My Fellow Passengers

seatAs I look forward to another day of travel tomorrow – Prague to Philadelphia – I again wonder who I’ll be sitting next to.

Anyone who has ever traveled knows the extreme difference one’s neighbors en route can make to their journey. This is why people eye up babies in the airport – is it on my plane, my row, the row in front? The departure lounge has one casting glances around at others – is that goddess sitting next to me? Oh please be 29B! Or is that guy who’s sweating audibly (me) next to me? Please don’t be 29B!

Perhaps we are most conscious of this on airplanes, but one’s next door passengers on ground transport can also make or break your journey. This can be on buses, trains, or chunnels.

I have been reflecting on this since returning from a journey to London, Paris, and Lyon, and had the opportunity to consider my fellow passengers, as well as their opinions of me.


…was a nice young woman with two children who drove those in front of them insane by kicking the back of their seats. The flight was a quickie from Prague to London. She caught my attention by being very attractive and reading an article I’d written in a Czech newspaper. Did I care that her kids continued to kick their front riders while I flirted with their mom and showed off my knowledge of Czech culture.





Gatwick Express

I have no idea what their seat numbers were, since I was too busy sweating through my glasses, but the three gentlemen I sat next to on the trip from the airport to London were Ukrainians who clearly didn’t think anyone near them spoke a Slavic language.

These guys ironically made me miss Prague in tourist season, when Americans ride transport and speak in such a manner and at such volumes that is clear they think nobody around them speaks English.

I didn’t pick up everything they said, but if others had understood the vulgarity-laced discussion they were having, they’d have stared at them in horror and not, well, hatred.


…on the chunnel from London to Paris was a window passenger in our four-seater table and had to get to his bag at least three times before he just sheepishly told us he’d find another seat.


…on the same chunnel was supposed to be my dad, who couldn’t come on the trip due to illness. So my sister and I honored his seat by placing a picture of my dad there and telling each other 100 recently-learned facts about French culture.



Was me on a fast train ride from Paris to Lyon.

For some reason the passengers on this train have obviously decided to pack their entire lives into 17 bags and take them to the south of France. So in the initial onslaught, I thought I’d never see my seat. 201 doesn’t sound good. It sounds in the middle somewhere and between people. The train’s seating was arranged as one single seat on the left window and three seats on the right.

So imagine my surprise when I took one step onto the train and noticed above the first single seater on the left: 201.

I don’t know if others get obsessed with perfect seats. I have friends who will talk about a great parking spot for three weeks as though they delivered a baby in the back of a taxi cab. I plopped into my seat, dropped my bag in the ample area next to me against the wall, stretched out my legs, and read my book while the others smothered themselves into the seats.

I bragged about my seat to my friends in Lyon. It was clear they didn’t share my excitement. They don’t drive.


…hated me.

I was not so lucky on my return trip to Paris and found myself on the window of a two seat set up for two hours.

It’s at this point that I’d like to point out the obvious disdain for public restrooms peculiar to French society. Walking around, one either had to find one of the three public restrooms hiding in the entire country, or go into a restaurant, order a 9 Euro 33 millimeter drink, and then traverse into the depths of the building trying to find the mythical bathroom somewhere in the basement.

So, after a coffee and a bottle of water, I ended up on the window seat with a full bladder next to a woman who was obviously dying to sleep and to stay in that state for 2 hours.


I woke her up twice and suffered her glare of hatred.


Was the French woman and her daughter on the flight from Paris to Prague. The older woman had her hands full trying to comfort both her daughter and myself during turbulence above the clouds. I was thankful, so was the daughter. So thankful that she spoke English to me when we landed.

I wonder who I’ll get tomorrow. Or who will get me.

  1. #1 by Roberta Souza on July 25, 2016 - 5:17 am

    Love this!!

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