The Friendly Skies

Over the course of my life, I have logged a fair amount of air miles and I have witnessed—and been a part of—a number of bizarre incidents.

When I took my seat on the plane in El Paso, I noticed a lady place a paper bag in the overhead bin across the aisle and a couple of rows ahead of my seat.  As soon as the plane arrived at the gate in Houston, she rushed forward and when she opened the overhead bin, the bag fell over and a clothing iron— Can you imagine trying to get an iron through security today—fell on the head of the man sitting below; there was blood, screaming, airline personnel, medics and a 15 minute delay in exiting the plane.

I was booked on an early morning Delta flight from Orlando to Atlanta.  We were flying on an L1011 plane that was configured with 5 middle row seats.  As they closed the plane door, I heard the woman behind me complaining that she didn’t feel well, her back hurt, she was uncomfortable and wanted to get off  the plane.

The flight attendant explained that since she had checked luggage, for her to not fly would delay the plane’s departure by up to an hour.  People sitting nearby overhearing the conversation began loudly complaining about missing flight connections.  However, the woman kept insisting her back hurt and she needed to exit the plane.  The plane’s captain made his way to where the woman was seated and after listening to her complaint, asked, “If I can arrange for you to lie down, will you stay on the plane?” When she responded positively, he cleared a center row; they lay the woman down, fastened multiple seat belts around her and, amidst cheers, he returned to the cockpit and soon we were in the air.

On a flight to Dayton, I overheard the following conversation between the little-old-lady seated behind me and a flight attendant about the airline meal.  Lady: “Excuse me miss, but there is more here than I can eat.  Do you have a box that I can save the food in?”  When the attendant responded no, the lady then said, “No problem, I will just use this paper bag I found in the pocket behind the seat in front of me.”  With astonishment in her voice, the attendant replied, “Mam!  That bag is for people who become airsick; it’s chemically treated and you can’t use it.”  In an exasperated tone, the elderly lady responded, “I hate for food to go to waste.  Will you please see if someone would like the rest of my dinner.”  I was still laughing an hour later when we landed in Dayton.

I was in an aisle seat on a flight from Oklahoma City to Orlando with no one seated in the two seats to my left.  I was looking forward to being able to stretch out when just before the plane door closed, the attendant seated eight and ten-year old girls in the two empty seats.  As she strapped them in, she explained that these were the only two empty seats, apologized and offered free drinks if I would help.

I have never fielded more questions; learned more about the lives of pre-adolescent girls or calmed greater fears of flying.  I was so busy that I had no time for the proffered free drinks.  As the attendants were preparing the cabin for landing, the one who had seated the girls, knelt by my seat, and as she handed me a paper bag with a bottle of wine from the first class section, said, “After this flight, we decided you could use this.”

There have been other incidents: the time my foot got jammed by a runaway drink cart; the lady seated facing me with a garbage bag when she complained she was too sick at her stomach to fly; and, when we were delayed at the gate in Tampa as the local police removed a man who had locked himself in the restroom.

My father cautioned that it was a mistake to believe that everyone’s thoughts were the same as mine.  My travel experiences have helped to prove the wisdom of his words: I would never dream of stowing a clothing iron in a paper bag or looking for a “doggie bag” for airline food.  Understanding that everyone has a different approach to life—different thoughts, ambitions, likes and dislikes—and that no way is necessarily any better than another, allows for better, deeper and more productive relationships.

I have also learned that there are interesting things occurring around me; and, if I allow myself to pay attention, it’s amazing what I may observe.  From answering little girl’s questions to witnessing weird happenings, life’s a blast.


The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands in prehistoric times, looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space, at full speed, above all obstacles, on the infinite highway of the air.” -Wilbur Wright


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