Tomorrow (or, rather, later today), for the next step of this winter's travel itinerary, I will fly to Houston to hang with Amy and the family. Also, there are vague plans for Tamara to visit Andrew at the weekend, so perhaps Amy and I could join them for a casual dinner sort of thing. I anticipate thorough enjoyment of the trip, despite the weather forecasted to be about 40 degrees too warm for my taste (and for November in general, in my opinion!).
Meanwhile, I must tell you about the belligerent idiot from last Sunday's flight. If I could only remember his name...
A quick overview of my flight plan may be divulged thusly: My plane was late to leave Birmingham, so I had a very brief lay-over in Atlanta before flying to Pittsburgh. Fortunately, the flight out of Atlanta was delayed, but we made excellent time nevertheless.
So, you see, upon landing in Atlanta, I had to make the familiar jaunt at ungodly speed down the unnecessarily long corridor of terminal B where Delta has all their gates, and I arrived at the gate for the Pittsburgh flight only to see, to my relief, that nobody was boarding yet.
Over the next five or ten minutes, I caught my breath and observed the throngs, which included a guy standing at the gate agent's counter. The guy seemed obnoxious when he was talking with the gate agent and then even more so when he was talking with a girl who was sitting near the gate a little later. He inquired after the girl's residence, occupation, age, business in Atlanta, and so forth, and she was clearly nonplussed with his prying.
The prying ended soon enough, much to the girl's relief, I'm sure, when the gate opened and we first class passengers were allowed to board the plane. All queued up like good jet set automatons, we stood with boarding passes in hand, when out of nowhere came the idiot guy, shoving his arm across our ranks and yelling, "I'm in first class!" To which the gate agent responded, "yes, yes, you are in first class."
As a result of his urgency, he boarded the plane a minute or so before I did, and he was already seated when I entered the cabin. Guess what? My seat was 1C, and his was 1D, which meant we would invariably share the same arm rest, among other things, for what, at that point, seemed like the rest of my life. "Wonderful," I said to myself, and I rolled my eyes in the general direction of the already-seated passengers.
In the following 15 or 20 minutes, while the rest of the plane boarded, idiot loser guy did a number of things. First, he attempted to be polite and curious with me, which prompted me to tell him I'm an electrical engineer who works on micro-robots at Carnegie Mellon. That turned out to be a horrible idea on my part, but how could I have known? Then, after he established that I had something interesting in my head, he tried to extract it, constantly asking me questions like, "what is nanotechnology?" and "will you help me learn about robots?" To these questions I responded in the general form of, "I'm sorry, but I don't feel like explaining all that right now, and I just want to read my book." Actually, I wanted to spend the next hour or so thinking about my weekend in Birmingham, but by that point, my real motives were quite irrelevant. At any rate, I was never impolite.
At some point after most of the coach cabin had boarded the plane, the guy put his head against the window and pretended like he was asleep, making fake snoring noises and everything. It was at this point that I realized the camaraderie in first class was beginning, since the guys in row 2 started to crack jokes about the snoring moron. The first class steward also started joining the fun, though he had previously been busy and was at that point only beginning to appreciate the entertainment that the guy in 1D would provide for the next hour and a half.
The faux nap did not last very long, and the loser "woke up" in time to be reasonably attentive to the steward's safety demonstration. It was, in fact, during this demonstration that the steward noticed the guy in 1D was chugging a bottle of whiskey and, per FAA regulations, forcibly removed it from his hands. That eventually turned out to be symbolic, anyway, since the bottle the steward retrieved was empty. The steward then informed the moron that he was cut off and he would not be served any alcoholic beverages during the flight. "No problem," was the response.
Remember, the safety demonstration happens just after the plane leaves the gate, so at this point we still had several minutes before the plane could possibly get to the runway, even if it weren't a Sunday evening in Atlanta when a couple tens of thousands of people were trying to get to their road warrior hotels on Delta.
After a while and surely more nanotechnology inquiry, the guy decided it would be a good idea to lower his seat-back, despite the cockpit's previous warning against doing so. The steward requested that the guy return his seat-back to the upright position, and it was done. This happened again about a minute later, with perhaps a little more delay in the idiot's obedience.
The cockpit then came on the horn and announced we were second in line for take-off and we would be availing ourselves of that opportunity shortly. This as a prompt, the steward approached the guy in 1D and ensured him that his alcoholic beverage privileges were suspended. The conversation went roughly like this. "Sir, I just want to be clear that you are cut off from alcoholic beverages for the rest of this flight." ... "uhhh" ... "I want to make sure we aren't going to have a problem if I need to refuse your order for alcohol later" ... *pause* ... "nope, no problem." Well, then, that was settled.
Almost immediately after that little conversation, the guy put his seat-back down again.
Note that at this point, we've obviously turned onto the runway, and the engines are beginning their initial throttle-up or whatever they do.
The steward asks the guy to raise his seat-back again, and after a long pause, the response comes loudly: "Why are you picking on me!" A verbal altercation ensued for 15 or 20 seconds, and the steward grabbed the black phone that connects him to the cockpit. Threats were thrown around, variously about sending the plane back to the gate and calling the police and so forth, and everybody in first class except me was telling the guy, "just shut up so we can get home!" or "shut your mouth!" or "we just want to get to Pittsburgh!" With milliseconds to go, the guy raised his seat-back, the steward hung up the phone, and the wheels left the ground.
Take-off, and we're stuck with this guy for the next hour and a half.
And, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Stay tuned for the continuation of this story, which I hope to write in the next couple days. :)