September 15, 2010

Love Is In The Air

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Flying on an airplane was made with Outer Limits columnists in mind.  Think about it – you’re shoved in a seat so small that it could easily fit in Barbie’s Dreamhouse and you’re expected to make nice with whoever is playing Ken next to you.  Or you avoid eye contact for many uncomfortable hours until whoever has the window seat caves and needs to use the “lavatory” (because bathroom isn’t adequate when describing the single square foot of space that they expect you to piss in).  At least that’s how it is for those of us who can’t afford the Sex in the City lifestyle that comes with seats large enough to comfortably house five Barbie Dreamhouses and bathrooms that have bidets in them (oh how I envy the rich).  But I digress.  Let’s rewind to playing nice with Ken, because that’s where the actual occasion for indiscretion arises.

If you are forced to sit next to someone for a few hours (and when the flight is full, barring a Mission Impossible-esque stunt, you do have to stay in the same seat), why not make a social experiment out of it?  How else would you keep busy for 3.5 hours?  Watch the in-flight movie?  No.  So as I boarded my flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul a mere five weeks ago, I massed texted meine Freunde (thank you, Rosetta Stone) and asked them how I could make my seatmate most uncomfortable.  The unanimous answer was to hit on them.  No matter their age, gender, or what language they spoke.  Disaster ensued.

Seat 8C.  Hallelujah!  An aisle!  No one was in 8B when I boarded, but 8A was already in his seat and chatty.  His name was Zaid and he was 30 something.  Then the largest man I’ve ever seen make it through security comes in and starts talking at approximately 300,000,000 wpm in Turkish.  I stared back at him, like a deer about to get massacred by an SUV.  Zaid said this man was 8B but wanted the aisle.  Let’s be real, he needed it more than I did, so I gave it to him without arguing.  The plane took off and before I could formulate a coherent line to pick-up the men of row 8, I was out cold.  Apparently not sleeping for over 24 hours will do that to you.

I woke up with my head lolling in the general direction of the man who looked like Jared from Subway before he started eating at Subway.  Zaid then sketchily told me that I could sleep on his shoulder if I wanted to.  I declined and attempted to fall back asleep with my head as far from Zaid and Jared as possible.  When I woke up, not only was my head on Zaid’s shoulder, but he was also rubbing my arm.  Thoroughly skeeved out, I leaned the other way and muttered a thank you which he quickly followed up with “Hazel, you’re beautiful.  Has anyone told you that?”  I even more awkwardly replied “Uh, yeah, thanks.”  I’m not sure how I indicated my interest in Zaid, but before I could finish saying thanks he said “kiss me!”  I’m not into creepy airplane hook-ups so I simply stared and said “um, we’re on a plane.”

Apparently that was an insufficient response for my recently acquired suitor because he proceeded to kissed me on the cheek.  Then he informed me that while I was asleep he ordered me chicken for lunch because he knew I didn’t like beef.  HOW DID HE KNOW?  I stared for a second before I gathered my wits, crossed my arms and stared in the opposite direction.  Zaid was not to be dissuaded though.  He next asked me for my e-mail address.  How do you tell someone that they’re a creep and you don’t want them to contact you?  You don’t.  You write hazel.g@dartmouth.edu on a napkin that’s been in your purse for who knows how long and say “write me soon!”  When he asked for my phone number, I gave him the number of a guy who works with my dad (sorry Geoffrey James…).

Zaid also had never heard of personal space.  The entire flight he kept touching my arm and he even went for my neck once because I “looked tense.”  As soon as the plane landed, Zaid insisted on taking my carry-on out of the overhead compartment for me (at least he’s chivalrous).  But as soon as that bag was in my hand, I ran into the airport and straight for the visa line (thankfully Zaid was going to Syria so he couldn’t accompany me).

In retrospect, I feel like Zaid was turning the tables and performing a social experiment on me.  And what have we learned from this interaction?  While it’s fun to put a mouse in a maze and throw a block of cheese in, being the mouse is no picnic.  So be nice to your lab rats, guinea pigs, and other rodentia.

Original Author: Hazel Gunapala