Saturday, July 25, 2015

Planes, Trains, & Autobuses, Part A of Part VI

Mike photobombs the Milan Cathedral

"They somehow managed to get every creep and freak in the universe onto this one plane..... And then somehow managed to stick us right smack in the middle." ~ From Con Air

I think God somehow gave man the idea for economy class on long-haul flights as punishment for all of our peccadillos.  Seat a couple hundred people together in a space large enough to make only half of them comfortable.  Feed them mystery meals and free wine so they won't care what they're eating. Add in a bunch of screaming, kicking kids.  Throw in a bevy of wacky adults.  Lock them in a huge tube that hurtles through the air at 35,000 feet.  See how many can survive the nine-hour flight with their sanity intact.

I question my sanity constantly during flights.

The Milan Cathedral stained glass
Mike and I flew Air Emirates for the first time this year, and I'll admit that the seats were not so bad.  There seemed to be more legroom than we'd had on other planes.  We sat across the aisle from each other because the economy cabin configuration is 3-4-3, and neither of us wanted to get stuck in the middle.  Mike sat in the center section, and I was on the right side of the plane.

The plane was almost full when I noticed a portly man and woman stumbling toward me. They were not inebriated, but they wobbled up the narrow aisle while juggling their carry-on items. I stood up before they tried to climb over me. The man lifted his case into overhead bin as his wife tripped over her own feet.

"Hurry up," he snapped at his wife. "Give me your bag."

"Is this where we're sitting?" she asked him.

"Give me your bag. Give me your bag. Hurry up." He fumbled with her bag and finally got it into the bin.  She asked him to put her large straw hat in the bin, too. He shoved it on top of her case, smashing it in the process.

"You're ruining my hat," she whined.

"Get in your seat, for crying out loud," he growled as he climbed over to the window seat. "You're holding everyone up."   She looked at me.

"Are you sitting here, too?" she asked me.  I nodded.  "Oh, goody."

Holy crap, I thought.

I should have run for the door before the flight attendant locked it.

The Galleria in Milan

We introduced ourselves, and the woman started talking ... She told me her name (Betty), why they were in Europe (a church conference), where her father's family was from (near Bologna), what her maiden name was (Balucci), how long her son had been married (four years), how many grandkids she had (three), how many times she'd been to Europe (two), how many times her husband had been to Europe (one), etc. My head was spinning, and we hadn't left the gate area yet.

Once we took off, I put on my headphones and began to watch a movie.  I also worked a little on the computer while I watched The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel.  About 30 minutes into the movie, Blabbering Betty (BB) tapped me on my arm.  I paused the movie.

"Can I ask you a question?" she wanted to know.  I took off the headphones and looked at her.

"What do you need?" I asked her.

She pointed to her iPad and showed me a photo of a headstone .  Carved into the granite was, Anna Balucci, ved Monaco.  "What does this mean?" she asked.  "Is Balucci her last name, or is Monaco?" I explained that Balucci was the woman's last name, and that she was the widow—vedova (ved.) of someone with the last name of Monaco.  She started chattering and asking me more questions. I tried to answer them politely although I guess I kept glancing at my TV screen because she finally noticed.

"Oh, I guess you want to watch the movie," she noted. The fact that I had on the headphone and was watching the screen was probably a good indication of that.  "Is it good? I've wanted to watch it but never have.  I like Richard Gere. I try to watch all of his movies."

"It's good," I told her.  "I would like to finish watching it."

"There are just so many good movies on this system," she continued.

"There are," I agreed as I turned on my movie again. 

I was about 20 minutes in when BB tapped me on the arm again.  "Yes?" I  tried to keep the irritation out of my voice.

"How did you find that movie?" she asked me.  Emirates has an entertainment system that they call ICE.  Each passenger has his/her own screen and can choose from a plethora of movies, TV shows, music channels, games, news, and more to take up time during the long flight.  The eight-year old kid behind me could figure out his screen, but the 68-year old woman next to me could not. I showed her where to find the movie and turned back to mine.

The thing I found interesting about these little incidents is the fact that she interrupted me and not her husband who was watching his own movie. The thing I found irritating is that she interrupted me instead of her husband.

As I tried to enjoy the rest of my movie, I noticed that she kept fidgeting with her iPad and movie.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that she paused her movie. The faces of Richard Gere and Dev Patel filled her screen.

No animals allowed in a Milan bar

About an hour after we took off, the flight attendants started to serve lunch. Because I had ordered a bland meal, I was one of the first served.  The flight attendant brought two special meals to our row.

"Did you order the diabetic meal?" she asked BB's husband.

"No," he told her.  The flight attendant looked at the label attached to the meal and checked the row. 

"Are you sure? I have a diabetic meal for you," the young woman said.

"I didn't order a diabetic meal," he said.  The flight attendant once again looked at the tag.

BB, who was watching the entire thing finally said, "I ordered it for him. He's diabetic."  As the flight attendant handed the meal over, I rolled my eyes. She smiled and handed me the bland meal.  I'd ordered it because the Emirates website said that the bland meals contained grilled or boiled meats and vegetables that contained no spices or sauces.

I lifted the foil and found boiled fish.  "I can't eat fish," I announced.  The flight attendant gave me a look. I'm sure she thought our row was possessed.

"If I bring you anything else," she told me, "it won't be medically bland."

"I can't eat the fish," I repeated.  "Just bring me the chicken from the regular menu."

"I have fish, too," BB's husband interjected. "I can eat it, though."  I'm sure the flight attendant was happy about that.  She weft to find chicken for me.

"Are you allergic to fish?" BB asked me.  "I know people who are allergic to seafood."

"No," I assured her, "I'm not allergic to fish or seafood.  I don't like fish. I especially don't like boiled fish, and I really don't like boiled fish if it's salmon."

"Fish is good for you," she told me. "It's healthy. You should try it."  I could feel the muscles in my shoulders tense.

A cool dining venue in Milan
If you are my mother, you have the God-given right to tell me to try to eat fish.  If you are my husband, you have earned the right through marriage to tell me to try to eat fish. If you are my doctor, you automatically have the right to tell me to try to eat fish for my health. If you are a stranger sitting next to me on a plane, you have no right to tell me what I should or should not, can or cannot eat.

I looked at her. "I don't like fish. I'm not going to try it. I'm healthy enough."  I turned back to the movie as the flight attendant brought me chicken.  "I'm sorry for the trouble," I said to the flight attendant.  "Thank you so much for switching."

BB apparently realized that she had tried my patience because she let me finish my meal, bland except for the chicken, and movie in peace.  I thought that she might leave me alone from that point on.

My mistake.  My BIG mistake.

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