(originally posted on June 18, 2012)
A true story by Lori DiNardi
“Excuse me … Miss,” the guy in the seat next to me called for the flight attendant. Why was a man well over six feet tall seated in the middle? He held a cup and reached out his lanky arm. “I changed my mind. I don’t want water. Get me some diet soda.”
The attendant took his cup and said, “Sir, we have to remove all drinks. We’re getting ready to take off. Please put up your tray.”
What? We’re taking off? But the storm is still raging.
My mind went into panic mode. They overbooked the flight and nearly bumped me earlier. I hated to fly and almost wished they did, but after visiting with family out of state, I needed to get home.
Boxed up against the porthole window, I white-knuckled the armrest to my right. The beanstalk next to me hoarded the other, along with a small portion of my seat. Claustrophobia set in, and with hands shaking, I reached into the pocket in front of me for a vomit bag.
“You gonna puke?” the obnoxious, white-haired giant asked.
Turbulence bumped the cabin like potholes on a car ride and lightning flashed. I managed to squeak out, “Can’t be sure yet.”
Holding the bag close, my stomach flipped as the plane dipped down, then up, then down again. I never experienced motion sickness before and feared this may be the first.
Something wretched came up in the back of my throat. I swallowed it back, because the pilot announced our ride would smooth out after we got above the storm clouds. I prayed he didn’t lie, and soon the jet leveled off, settling my queasy stomach.
The flight attendant barely unlatched her seat belt when the man beside me demanded a diet soda again. He grabbed for the drink, shoving himself in front of his quiet wife on the aisle seat. He didn’t set the cup firmly down on the tray, and I gasped as the liquid emptied into my lap. Splash!
“Gee, sorry about that, but at least you didn’t wear anything nice.”
I fixed my eyes on his. “Excuse me?”
“Well, I mean, it’s not a fancy white dress or anything. It didn’t even leave a mark.”
“You’re mistaken. These are a good pair of summer capri’s.” His crotchety-old-man eyes probably didn’t see the stain amongst the paisley print. I stood up. “Let me pass so I can try and wash this out.”
“It’s too tight for me to move. You’re small and can step over.”
I grumbled under my breath, “Sorry to inconvenience you.”
His wife politely moved and I stepped over his fifteen-foot legs into the aisle.
The tiny bathroom actually felt more spacious compared to the minuscule spot the man left back at my seat.
After dabbing the material with water for a while, most of it came off. I took a deep breath and readied myself to face my corner hole and rude seatmate. I pushed the door to get out and . . . whack! It opened a crack and jammed. Hmph! I closed it and tried again . . . whack! Something blocked the door.
Stuck in an airplane bathroom? This can’t be happening. Am I being punked?
I didn’t know what to do next and was too embarrassed to call out for help through the six inch opening.
I devised a plan to bang the door loudly for someone to hear it and come rescue me. BAM!
I peeked my face through the small crevice and moved my eyeballs right, then left.
How did no passengers hear that noise? Where the hell are the flight attendants? Looks like I need to rescue myself.
I slithered my arm through the opening with my hand curved like the head of a cobra. My fingertips brushed the obstacle in the way. It was the other bathroom door left wide open.
Ouch! The reach painfully strained my muscles, so I sucked in deep a breath and then tried again, stretching even farther through the opening. Bones crackling and muscles creaking, the tips of my fingers grasped hold and pushed the other door shut.
After shaking stray hairs from my face, I held my head high on the way back to my uncomfortable seat.
Back in my cramped corner, right in front of the cranky old man, I lamented to the flight attendant about my plight. “I was almost bumped from this flight. Then nearly got motion sickness from the turbulence. Once that subsided, I get a soda spilled on my lap. And onto the finale … getting stuck in that porta-potty bathroom. You guys should check back there once in a while or you might find a skeleton one of these days.”
After apologizing, the airline employee said, “Just a minute. I have something for you.”
A little while later, she returned to hand me an airline logo pin.
I snickered. “You’re kidding, right?”
“That’s not all.” She removed her other arm from behind her back and handed me a full bottle of champagne. “Take this with you … on us.”
“Hey, you got lucky after all,” the old guy said.
I ignored him and thanked the flight attendant. Then, I came up with the best idea since devising a way out of the bathroom. I shook up the bubbly champagne, uncorked the top and let it spray all over the man in the middle.
Not really, but it was fun to imagine.
If you enjoyed this story, check out my memoir anthology, here.