Merry Christmas! And People Disgust Me

I hope everyone had nice holidays. My Christmas was fantastic, but I’d rather skip over that and bitch about the horrible time I had flying home. On the first leg, I was sitting next to a woman in her 50s who had a giant wad of bubble gum in her mouth and who blew big, cracking bubbles for the entire flight. I have already expressed my feelings about open-mouthed gum chewing. I could hear her even through my earplugs.  

But on the second, three-hour leg of my flight, I wished for her back.

First of all, I always get aisle seats because I feel really claustrophobic crammed into the window side, and also I have this weird issue that’s mostly under control but sometimes isn’t where I’m skeeved out by various surfaces in public places. It’s a long, weird story — when I was a kid I went through a year-long period of never sitting down at all anywhere but at home because I thought that chairs were gross.

Anyway, it’s not logical, but I can’t really help it, and if I’m in a window seat on a plane, I feel as if I’m being crammed into a tiny disgusting tube that’s entirely covered in other people’s spilled food and baby spit and sweat and hair grease and other gross effluvia.

When I booked this flight, there were no seat choices available and I ended up with a window seat. So, that was bad just to begin with. I was next to this very pleasant-looking lady and her teenaged daughter, which seemed promising enough.

But shortly after I sat down, the pleasant-looking lady (who’d just eaten a sandwich) took out this really large toothpick and started cleaning out her teeth — and I mean, really working at them, using both hands to really get the toothpick way back in there.

This went on for a long time. When she was finished, she discreetly wrapped the toothpick in a bit of torn-off magazine paper and tossed it on the floor under the seat in front of her.

Then, she got out some floss.

And proceeded to floss her teeth. While on a plane.

When she was done with that, she balled the floss up, wrapped it in another bit of torn-off magazine and tossed it down next to the toothpick.

“Good God,” I thought to myself. “What’s next, is she going to clip her nails or something?”

In fact, yes. Yes, that was just what she was going to do next.

She got out her nail clippers and clipped her fingernails. On the plane. And brushed the nail clippings onto the floor.

Meanwhile, her daughter spent the entire flight studying for the MCATs, and I can see having a mom like that being excellent motivation to fly far and away in life.

The most amazing thing about flying — other than the fact that you’re actually flying in the air, as mankind was never meant to do, and crossing the country in a matter of hours while seated comfortably in a climate-controlled environment with drink service, when a trip like that used to take months of hunger, agony, and cold, and would more often than not end in a cannibalistic horror show in a mountain pass — is how impossible it is for human beings to sit quietly and inoffensively for two freaking hours without throwing a temper tantrum over the lack of food options, or grooming themselves, or groaning repeatedly at the top of their lungs, or spitting in a can, or droning on about their lives to a total stranger, or otherwise bothering everyone around them.

How hard is it to sit politely for a short plane ride and keep your thoughts to yourself and your bodily fluids inside your body? Come on, people. We can do this.


  1. T E Stazyk says:

    Don’t get me started about flying. But I have to say your experience tops anything that’s ever happened to me. What was that woman thinking?.

    Your penultimate paragraph is a classic of both construction and content–“cannibalistic horror show in a mountain pass.”


  2. Lucy says:

    Talk about a bad flight. . I could tell you some stories but why continue the horror.


    1. Elizabeth says:

      Ha, tell them! The only good thing about terrible traveling companions is getting to tell stories on them later. 😉


  3. Allen S says:

    I’m not sure which of these two sentences I love more: “I can see having a mom like that being excellent motivation to fly far and away in life.” or “…would more often than not end in a cannibalistic horror show in a mountain pass”


  4. Strangely enough, the window seat makes me feel less claustrophobic – I can stare out at the wide open spaces and ignore the constant nasal sniffling of the person next to me.


    1. Elizabeth says:

      I can see that. Except for all the grossness of the plane wall. 🙂


  5. timethief says:

    Though I have never admitted this publicly before I feel exactly the same way about window seats as you do. Do not want! I used to have a job that required frequent travel and what I experienced on airplanes almost gave me nightmares. I cannot believe how many people think that personal grooming and hygiene activities ought to be done in public. My parents were apparently unusual when they instructed us in what was and what was not public behavior.

    The toothpick, floss and nail clipping woman was exactly the kind of person I seemed to attract as a seat mate. If I did not get the no personal boundaries type then I seemed to attract seat mates whose large bodies overflowed the allotted space and impinged on my small one. I actually growled at a woman who kept expanding into my seat and told here to purchase two next time if she could contain her girth in one.

    Other seat mates from hell include people with the hyperactive kid that they were too cheap to buy a seat for, despite the fact it was not under the age of two years. They would read their books or magazines or ineffectually discourage their kid from reaching over to pull my hair, toss my food off the pull-down tray onto my lap, soil my clothes and grab at my stuff like the book I was reading. Asking the parents to please make it stop rarely works. The tactic that did work for me was reporting the situation to the steward and insisting loudly and firmly that the family who failed to pay for a seat for their kid be moved now! When I did that the people who had had the back of their seats kicked by the kid for hours chimed in and the steward moved them.

    When I left that job I`m sure they could hear my cheering all the way to Yellowknife to which I will never return again because the worst airline seat mates ever seem to fly to and from Yellowknife.


    1. Elizabeth says:

      Oof, yes. I seem to always have an excited little kid behind me kicking my seat the whole way. And these are kids who have their own seats. Their little legs are so short, I don’t even know how they manage it, but they do.


  6. timethief says:

    This is so weird. It looks like Carolyn submitted my comment. Bug report!


    1. Elizabeth says:

      That’s just this theme, I think. The username appears below the comment instead of above, it’s kind of confusing.


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