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Alaska Airsickness

Monday, August 26 2002

“Mr. Buffington, would you be willing to get on a direct flight to Portland? It leaves the same time as your flight, and is nearly empty. You’d arrive an hour early, with no stops and lots of elbow room.”

“Sure, as long as my luggage gets on the flight with me.”

“No problem sir, we’ll take care of it.”

Flight is late. I see my original flight take off on time. Waiting thirty extra minutes at John Wayne is an eternity; short runways stress planes, and the chances of mechnical failures are increased. The crowd at the gate increases.

Boarding starts, I’m at the very back of the plane, and I’m the first on. I watch as a family of six kids and a mother with ‘80s straight up bangs commands her husband to do various husband-like tasks that he’d probably think to do himself if he could hear himself think over her barks. He has a baby hanging on his arm, drool flowing onto every armrest of every seat on the left side of the plane.

The mother, decked out in Disneyland attire from head to toe, is a row away. She doesn’t even give me a chance to stand up, she simply climbs across me into the window seat. I’m in the middle. She’s still barking commands at her husband who is three rows ahead, on the opposite half of the plane. I’m itching for the doors to close so I can get a better seat.

The plane fills, the seat next to me is empty, I’m ready to take it. The last person boarding the plane is at least 450 pounds, if not more. The last seat on the plane that I can see is the seat next to me. I give up all hope of a perfectly comfortable flight.

I spend half of the flight with my right shoulder buried in the side of this enormous man. Exactly halfway through the flight, the woman next to me turns green. She motions to me and the big man that she needs to get out, but it’s too late. She stand, turns to her left (thank all that is holy), and explodes into a puking frenzy. It’s on the seat, it’s on the side of the plane, it’s probably in her ten inch bangs. It stinks, and I’m suddenly fighting the urge to puke, and hoping with intensity that the big man next to me has a strong stomach, as the smell of her big event invades my nose.

There are no empty seats on the plane. Not one.

Nearby passengers are not happy. Children are crying, ‘80s bangs looks like she’s charging up for a second round. The big man has stood up, wedged himself between the seats two rows up, and I directly in front of him. A male flight attendant with a serious lisp is saying with a new and sudden stutter “P-P-Please m-m-miss, let me help y-y-you to the l-l-lavatory.” Too late. She pukes right into her chair. McDonalds doesn’t digest well. I feel good for haven’t not eating there for nearly ten years, except for the time in England and that doesn’t count because British food is worse.

The last half of the flight is spent standing at row twenty four, a screaming toddler on my left, and a Vietnamese lady who has been told at least three times to stop painting her nails in the plane, and who has also demanded, and been granted, three packets of Tylenol.

The meal is cancelled due to the fact that the three flight attendants on board are now cleaning up puke. The rear lavatory is now off limits, and home to ’80s bangs. Five minutes before landing, the seats and the walls are cleaner, and the seats have been covered in plastic. ’80s bangs is required to sit in her seat, with me next to her, along with the big man to my right.

We land, I remove myself from that snapshot of hell, and find out that my luggage will arrive an hour later. Alaska Airlines owes me big.