Please, can I be a Jackass for a change?


What happens when you combine chivalry, a butt, a tiny airplane seat, and a WORLD of sweat? As I can tell you from ain't fun.

Good.  Lord.  

I had a life-changing experience today.   I have decided to join the rest of humanity.  I’m sorry, ma, but…I have decided that I too shall become an a$$hole. 

What brought on this life-changing move?  What has caused me to abandon 45 years of trying to be a nice guy?  Well…being a nice guy, that’s what brought it on.  As I’ve stated in the past, I’m NOT exactly fond of traveling.  Today (well, I guess it’s now yesterday back home) was my son’s birthday.  He turned 9.  So of course, it being my son’s birthday, I of course had a work trip scheduled for a location about as far away as you can get in the U.S.  I’m meeting with folks in Alaska to talk about a carbon and land-cover work up here.  I TRIED to get the meeting moved, just half a day, so I could be home for my son’s birthday.  Uh-uh, meeting wouldn’t move.  So, I made the most of it, missing the start of the meeting Monday afternoon, spending the morning with my son and taking him out for breakfast, and then boarding a plane to get to get to Anchorage late this evening so I can join the meetings for the rest of the week.

Couple missing (most of) my son’s birthday with a day of travel, and I wasn’t in the greatest mood to begin so.  I have no problem with the first leg of my trip.  The Minneapolis to Anchorage leg was packed, with them asking for volunteers to take a later flight.  I took heart in knowing I at least had a window seat, somewhere I could at least KIND of “relax” for the 6-hour flight.  Well, relax as much as one can relax when stuffed into a sardine can for that long.

I sit at my seat, settle in…and this lady sits in the middle seat next to me, with a 4-year old boy sitting on her lap. Then this old businessman in a suit comes and sits next to her on the aisle.  The lady says the airline messed up and instead of sitting her and her 4-year old together, each of them had middle seats about 15 rows apart.  She said she had planned to have the 4-year old sit on her lap for the whole trip.  TERRIFIC, I thought!!  JUST what we need for an already cramped space.  Well, I needn’t have worried, because the flight attendant came by and told the lady that any child over 2 needed their own seat.

And then the fun began.  The lady turned to the businessman on the aisle, asking if he’d move to her son’s middle seat in the back of the plane.  The businessman didn’t even SAY anything, he just held up his hand, and then went back to reading his Wall Street Journal.  So….the lady turns to me.

What do you do?   You have this lady and her 4-year old son, asking for a favor.  The flight attendant said the 4-year old COULD sit in the back on his own (!!!!!!!), but the 4-year old was having NONE of that, saying he wanted Mom.  So here I am, on my OWN son’s birthday, confronted with a moral dilemma.  What to do?

I did as I was raised…I was a gentleman, and gave up my window seat, to take a middle seat in the back of the plane, for a long, 6-hour flight.   I walk back to this kid’s seat, and lo-and-behold, the aisle seat is occupied by a guy who may well have been the Japanese Grand Champion sumo wrestler.  The lady in the window seat?  For all intents and purposes, she could have been this guy’s grandma.  They certainly seemed to share some genes or something.  So, I give a little chortle, and squeeze in between at least 600 pounds of humanity.

Good.  Lord.   6-hours in hell itself may have been preferable to this flight.  Sumo Wrestler dude had flesh that filled up his seat and kind of “oozed” underneath the armrest into my middle seat territory.   Grandma on the left?  That armrest was HERS, damnit, and she made it ABUNDANTLY clear that I was not to enter her territory.   We sat in the plane for a while, waiting for it to load, and it just got hotter, and stuffier, with each passing minute.  I couldn’t wait for the plane to take off, as I thought surely then the air would kick in and at least the temperature would go down.

Uh….no.  We get airborne, and it’s not getting any cooler.  In unison, Sumo dude, Grandma, and me reach up to turn on the air vents.  Nada.  Zippo.  Nothing.  No air is coming out of the vents at all, much less any cool air.  Sumo dude rings the bell for the flight attendant, who politely asked “Have you tried twisting them on”?   BRILLIANT!!  NO, we had NOT thought of such an ingenious plan!!  Not believing it, she herself tries each nozzle, and says “I guess you’re right, but there’s nothing I can do”.  It’s not just our row, there seems to be a block of about 10 rows without any air.

