I’ve said it, I’ll keep saying it: I love airports and I love flying in airplanes.
Flying around is one of my favorite things and that’s lucky because I’m set to jet all over the place approximately twice a month starting now and going through June, give or take a take off. Why, just the other day, I remarked to myself, “Self, it sure is great, flying around in the sky. Airplanes are the best!”
It was as though an evil airplane jinn heard me, rubbed his naughty hands together, and cackled, “Ooh-hoo! Well, let’s have a little fun, shall we?” My flight to Arizona yesterday was comically bad. I’m still laughing. And crying. And laughing. Mostly crying.
I fly Southwest almost exclusively. At this point, I’m putting several Southwest kids through college and thus have been granted “A-List” status. This means I get to choose my seat early in the queue, which has never been that big of a perk for me, as I am one of the only people I know who kinda likes a middle seat up at the front; A-List or not, I rarely don’t get a seat I’m okay with. But yesterday, I decided to use my Fancy Pants Status and take a coveted place by the window to see how the other half lives.
The moment I took my seat, I saw that I had made a terrible mistake. I had trapped myself in a cage of pain.
The pain began with the squalling — but it wasn’t a baby. Rather, it wasn’t just a baby.
It was a family, in the row in front of me and to my right. A family of screeching humans who, the entire time we were joined together in that unholy, winged union, yelled, insulted, and ignored each other into a frenzy. There were so many of them. Grandpop and Grammy. Mom. Brother. Uncle. Baby. And then there was Gracie. We’ll get to Gracie.
Watching this family interact could short-out wires in a normal person’s head. The social contract meant nothing to them.
Now, it’s a delicate thing, sharing the defining physical characteristic of my fellow journeymen, but it’s a fact: they were enormous. All of them, except the baby and Gracie — we’ll get to Gracie — demanded seatbelt extenders, which speaks to their size. Pointing out their obesity is not a condescension: it’s a problem. It was for me, anyway, because I was claustrophobically wedged in the onboard land they had claimed. The two square-feet of space I had for the next four hours had been drastically compromised. No one in the family was able to reach a decision about seating. Everyone changed their seat twice in twenty minutes, including Gracie — and we’ll get to Gracie. This seat-changing meant that the Doe Family girth was continually heaved up, over, down and back up again and I was tossed, tossed like a smelt upon the sea.
But I’m cool. It’s gotta be tough to travel with a big (!) family. But then Grandpop was extremely rude to the airline attendant and this I could not forgive. The pleasant-but-weary Southwest employee made a comment about moving to the side to let other travelers board and Grandpop, in a mean voice honed over years of practice barked, “Oh, relax, honey.” My blood boiled. My shackles shot up. My hyena-sense was in the fully upright and locked position. Oh no you don’t, you [REDACTED.] I bit my tongue and withheld the desire to punch the back of his seat. It was at that point the flight attendant spoke to the family. What she said proves this story is not a dramatization. The woman calmly stepped over to the family and said:
“Folks? There’s an easy way to do this and a hard way. You all have done it about as hard as I’ve ever seen. Take your seats. Now.”
I have a theory as to why it was so bad, pretty flight attendant lady. Her name is Gracie.
That toe-headed girl of six was a genius. She was running the entire show. From the pink barrettes in her pigtails to the purple laces on her shoes, that Damienette was 100% committed to fulfilling her needs 100% of the time and she was doing a fine, fine job of it. She was a puppet master, I tell you. One scream, one caterwaul, one throw of her stupid video game at her mother’s head and it was, “Gracie, honey, what do you need, sweetheart?” and the steady stream of “Gracie! Stop it! Gracie! Sit down! Gracie! Gracie! Gracie! Gracie! Gracie!” only served her purpose. Her bad behavior whipped her family further into a hot, smelly lather, making it easier for her to work her dark magic. (I think her goal was candy, but it was still dark magic.)*
We took off. And it didn’t get better. It got worse. Because that’s when the farting began.
I gasped when the first one hit. ‘Twas an evil stench; Macbethian in its foulness. I covered my nose and held my breath and tried to keep reading my book. But then, a few minutes later, another assault. I sat up, ramrod straight with a wild look in my eyes. “No!” I cried. “No, no, no!” The gal across the aisle looked over at me and then her eyes widened and she slapped her hands over her face. She smelled it. She was in this with me. (“This” = fart fog.)
Spluttering, choking, I folded myself in half to get to my wrap, which was under the seat in front of me — Grandpop’s seat, which was the source of the issue, if you know what I mean. I held my breath and dove down, grabbed the blue-and-white polka-dotted material and wrapped it around my head, making sure I had two layers at my nose. I spent the entire flight in a burka because Grandpop spent the entire flight as he spends it in his easy chair back home. Farting. Under a rock.
A bad flight can’t make me not love flying, but that was a rough one, comrades. When I told a friend about the experience, he gave me a tool to use the next time it’s that bad. He reminded me of the advice Queen Victoria gave her daughters on each of their wedding nights:
Lie back, grit your teeth, and think of England.
*Gracie is why I get scared to have kids. My kid won’t be like Gracie but my kid might meet Gracie and I love my hypothetical kid and would like to see him/her not be pushed to his/her death by a sociopath named Gracie.
So this is one of my favorite posts ever! I am SW flyer too and the perks still out way the possible issues. Picking a seat early does leave you open to the family from , well better left unsaid, but having to sit in the middle on a full flight longer than 60 minutes, tough trade off!
I think this family or at least Gracie travels constantly! I know I ran into them on a flight last year from LA home to Chicago, Mickey Mouse ears and all.
Awesome! Just traveled across the country with my family (15 of us), but fortunately none of us were named Gracie so I don’t think we were your problem. Someone else’s, perhaps (6 children under the age of 7). But thankfully, not yours. 🙂
Pam in Vancouver
Thank you for the post. We sometimes travel in a big family group and I did wonder where you were going with this. We are loud, however, none of us have ever asked for a seat extender, nor are our names Gracie. I used to like that name!
Pam, I am so concerned that folks will think I’m criticizing families who travel with kids — not at all! This family was really problematic and the man who was rude to the flight attendant was my clue that we were dealing with people with no manners.
Anyhow, thank you for commenting and for reading PaperGirl. 🙂 Mar
Oh my goodness this had me laughing! I’m a mom of 2 who just got back on a Southwest flight. I worked tirelessly during that flight to make sure my children weren’t “Gracie”. People around me complimented me on my kids when we were waiting to de-plane. I’ve ridden with families like that. Don’t let the crazy people make you fear having your own kids!
My friend Betsy sent me to your blog on a particularly dreary day here in Pennsylvania.Oh my gosh! I laughed OUT LOUD at the computer almost had tears running down my legs! Thanks for the story and sharing this experience. I could picture you in your burka!
Wooohaaa! Fabulously humoristic story, fabulously horrific plane ride! I so feel for you!!! I have been on a plane for over 9 hours at a time and I have tried to “zone” out with movies and music, but screaming kids ( except babies, they can’t help it ) and especially loud and rude people are the worst thing that we could encounter in these flights through the skies.
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BLess your heart!
Lisa Gainey Floyd
Definitely would have moved somehow I think the bathroom would be quiet and smell better. Lololol