Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Dangers of Flying Large

I just returned from a week in Michigan visiting relatives and attending my high school reunion. I won't tell you how many years, but I did wonder where the heck all those middle-aged goomers came from.

Both directions on this trip were plagued by "weather." I arrived about four hours later than expected because heavy thunderstorms and wind in Detroit kept the plane circling until it had to go to Cleveland to refuel. On the way back, the "weather" was at Continental's Houston hub where my insane travel agent (the Engineer) had scheduled an eight (8!) hour layover for me.

The storm started about an hour into the infernal, eternal layover and boogered up the whole airport. By the time my flight was supposed to be boarding, the storm was over, but a plane going to Ontario was offloading at the gate. My flight was two hours late taking off, which meant the plane would be landing in Salt Lake City around 2:00 a.m. - unless it flapped its wings extra hard.

To add icing to that cupcake, the Engineer, who graduated from the same high school, the same year, so it was his reunion too, had booked himself a direct flight from Detroit to Salt Lake, arriving home at 2:30 p.m. His flight was on time. The candy sprinkles on the icing - I was to take a cab home so my beloved could get his "beauty sleep." (Actually, I didn't have a problem with that, it was practical, but when already annoyed by the way the travel was progressing...)

Now any of you who have been flying with any regularity know that airplane seats have been getting smaller every year. And my butt has been getting bigger. It's a bad combination.

I had booked the exit row aisle seat on the theory (confirmed by the gate agent) that since it's a non-reclining seat it is less desirable and that, therefor, the center seat in that row would be the last to fill. At original takeoff minus seven hours it looked like a pretty safe bet, there were eleven empty seats showing.

Of course, by boarding time, the flight was overbooked.

Don't know what the story was, but a whole herd of Polynesians must have booked at the last minute. It looked like several families with children of assorted ages and about a half dozen single men. The guy who sat next to me was built on a grand scale.

The guy who got the center seat in the row behind me was mammoth; probably about 6'7" and BIG. The two middle-aged business men bracketing him took offense and called in the stewardess.

After a lot of arguing and arm waving and trying to persuade someone, anyone, to exchange seats, it ended badly with the stewardess leading the resigned looking giant off the plane.

The big Tongan sitting next to me and I looked at each other, then sat in our seats very, very quietly until takeoff.

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