afraid of the dark.

The booze made the rest of the flight bearable – but she thought it was a good idea to wait until almost everyone was off the plane before moving her butt. I picked close to the front of the plane for a reason – but oh well – I made it.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

coatesmoe April 9, 2010 at 11:53 pm

It is always interesting to read about America on the road. The first impression that they give is that America is a superior culture. Non Americans are subhuman and normally unclean coming from less democratic countries. The smells, looks and of course the foreign languages are negatives that one has to take into consideration and endure. A trip to Europe is comparable to Dr. Livingston´s travel through the dark continent. It has always been a strain to travel with these clean boys and watch them spray mouthwash into their mouths and sanitize their hands with blue bottles after shaking the hands of some European CEO. Then there are the night wanderings through the red light districts and the required question "Do you believe in Jesus?". Mom or the wife has to be contacted two to three times a day to assure the home folks that they are still alive in good old Europe. I have gone through so many three day business trips and had to suffer with the limited flexability and was always surprised with the limited knowledge of Europe that they pack in their overnight bags. Never the less it is interesting to hear about where the individual American is coming from and what their expectation is toward the future. Americans can be very enjoyable and fun to be with. I would suggest that they bring a bit more openness to others and a little less racialism.


extremecentrist April 12, 2010 at 8:33 am

I'm not following how the original post evoked this response, coatsmoe. Just because the fellow mentioned that Arabic was being spoken, how does that equate to racism? It's just a statement of fact. Could just as easily have been English (if the poster was a non-English speaker), Swahili, Urdu, or Klingit. A poorly behaved fellow passenger is what the post is about.

By the way, I detest "Do you believe in Jesus" as well, where ever I hear it. I realize they're just trying to help, but it's hard to be polite when people are delusional. I am a native born US citizen, by the way.


Patty April 10, 2010 at 7:33 am

I think I missed the part where the poster says he's American. He could have been Canadian or Mexican. I think you also need to check your racialism.


Jodi April 12, 2010 at 4:28 am

I agree with Patty – who said the writer was American?


Gaetano April 12, 2010 at 5:30 am

What do you mean with "I think you also need to check your racialism."?


extremecentrist April 12, 2010 at 8:23 am

She meant that automatically assuming that the poster was from the US was "racialism," even though the US is a country, not a race.

By the way, everyone, "racialism" is not a word. Try "racism."


Wolfgang April 14, 2010 at 10:03 am

Interesting, people in Europe have more understanding for foreign languages. My daughter speaks German, French and English. I you live in Europe you have to adjust to the multicultural world. I know from Americans that they get angry when the hear Spanish spoken in side of the USA.


extremecentrist April 15, 2010 at 4:22 am

What Americans get angry when they hear Spanish spoken inside the USA?

Please don't assume all Americans are Fox News, Tea Party whack-nuts. That's just a small, but loud, minority.


Wolfgang April 15, 2010 at 5:48 am

Alot of them do in California and Florida. I was on vacation in Florida and many Americans were complaining about Spanish being spoken. We also see in the European media that Palin has a large following in the US. She seems to control the opinion on political issues.


extremecentrist April 15, 2010 at 6:26 am

Please, please, please, please don't think that Sarah Palin and her idiot followers are representative of most US citizens. They most definitely are not. They're in the news because they make a lot of noise. The vast majority of Americans think Sarah Palin is a joke.

Just as every Arab is not a terrorist jihadi, and every European is not an smelly effite snob, neither is every American an ignorant xenophobe.

Also, of course I can't speak to your specific experiences, but I'd suspect that people aren't so much upset that Spanish is being spoken at all, but rather that immigrants from Latin America are often difficult to do business with because their English is poor or non-existant. As a tourist in Germany, for example, I would try to learn some German. If I were to emigrate to Germany to work, I'd strive to learn good, idiomatic German.


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