Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Prince of Flight 16

I live closer to Rio than I do to Seattle. This is true not only in geographical terms, but in cultural ones as well. I have discussed what life is like in Dade County to great lengths, and it is as stark a contrast to the Pacific Northwest as one could possibly find. Have you ever been to Nordstrom? How everyone is smiling and friendly and courteous to you all the time? Well, that's pretty much everyone in the entire city of Seattle (Nordstrom was founded there, for those of you who don’t know). It is truly Polyannaville. Scary really, like do you people ever stop smiling? The sun hasn’t been out for six months and you’re acting like it’s April in Paris. How does that work? The whole city is doped up if you ask me. After all, how else could everyone be so nice and yet have America's highest suicide rate?

I point this out because I spent Sunday night on Alaska Airlines Flight 16, the once-a-day nonstop between America’s other two corners. It is the only place you will ever go that these two polar opposites will meet in one place. Half a plane full of smiley, Prozac-naiton translucent people and the other half full of your typical cluster-fucked Miami residents. These two worlds collided Sunday night in row 19 just as my Tylenol PM was starting to kick in.

I was seated at the window next to a very tall Brazilian gentleman who actually was from Seattle on his way to Sao Paolo. This poor guy was probably about 6’3” and had the misfortune to have drawn a middle seat for this six-hour overnight escapade. Since he was form Seattle, though, he was still all smiles. Apparently even the Latin people are doped up there. Our aisle seat was empty. Across the way sat a Cuban woman with her son, who was probably about five. They took up two seats in a three seat row. Down the aisle saunters a blonde woman who looks about 35 and extremely tired. She attempts to take her seat, which was assigned as the window next to Cuban Mom and her kid. As I am dosing off against the window I hear a commotion coming from across the row.

“No, no, I specifically bought three seats in a row so my son could get a good night’s sleep for school tomorrow. I’m sorry, you can’t sit here,” exclaimed the Cuban woman. The blonde lady was obviously not from Dade County and tried to be nice and show her her boarding pass which, indeed, said she was entitled to seat 19A. Apparently that was not good enough for Cuban Mom. “No, no. I called the airline and specifically asked them if I had a whole row and they said yes. You will have to sit on that aisle seat over there.” Me and the big Brazilian were hoping no one would show up so we could stretch out, but we were not holding our breath. Well, the blonde didn’t take too well to this and said, “Look, I have a big meeting when I get into Miami in the morning and I need the window so I can sleep. I requested that seat, it is assigned to me. I am sitting there.” Cuban Mom still refused to move. They got the flight attendant who managed to sort it out like this:

Apparently Cuban Mom had bought three seats, but booked seats B-D, which, as anyone who flies more than a few times a year knows, are almost always a middle and two aisles. At least on a larger plane, as this one was. Though she had indeed called the airline to confirm that she had a whole row, she no doubt got someone working for $6.50 an hour at a call center in Phoenix and was told whatever they thought she wanted to hear so that they wouldn’t have to do more work. So Cuban Mom, when faced with the hard fact that she had been screwed by a combination of the airline’s and her own incompetence, still refused to move. “My son needs his sleep,” she told the frustrated flight attendant. See, this is exactly the shit I am talking about.

Your kid getting a good night’s sleep for kindergarten does not override a woman with a business meeting who is assigned to a seat you refuse to give up. Your own incompetence and ignorance of airline seating has just cost your kid his REM time, sorry. Cuban Mom, you do realize that the blonde woman was actually assigned that seat, right? She has the right to it, not your kid. People in Miami seem to believe that their children’s comfort is more important than any rules or regulations that may exist. Excuse, me, Cuban Mom, but the sad fact of the matter is that you screwed up, and now your kid is going to be tired when he goes back to Gulliver tomorrow. Boo-fucking-hoo. This woman has a bad presentation in Miami and she may lose her job. Think about that. But it must be her fault for not realizing that little Julio was the Prince of Flight 16, right? Yes, of course, she deserves whatever she gets.

Anyway, the plane is loaded and ready to take off and Cuban Mom still refuses to move. I mean, like, the whole planeload of people ready to go to Miami is sitting there waiting because this lady insists her kid needs the whole row. A gate agent boarded the plane and told her that if she didn’t get up she would call the police and have her removed. “Fine, call them!” she said. Excuse me, mamn, but if you get arrested you do realize that your kid will not only not get a good night’s sleep, but he will probably miss the next week of school? No, not important. So as the gate agent begins to leave to get the Sea-Tac police, I look over and tell the blonde, “Look, take my seat, okay. I’ll try and sleep on the aisle.” Cuban Mom hears this and immediately yells ahead to the gate agent “Wait, wait, I’ve solved the problem!”

Oh, you solved it, Cuban Mom?! No, you selfish bitch, I resigned myself to a night of being bumped by beverage carts and fat women going to the bathroom so that your kid could get his precious six hours of sleep for that big strenuous day of learning the letter L tomorrow. Much as I would have loved to see you get arrested. I managed to nod off for about an hour or two during the flight, despite the baby in front of me that another one of Miami’s natives thought had every right to wake up the entire plane because it was their kid, and the man two rows back with the crescendo laugh that insisted on teaching the young, attractive flight attendant (of which about eight exist) how to play Texas Hold ‘Em. All night. I hope he at least got her phone number. Thank God I have nothing to do at work because I was dog ass tired all day Monday. Cuban Mom did give me a brief "thank you," but not much else. I wouldn’t have expected anything more from someone so selfish. I just hope someone does the same for me someday. But in Dade County no good deed ever goes unpunished, even when that little piece happens to be located in Seattle.

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