Strangers on a Plane
Gross? Pretty much. Romantic? Questionable. Immoral? Oh, yeah. You just don’t see this on a plane. Let me explain.
I don’t know his real name, but I’ll call him Bob. He looked like a Bob, with a neatly trimmed mustache, medium build, and just a hint of gray hair. He stowed his carry-on and plopped down in seat 14A like a seasoned traveler. Rather than my Vince Flynn novel or a movie, Bob provided the entertainment for this London to Denver flight.
I sat in 15B, one row behind Bob, and hoped the seat next to me remained empty so I could stretch out. That hope waned, as a certain Mr. Grouch, as I’ll call him, stopped and stared at me.
“Can I get to my seat?”
“Sure.” Kind of rude I thought, but I suppose my unwillingness for a seatmate was rude as well.
Mr. Grouch settled in the seat next to me, broke out his laptop, and commenced typing. I just knew he’d order some sort of mixed drink, and I decided to make no effort for formal introductions. His heavy-set body spilled onto the armrest, making me uncomfortable before we even took off. A whiff of his cheap aftershave didn’t help, either.
A woman sat down in front of me without stowing anything. I overheard her breathless comments to no one in particular.
“Phew. I almost missed my flight.”
Bob stared at her. Not a slight peek where, if caught, he could quickly glance away. He leered. She turned her blonde head toward him.
“Hi, I’m Constance.”
I missed his name, mainly because he stammered, and my only view existed between their seats. Consequently, I only saw his facial expressions. His smile meant business with Constance. As she fiddled with her carry-on, Bob removed something from around his hand and slid it in his pocket.
While my view remained limited the entire flight, I could hear almost everything they said. Is this eavesdropping? Probably, but it’s not as if they whispered. Anyone within a few feet heard them.
“You headed back home?” Bob said.
“Yep. I came for an art show. I teach high school art in Aurora and always wanted to see this show. I finally made it happen. What about you?”
“I’m from Denver. I work for a software company and did some training with our London customer. I make this trip about twice a year.”
“Lucky you. I—”
The loud speaker crackled, interrupting Constance. I sort of read my novel while taking in my surroundings until the flight attendants began the drink service.
The flight attendant looked at Constance with a smile. “What can I get you to drink?”
“I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay.”
The flight attendant nodded. “That’s four dollars.”
“Let me get it,” Bob said with a grin toward Constance.
“What would you like, sir?”
“I’ll have a Michelob.”
Mr. Grouch seemed oblivious to anything around him, but managed to communicate a Rum and Coke order and proceeded to down three of them over the next hour. As the choice of beef or chicken arrived, a chick-flick started on the big screen.
“Oh, I love this movie,” Bob said.
“Really?” Constance said.
Smooth move, Bob, I thought. I seriously doubt Bob loved that movie. I’m not suggesting Bob was a player with the four buttons undone and a gold chain, but he certainly seemed smitten with Constance.
I guessed her age at about thirty-eight and Bob maybe a few years older. Bob dressed like a businessman with slacks and a polo shirt. Constance wore relaxed fit clothes and could likely make a scarf work with any outfit. She looked artsy. They seemed an acceptable match, but began to bore me.
“What all did you see in London?” Bob said.
“Oh, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, stuff like that, and of course I took a train to Paris to see the Louvre...” Constance went on and on about art, putting me to sleep.
After my nap, my legs needed stretching. I decided to spy on this curious couple on the way back from the lavatory. The couple had succumbed to deep slumber. Bob’s wide open mouth produced a snore that threatened to bring down the plane and Constance oozed a line of slobber down the side of her mouth. How romantic.
Halfway through the flight, an action film started as I noticed the flight attendant bring Bob and Constance a fresh Michelob and Chardonnay. They clinked their drinks together and Bob leaned toward Constance.
“You’re so beautiful.”
Ugh, I thought.
“Thank you,” Constance said.
Then it happened. Through the gap in the seats, I could see them making out. Not just a little peck, but head-swaying making out. An offensive, public display of affection.
“Huh,” Mr. Grouch said. “Can you believe this?”
Suddenly we had something to talk about, I thought.
“Where is that stewardess? I need another drink,” Bob said.
I looked across the aisle and saw a young boy with his elbows on the armrest, chin in the palms of his hands, taking it all in. “Trevor, don’t look at that,” his mom said.
This make out session occurred on and off for the remainder of the flight. A young man wearing a turban kept looking back to watch. Little Trevor kept sneaking peaks. I realized I had witnessed an unusual event. I am sure this happens at parties or a first date, but on a plane? And at their age? My disgust level increased. Not because two consenting adults were making out, but that they did this in front of everyone.
What if they go to the lavatory together? No. No. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Should I move seats? Should I tell the flight attendant or confront them directly? I needed some reprieve.
“Flight Attendants, please prepare for landing.”
Bob leaned toward Constance. “So, can I call you?”
“Uh, sure. Let me write down my number.” He looked at the number Constance wrote down as if it were a trophy. He put it in the same pocket as the mysterious object he’d placed there earlier in the flight.
One does not look his or her best at the end of an international flight. Bed head, unshaven, wrinkled clothing, and general weariness are the typical attributes. I ended up behind this couple in the passport line and continued my observation. Obsessed with them? No. This became a sociological experiment. I had more data to collect.
Constance seemed a little less enthusiastic about her new beau as she looked off into the distance. Perhaps the lighting and full view of Bob changed things for her. Maybe she thought him too forward or too rushed in this newfound relationship. Bob, unaffected, clung to her side.
I stood by them at the baggage claim as Bob collected his suitcase. He then reached into his pocket. I just knew he’d removed his wedding ring earlier and he was a two-timing louse. But why get it now?
He pulled his watch from his pocket and strapped it to his wrist.
“Nice watch,” Constance said.
“Thanks. I always take it off on long flights so I’m not constantly checking to see how much time is left. Let me know when your bag comes and I’ll get it for you.”
“No thanks. I’ll get it.”
“Do you need a ride home? My co-worker is picking me up.”
She stammered. “No…uh…my sister is coming.” Her confidence, unwavering throughout the flight, left her. “You go ahead and catch your ride. My bag may take forever to get here.”
“Yes, go ahead.” He leaned in to kiss her and she turned her head to the side.
Bob settled for a weak hug. “Goodbye. I really enjoyed meeting you.”
“See ya,” Constance’s voice held much less enthusiasm than Bob.
My bag had yet to make an appearance, but a loud, flowery suitcase and two other bags made their twentieth trip around the carousel. Through the window, I watched Bob shake hands with a similar looking fellow and walk out of the airport with a huge smile.
Constance watched as well. She reached in her carry-on, pulled out a ring with a big rock, and placed it on her ring finger. On its next revolution, she grabbed the loud, flowery suitcase and proceeded out of the baggage claim area.
I assumed Bob the culprit in this perplexing scenario, but now saw that the sweet and innocent Constance was not what she seemed. I watched through the window as a gentleman approached, and she gave him an obligatory kiss on the lips.
Mr. Grouch, who’d spoken to me twice up to this point, walked up. “Can you believe that? She’s a two-timing louse.”