May 15, 2024
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May 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s time for an airline travel update, which I run every few years or so (which is about how often I travel through the air) to let you know if things have changed in case you are one of the three or four people who fly less often than I do. This way, you know what to expect.

Don’t expect a seat, for example. When I bought tickets for my most recent flight to accompany my wife to a kitchen-design convention, seats weren’t included.

I mean seats were included, but not specific seats. You had to pay extra if you wanted to pick your seats, and I didn’t really care which seats we would get as long as I would sit next to my wife, and I figured, based on past experience, that they would put us together. They did not. Apparently, other people paid extra so they could sit next to my wife. Yet they were nowhere to be found when it was time to schlep her stuff around the convention floor.

But when I got on the plane, someone was in my seat. I was going down the aisle, holding a ticket that said 29B, and I said, to a row full of passengers, “Is this 29?” And they said, “Yes.” With no remorse. Like I’m asking a full row of people if they were a randomly specific number just so I could get my bearings and know if my row was coming up. They did not get the hint. I was kind of hoping the woman in my seat would say, “Oh, it’s 29?” and then get up.

So what do I do? I could stand there and try to talk them out of their seat until the flight attendant comes over to find out why I’m having a fight with some people on an airplane, and meanwhile everyone coming down the aisle behind me would not be on the side of the person who’s blocking the aisle just because he needs a seat. No one’s on that guy’s side. And also wearing a baseball cap on an airplane for some reason. The sun wasn’t even up yet.

So I just walked to the back of the plane and told the flight attendant, and she went and asked the person point blank, and that person said that someone was sitting in her seat. So the flight attendant approached that person, who looked up at the flight attendant and said, “What seems to be the problem?”

See, this is why I can’t be a flight attendant. I would have given the guy a parachute and pushed him out of the plane.

So at that point I walked to the very back of the plane and hung out in the kitchen because I didn’t want to follow the flight attendant back and forth playing, “Who’s sitting in whose seat? This Jewish guy wants to know.”

She finally found me an unrelated seat, because it was getting late and the plane had to sit on the tarmac for 40 minutes waiting to take off already. It was a middle seat, obviously, between two people who B”H didn’t know each other. But at this point it was late enough that they’d probably gotten excited that there’d be an empty space between them so they could stretch out, and by “stretch out” I’m speaking figuratively. I mean that they could each have the middle armrest, which they basically both used anyway. I felt like I was intruding.

The flight attendant actually thanked me for being so good-natured and non-pressuring about the whole situation and standing back and letting her handle it, and it would have been a nice kiddush Hashem except that I was wearing a baseball cap. So she had no idea I was Jewish.

So the flight was a little claustrophobic, to say the least, sitting between two people you don’t know, and feeling too guilty about it to fight over either armrest. Not to mention that the person in the window seat gets to choose whether the shade is open or closed, and he was asleep, so you can guess.

Fun fact: Whoever falls asleep first gets the armrest. The pilot and copilot know this too, and it’s a race between them as to who’s gonna fall asleep first.

The highlight of the flight—and what kept me from going crazy—was that every seat had a screen in front of it that displayed an official program, like at yeshiva dinners, which shows you what to expect over the course of your flight. Mine said, “Departure < Snack < Arrival.” Like that’s it? That’s the whole flight? That doesn’t seem very long.

“Miss, are we there yet?”

“No, we haven’t had our snack yet! We’re circling the destination until everyone gets their snack.”

The snack wasn’t even kosher, so I had to get food from the bag between my legs without moving my elbows. This took half the flight. So yes, it was Departure < Snack < Arrival.

At least I think it wasn’t kosher. I took a snack and looked for the hechsher and didn’t see one, so I asked for the other option, and she handed it over, and that definitely had no hechsher. It was probably worse. And by then, it was too late to give it back to the flight attendant, so at the end of the flight I gave it to the sleeping guy next to me when he woke up. I figured that way I’d create some goodwill in case he got annoyed at me for not standing up immediately after the plane landed so we could stand for ten minutes with our necks crooked under other people’s carry-ons.

“I’m not getting up yet. Finish your cookies.”

The screen also had features that could tell me things like the plane’s altitude and the destination, in case I wasn’t sure. And so I don’t keep coming to the front and asking these questions. I guess enough people were asking the flight attendant these questions that they just decided to put it on a private screen for each passenger.

“Excuse me, what’s the altitude? And… What’s the destination?”

Or maybe they provide this information so people can make awkward conversations with their seatmates about the altitude.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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