Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Flying with a Sucker

People who have known me for a long time will tell you, sometimes with evil glee, that I have eating issues. No, I don’t have an eating disorder, unless you consider mild addiction to pizza and Nestle Tollhouse Cookies an eating disorder (she says as she single-handedly finishes off a small pizza). Speaking of which, have you seen this DiGiorno and Toll House Cookie combo frozen dinner?? My friends brought it to my attention, and they are now only to be referred to as “The Enablers.”

Anyway, I have an unhealthy sensitivity to others’ eating behaviors. Open mouth chewing makes me uncomfortable. I flinch at gum popping or snicking. Noisy eating – loud smacking, chomping, talking with mouths full – make me feel outright nauseous.

No, this post is not about my issues with food. It’s simply the back story you need to know to appreciate fully the experience I will share with you now.

Yesterday, I flew from Atlanta to Phoenix. Those of you who have flown in the last few years know that the airlines perform an exercise at least once a year during which they sort out how to squeeze just a few more seats into the limited cabin space available. I’m convinced that soon they will require us to share seat room – literally – with our rowmates by crossing each other’s legs in a complex fashion, or maybe just by snuggling.

On my cross-country flight, I was squeezed into the middle seat between two very nice people who struck that lovely balance between friendly and non-invasive. Until just before take-off, it seemed as if this would be a snug but pleasant flight. I even found myself slightly taken with aisle-seat neighbor’s very fancy painted fingernails with their hot pink background bedazzled with silver and gray starburst patterns.

Then… the sandwich came out. Actually, I’m not sure that the term “sandwich” does justice to the odoriferous, insanely greasy meal-in-bread-in-a-long-paper-pocket-thing that aisle-seat neighbor extracted. We hadn’t even left the ground yet, and the entire cheap-seats cabin was imbued with a scent that can only be described as bordering on nostril-cauterizing. Several rows away, heads turned with noses squinched up, faces bearing confused expressions that clearly communicated, “What IS that? Is something decomposing in the air conditioning system?”

Just after aisle-seat neighbor extracted this loveliness, the plane started to taxi toward take-off. Aisle-seat neighbor reached across me and window-seat neighbor to open both window blinds, declaring, “Sorry, but I need to be able to look out during take-off. Otherwise, I get motion sick.” Good. She-who-must-eat-pungent-food-this-moment had just revealed to me her alternate identity: she-who-may-regurgitate-pungent-food-onto-my-lap. Super.

Once we were airborne, aisle-seat neighbor obliviously proceeded to slowly, very slowly, ingest her sandwich imposter thing, reaching her bedazzled, beclawed fingers into the long paper pocket to pinch off lump after squishy lump of swamp sludge to ingest. When she was mostly finished, she turned to her friend across the aisle and asked, “Do you have the napkins? I could swear I brought napkins. Didn’t I bring napkins? I know I had napkins.” Etc etc etc. She said the word “napkins” at least 35 times, then proceeded to clean her fingers by sucking on them.

Lest you think at this point that I’m exaggerating the ickiness and greasiness of this sandwich, I will share with you now that aisle-seat neighbor’s next move was to locate a stain stick in her purse. She proceeded to stain stick several spots on her clothing (including one on her ankle??).

THEN (yes, there’s a “then”), aisle-seat neighbor extracted one of those single-use tooth floss things and proceeded to start loudly, rapidly flossing her teeth. *snick* *snick* *snick* *snick*  

Aim Single-Use Floss Pick

I don’t want to know where food particles lodged in her teeth ended up. What I do know is that her flossing didn’t entirely satisfy her, as she spent the remainder of the flight loudly sucking her teeth about once every minute. And picking her teeth with her fancy fingernails. Oh, and she flossed again at some point during the flight. *snick* *snick* *snick*  Then she went right back to sucking and picking.

About midway between Atlanta and Phoenix, however, window-seat neighbor revealed himself to be either my Guardian Angel or perhaps my Fairy Godneighbor. Without a word spoken between us, he put one hand on my shoulder and with the other knowingly handed me his brand new, subscription copy of Cooking Light Magazine. I love Cooking Light Magazine, and my own July issue had not arrived before I left for this trip. It was new to me, and oh so appreciated. Reading it cover-to-cover kept my mind mostly occupied for about 45 minutes, leaving me defenseless against the sucking and the picking only for the time it took us to descend into Phoenix. Long enough, my friends. Long enough.

Do you have any food issues or horror stories you'd like to share?

*By the way, I recommend Googling the phrase “single floss” if you have a moment. Odd results.


  1. I can definitely relate to this post, Megan, as I was situated between a man and his wife during a five-and-a-half hour flight to Seattle recently. And they SHARED a similar sandwich - that's right, passing it back and forth between me. It was gag-a-trocious, indeed. People. Suck. Sometimes.

  2. They SHARED one across you??? Truly? What is wrong with people? Oy vey.

  3. Wow. Though as much as I want to say "I can't believe that," I can honestly tell you it doesn't surprise me.

    Did you see this article? It totally made me think of you and your experience:

  4. Although the image you presented was so disgusting, I have to say--you wrote it so well! I thought your story was going to be about a turbulent flight--I freak out over those. I have never had a food eater next to me. It is amazing how some people are oblivious that they have other people around them.

  5. Carmen - That article was a perfect follow-up, particularly the last point about stinky snackers!

    Michele - Thank you, I think? :) People really can be oblivious at times. Airplanes are such tight quarters, I suppose it's fair to say that it's a unique level of "close" for many folks.


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