Do you know what happens when you’re surrounded by 600 pounds of flesh in a hot stuffy space?  SWEAT, that’s what happens.  Sumo dude is already sweating from his brow even before the plane takes off.  Once we get going and it’s not getting any cooler?  I first FELT the sweat when his tree-trunk sized upper arm kept brushing against me.  I make like a self-conscious woman trying to squeeze into a dress one size too small, and try to make MYSELF as thin as possible so I don’t have to touch either of these two behemoths.  IT’S….NOT…WORKING.  The simple laws of physics dictated that I would NOT have any buffer space between myself, Sumo dude, and Grandma.

The brushes of Sumo dude’s arms became less frequent as I think he became a little more conscious of my displeasure.   But THEN started the butt-sweats.  What are “butt sweats”, you ask?   “Butt Sweats” are when a very large sweaty man tries to fit a jumbo sized body in a medium-sized seat.  You could SEE not only his armpits getting sweaty, but soon I started to FEEL THE WETNESS where his mass of flesh was spreading into my space under the armrest.  OH MY GOD.   I’ve had some gross experiences in my day.  I’ve changed plenty of diapers.  I’ve been pooped on by a flying bird.  As a kid, I even RAN THROUGH A FREAKIN’ GLASS DOOR and sliced my wrist clean open, complete with chunk o’ missing flesh and blood pouring out.

I WOULD DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS 1,000 TIMES over, rather than experience another flight like this one with 6 hours of Sumo dude sweat.  When we finally landed, I truly felt like I had been in a sauna, and the soggy right leg of my jeans certainly LOOKED like I had been in a sauna.  GOOD.  LORD.  I couldn’t WAIT to get to my hotel room so I could strip down and shower.  As I type this, I’m thinking of taking my clothes from the flight and lighting them on fire, rather than bringing them home. 

And thus….my decision to become an a$$hole.  I don’t make this decision lightly, but MY GOD, HOW MUCH CAN ONE MAN TAKE!?!?!  I didn’t even get a THANK YOU from this woman after I volunteered to trade seats with her son, and Sumo Dude and Grandma were anything BUT pleasant, which at least might have partially mitigated their own disgustingness.  

What the hell happened to “Karma”?   Do a good deed, and you shall be rewarded?  That sure as HELL didn’t happen to me today.  I’ve been cynical for, oh, about 25 years now, but I’ve been a gentleman cynic.  NO MORE!!!   Why the HELL should I be nice to people, why SHOULD I be a gentleman, when it for DAMN sure doesn’t seem there are many other gentlemen or ladies out there??  For ONCE, can’t I be the a$$hole??  Can’t I be like that jackass businessman, who didn’t even have the courtesy to SPEAK about the situation, much less volunteer to give up his seat?

No, don’t worry Ma and Pa.  You did a good job raising a gentleman.  It’s not in my nature to be a selfish jackass.  I’ll continue holding the door for people.  I’ll continue saying “please” and “thank you” 1,000 times a day.  I’ll be a good tipper, be nice to puppy dogs and children, and yes, next time a not-that-friendly woman asks me to switch seats so she can sit by her little boy, I will say yes. 

All I ask is for the right to bitch about other folks on my blog!!

3 Responses to Please, can I be a Jackass for a change?

  1. Gross! But you get to be back in your own skin and live your own life as a scientist and father and husband–those other folks are stuck in their own messes. You were nice enough to share but not change karma. And don’t lose sight of your mission either–you were there for good reasons!

  2. Six – 6 – six hours of that?!
    You deserve the right to complain about it all you want.

  3. Of course he can complain all he wants–I’d rather hear about what was accomplished at the AK meeting for the environment. Almost always the experience of flying is not a good one. Start to finish, it’s a journey into hell. Bitch away!

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