Seated in the middle seat of the first row of the airplane, I am excited that my late boarding pass didn’t mean having to sit in the very last row, next to the bathrooms, or between the two least desirable passengers on the aircraft.
The tall, lean man next to me is wearing a country club ball cap. He has impossibly long legs, his knees reaching for the wall a good five inches ahead of mine. His tallness extends to his arms, and our elbows politely jostle against one another for space on the armrest. I notice a green (or is it blue?) tattoo on the inside of his ankle; it looks like a “C” with an “A” inside — a sports team logo? Or perhaps a college? He reads from a Kindle, his feet quiet in black Adidas flip flops. I expect him to bounce with energy, but he’s calm and intent except for periodically scratching his nose.
The woman on my left can’t sleep or stay engrossed in her book. She stretches her legs out to the wall, but being comfortable requires slouching when you’re just a little too short. When the plane started to taxi down the runway for takeoff, she quietly crossed herself in prayer. I wonder if she’s praying to arrive so that she can visit someone, or to return home safely. She inquired about my book — Revolutionary Road — as I sat down, but I failed to ask about hers until our descent. She had finally begun reading in earnest about halfway through the flight, and as our altitude dropped she must have gotten to a really funny part because she proceeded to laugh continuously, although sometimes trying to hide her guffaws behind her hand, until the landing gear touched the ground in Denver.
Halfway through the flight, the pilot turned on the “fasten seat belt” sign under advisement of an upcoming rough patch of air — we were to fly between storms. When the plane continue to fly calmly through the air, a few people had to be reminded to stay seated. An older gentleman in the aisle seat across from us finished his paper, and wanted to retrieve his Wall Street Journal from the overhead compartment. He waited patiently, obliged to obey the flight attendant, but the seat belt sign stayed illuminated. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the tall man suddenly put down his Kindle, unbuckled his seat belt and stood up. Without saying a word, he retrieved the papers from the overhead compartment and handed them to the thankful gentleman with a smile. Then he promptly sat back down, buckled up and resumed reading his Kindle.
“That was very kind of you,” I said.
“He waited very patiently,” the tall man replied. “I figured I’d risk it.”