The Flight That Made a Sociopath

It was on a flight into Goa that the man I’d been staring at finally looked up from his book. He was in the seat next to me and when he gazed into the ceiling and made a face as though he had just gotten a really bad pun, I knew we were in trouble. I took out my Moleskine with the intentions of writing my will. The airplane began making terrible grating sounds akin to those made by my Dodge Neon just before I left her on the side of the turnpike. The jabbering over the speaker and its frenzied effect on the others did little to quell my consternation. I wrote ‘Last Will and Testament’ at the top of the page, paused and then frowned as my forehead added several drops of sweat to my worldly belongings. Then, realizing that I didn’t own anything, I added a one word asset below:


His name was Laird and he had just given ‘The Look.’ Three weeks earlier, when I’d first met him on the outset of our trip to India, his girlfriend had told me all about ‘The Look.’

She had delighted in telling me that Laird would give ‘The Look’ if there was a problem with the plane. She went on to say that he was an aviation expert and a pilot, so if the cabin roof flew off and Laird kept reading, everything was fine. “But, if he gives the look,” she’d said, “you’re in trouble.”

So, Laird had given ‘The Look’ and I realized that I didn’t own anything to put in my last will.

Neither went far in improving my mood.

After some less-than dignified prodding on my part, Laird explained that we needed to clear a mountain range to land in Goa and added that in his expert (and disturbingly frank) opinion, we “weren’t gonna make it.” There was a period of drama, crying (mostly mine) and bumping around. While most people on the flight comforted themselves by having small chats with Vishnu, Jehovah or Mohammad or thought about family as they gripped their armrests with sweaty palms, I was surprised to find that I found solace in casting unfair judgments upon those around me.

A baby screeched at an impossible volume and I imagined punting it into the mountains below. A loud conversation in row 30 elicited a maelstrom of negative emotion that blurred my vision. A pair of polyester boat shoes in 22-H sent me into a near-epileptic fit. A condition from which I do not suffer on terra firma.

It’s best not to recall the effect that the permed mullet in 31-F had on me.

Sadly, this flight was just the beginning of a decade of airborne sociopathy. For the next ten years, every flight invited a host of unwarranted judgments on people’s clothes, voices and hair.

This was a disconcerting development in my personality.

I’ll spare you the suspense – we made it. Upon landing, I was genial to my co-passengers once again. Their garments and outdated hair-dos ceased to annoy me. I smiled at the screeching child.
The only person I held a sustained resentment towards was Laird, whose casual dismissal of his misdiagnosis was enough to make me buy a voodoo doll in his likeness.
The doll gave ‘The Look’ often.

We drove to the hotel and Laird ducked into his room to avoid any more of my comments on his carefree facial expressions. I won 300 rupees at the hotel casino and went to the bar. Reflecting over several hundred glasses of a coconut liqueur that tasted like tequila, I decided that my new personality flaw was all a reaction to a ‘life-threatening’ situation. I forgot about the flight and bribed the piano player to sing ‘What a Wonderful World’ 16 times. In Louis Armstrong’s voice.

Up until that flight I had had no real feelings towards flying, but for a long time afterward I considered the everyday airplane to be a flying metal death tube. And the only thing worse that a flying metal death tube, was a falling metal death tube.

In the following years, if only to avoid apoplexy, I kept my distance from planes when possible. But after moving to Europe flying became unavoidable, so I resigned myself to a lifetime of grumpy transatlantic travel.
As they do, things got better. Until they did I kept my sociopathic tendencies at bay with Bloody Marys, Yanni CDs and endless hours of playing with my ‘Laird’ doll.

I know I am not alone…

What situations bring out the sociopath in you?

  1. #1 by Andrew Renfro on June 20, 2011 - 8:22 pm

    “What situations bring out the sociopath in you?”

    Every single driver on the road that thinks:
    1. the left hand lane is for the driving equivalent of sauntering
    2. turn signals are unnecessary
    3. thirteen inches is an acceptable distance between my rear bumper and their front bumper…especially at interstate speeds
    4. texting “zomg, that’s soooooo funny lolololol” simply can’t wait until they arrive at their destination
    5. four-door, extended-cab, extended-bed, “dually” trucks are perfectly acceptable vehicles for taking the kids to soccer
    6. vehicles described in #5 can park in two spaces because they can’t fit it in one
    7. the vehicles described in #5 would look even cooler with a lift kit and over-sized tires
    8. a 100+ dB stereo systems in a car is gonna get them laid
    9. installing a spoiler on a 1992 Honda Civic is a worthwhile use of money
    10. their bumper stickers are witty, creative or likely to change my mind about politics, politicians, healthcare, guns, abortion, gay marriage, Jesus, Islam, socialism, fascism, birth certificates, the Founding Fathers, sports teams, men, women, dogs, cats, their “other car” or any other moronic thing they feel the need to broadcast as if I give a crap.

  2. #2 by Maula Jat on June 21, 2011 - 1:08 am


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