There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.
The girl who sat next to me on the plane to Dubai had the sulky look of a moody teenager. She compared university timetables with her friend (who was less sulky and not sitting next to me), listed off all the airlines she’d flown with (there are a lot of airlines) and responded negatively to the blessing of the plane (I am sitting in an aluminium tube, 40,000 feet in the air – I appreciate the blessing. Thank you).
I did not like her.
I don’t like to make snap decisions about people. I like to take my time before coming to a like / dislike / indifferent conclusion about a fellow human being. Well. Mostly. There have been, of course, some snap decisions about people have lead to things I have regretted: dating a psychopath, buying a John Mayer album … I have learnt from the errors of making a snap judgement. Like writing an essay, you need to find the evidence to support your argument. So I tried, I really tried, not to dislike the girl next to me on the long-haul flight.
But then …
She used the common arm-rest like it was her own.
I took a deep breath.
That’s cool. I mean it is that weird territory, a grey area, isn’t it? I don’t really know what the rules are on that one. All I know is that I have been wedged between two strangers on a flight where neither wanted to give up the shared arm-rest. I never want anyone to experience that. So, I always try to be accommodating to the person in the middle seat; the worst seat on the plane. The girl next to me, however, had commandeered both arm-rests whilst I was shoved up against the window. Suddenly the worst seat on the plane looked far more appealing than the overrated window seat.
She had drawn up some inequitable borders and proceeded to invade my territory with her elbow. She leant into my seat. She put her foot up on the gap between the two seats in front. She spread her legs wider than a cowboy, her knee hovering over my legs. She dusted her peanut crumbs over me. Peanut. Crumbs.
It was difficult to find evidence to support an argument for feeling indifferent about this person.
But maybe that’s to be expected when you’re squashed into economy on a long haul flight.
The girl next to me spoke loudly. Everything she said sounded like it was the Most Important And Intelligent Thing Ever Said. Until you actually listened to the words spewing from her mouth. The girl next to me explained:
- the problem she faced in having skinny legs but a belly that bulged,
- how she would scream whenever she heard thunder and lightning (and I wondered, but did not ask, how she heard lightning), and
- that she was studying psychology (really?) but might do some Vet Science subjects because she really loves animals and surely “a vet must get paid more than a doctor cos they have to know about more than one species”.
It was a long flight.
A very, very long flight …