That Guy

Airport bars are filled with people who are either unhappy or elated. It’s like being in a pub where half of the people’s team just beat the other half’s.

I’m on the losing side. I don’t like flying to begin with and my flight has been delayed for two hours. The ride down here was through heavy traffic. If flying is my least favorite thing to do, sitting in traffic is a close second. So to suffer 2 in order to do 1 is life’s little reminder that insult to injury are my bosom buddies.

Additionally, my summer holiday is at an end and I am leaving my parents’ house after a month of relaxation. I am a bit glum. So I am drinking. I have a budget for two airport beers (about $20) and I am going to drag those out for as long as I can. The Eagles’ preseason game that created the traffic is on TV.

I notice the bartenders give each other the bartender eye signal. Having given this eye signal two or three thousand times to a fellow bartender, I know that these signals have a variety of meanings: attractive customer, annoying customer, this guy’s hammered, that guy doesn’t tip, that lady just showed that guy her underwear, I think those two are doing drugs in the bathroom, why won’t those people share their drugs?

Tonight I find the source of their look in a three second scan. He’s a bearded guy, wearing a leather fedora, corduroy jacket, and his eyes are glazed over with drunken cataracts. He orders a Maker’s Mark on the rocks. The bartender, despite the look, serves him.

As That Guy starts a conversation with his reflection in the beer taps, I become certain of one things: he is on my flight and he’s sitting near me. I order another IPA.

I used to hate flying. Like the way I hate Donald Trump kind of hate. In the past my hate for flying was mostly based on the terrified notion that I was about to die. The worry and anxiety consumed me for days before a flight.

However, sometime in the last few years terror dissipated in lieu of a dislike. Notable in this transition is that all I want to do is get up in the air. The boarding, waiting, and delays can be so annoying that once we’re in the air things get a bit simpler, unless there’s a problem, and then terror will be reintroduced to the situation.

Basically, I just don’t like other people when I fly. Though I’m not normally this misanthropic, it seems that when people travel by airplane they stage their most irritating habits. And today, every airplane cliché is at full blast.

People cut in line during boarding. The old couple in front of me (in matching sweat suits. Yep, those people) are pushily trying to finagle better seats, while holding up people trying to get down the aisle. The people behind me are evidently having a contest to decide who has had more pus drained from their bodies in the last eight months. Another couple nearby are pushing their steward button as though it’s a morphine drip and they’ve been bitten in half by a shark. The plane is still at the air dock. On cue, a baby starts shrieks into the night. And that guy, the one in the fedora, walks down the aisle and sits in seat 29E.

I don’t need to tell you that I am in seat 28E.

That Guy buries his hand into the back of my head as he tries to get in his seat after several Maker’s Marks. Then he begins chatting in a slurring voice with those around him. They, being Americans, introduce him to their entire family, among whose ranks he has sat.

That Guy: “Well, you lookthh like ooone perty woman.”

Woman in 29D: “Oh…”

Man in 29F: “Hmmm.”

That Guy: “Myyy grandddddd    ad useda say…behind…good man is a good….good behind…”

Man in 29C: “Yeah?”

That Guy (after a few seconds of reflection): “Was I sayin’ somettthhin?”

Man in 29F: “Oh boy.” Then, because he somehow thinks That Guy is lucid enough to get jokes, says, “Can I get some of what you had?”

Everyone laughs.

That Guy says, “Huh?”

I hate them.

That Guy loudly calls for the steward: “Scuse me! Scuse me!”

The steward possesses no neck, and so is rather grumpy. Also, his job is on a plane. He responds testily: “I am concentrating on something else, sir. Just wait a moment.”

That Guy: “I…I am in need of water.”

Steward: “OK, I’ll get you some in a moment.”

That Guy rambles for a while to, I presume, to pick up the conversation with his reflection in the screen in front of him. This screen is, obviously, attached to the back of my seat. That Guy stops and entertains himself by pressing on the screen rapidly and with an increasing degree of pressure. I turn and look back at him. He inhales sharply, as though the acquired knowledge that there’s a person attached to the screen is akin to learning who killed JFK. I begin to imagine various parts of his body entangled in medieval torture implements.

The steward returns. “Yes sir?”

That Guy: “I needddd….have a needdddd for water. Water.”

The steward says, “Are you OK?”

That Guy doesn’t answer. And everyone around That Guy, including myself, is having the same thought: That Guy is going to cause this flight to be delayed. I imagine them asking him to step off the flight for intoxication, the ensuing confrontation and brawl. Then myself watching my connecting flight in Dublin take off without me.

Steward: “Here you are, sir.” He hands him a bottle of water.

That Guy tries to make a joke. “If you need a docttttttorrr just call. He he he.”

Steward: “You need a doctor?”

Everyone’s colon, in all lettered seats in rows 28 and 29, clinches. The possibility of delay becomes more than a possibility. The man in 29F speaks up:

“Oh no, he said if you need a doctor, just ask him. It…was a joke.”

That Guy adds, “I needdeed another wattthher.”

The steward sighs. Though I do not see them, I can tell that 29F and the Steward are giving each other the same look as the bartenders earlier in the evening. That Guy quiets down and I cast 29F a look and a nod that says, “thank you, 29F.”

Without further incident, we take off. That Guy falls asleep face down on his tray table and, by beginning to snore terribly, adds a perfect detail to everyone’s future story about That Guy. Shortly thereafter, the side effects of two IPAs take hold, and my stomach bloats with gas. Remembering that I have no sense of smell and therefore neither does anyone else, I unplug the earphone from my right ear, to make sure that my release is quiet. I then spend most of my time over New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Canada sending toxic vapors into an enclosed airplane cabin, thus becoming That Guy in the future travel anecdote of the young lady in 28F.

Full Circle.

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