Thursday, November 18, 2010

Public Displays of Affectation

Whenever I can, I like to look at what other people are reading.  I flew to New Orleans last week on a sold out flight and got the last seat on the plane.  Everyone knew the flight was sold out - there were several announcements to this effect and the departure area was mobbed.  Finding the last empty seat was a tremendous ordeal because everybody tries to bring all their luggage onto planes and it takes forever for people to store it in the overhead bins.  As I was walking to the back of the plane,  I passed the two guys on the flight who I knew I did not want to sit next to.  Of course, they are the ones I ended up sandwiched between.

The fat one, he was dressed in a full religious costume and his buddy, the smooth one, had only limited religious accessories.  Even though it had been announced that every seat was taken, these two had taken out all of their religious texts and made a big show of how devout they were by studying them as everyone else tried to board and settle in.  Of course, they filled the empty middle seat with their crap.  Naturally, this is where I was directed to sit by the stewardess. 

The smooth one was nice enough and got out of the way to let me in but the fat one, inexplicably sitting at the window seat, had nowhere to put his holy books and other crap and took forever to move all of his shit out of my way.  I had a bottle of water in my carry-on bag and as I tried to jam it under my seat, water squirted out of it like a fountain onto the smooth one's seat and all over his pseudo-holy book.  (I can say it was a a pseudo-holy book because these two were part of some fringe or small sect of their religion - which I will not name because I don't want to be called ant-* or a *-ist - and this book was all about predicting the future based on hidden numerical codes found in their holy texts.  Nonsense on top of nonsense, in other words.)  I felt bad about getting his book wet because I love books and am not a total jerk - but if this clown didn't need to have it open (it was a big book, not the kind of thing you casually read anywhere but at a table, much less in the few minutes before takeoff or in a throng of people scrambling to find seating in a cramped space). 

I had my book in my hands before I sat down - which was fortunate because I would not have been able to get into my bag to get it for the rest of the three hour flight.  I sat quietly and read my Scottish mystery novel once we took off. 

I was annoyed that I had to endure their unnecessary pre-flight display of piety.  And I would have been okay the rest of the flight if they kept studying or whatever it was they were doing.  But no.  After we were allowed to turn on our electronic devices, the fat one takes out a netbook from somewhere and starts to watch a movie and eat snacks.  And what does this religious scholar, someone so devout and with such an urgent need to study that he will do so even under the chaotic conditions of the boarding of an overbooked flight, watch during the flight?  The Pelican Brief.  When its calm and quiet, he likes to focus on an 18 year old movie with Denzel Washington and Julie Roberts.  (Side Note:  I have a signed first edition of the book.)  I wanted to tell him how it ended.

The smooth one slept most of the flight except for when he played video games on his iPhone.  He must have been having nightmares because he kept twitching and jerking.  Whatever he was dreaming of was not worse then the waking horror I had to endure.

As we waited to get our luggage after the flight I saw my seatmates had set up on a bench in the baggage claim area and got out their holy books and recommenced their study of spiritual matters while the rest of us fought to get our luggage.

On the return flight, I could only spot one book.  Something called Young Monsters, a slim, dust jacket-less, beige hardcover.  Its edited by Isaac Asimov and is a collection of short stories, mainly fantasy and sci-fi, about children who are in some sense monsters.  I liked the guy who was reading it - he looked like he would read interesting stuff - and want to find this book.


Paul said...

"The smooth one slept most of the flight except for when he played video games on his iPhone. He must have been having nightmares because he kept twitching and jerking. Whatever he was dreaming of was not worse then the waking horror I had to endure. "

Remember that sleeping people are still processing external stimuli. If you're in the same position again, whisper suggestions to guide his dreams -- 666, tunnel, mother, snake, brimstone, you're a gay communist etc

Book Glutton said...

You know how sometimes you think of the perfect comeback ... hours after someone's said something to you? This is just like that. That is exactly what I should have done to him.