Note: This story was originally written by hand on a flight between Minneapolis and Cincinnati. It has been edited for spelling and grammar, and because some of the words were unreadable because a baby was kicking my seat.
Delta Flight XXXX, February 11th, 2019
Somewhere over Wisconsin
As I look out the frosted window of this small plane, down at the frozen lake below, a baby is screaming bloody murder. He’s been kicking my seat for the past 45 minutes, and really—although it is slightly annoying—I can’t say I disagree with him. It’s cramped, cold, and smells funny in here.
For my sanity, I’m chalking this up to a mindfulness exercise. The moment I step off this plane, this whole ordeal will become a distant memory. (Chuck Norris' parents, on the other hand, have a lifetime of his crying to look forward to. Good luck with that.)
If I flipped out at this little guy, I’d be a big, fat hypocrite because on my flight to Cincinnati the other day, I singlehandedly caused a 90-minute delay.
Slightly buzzed from a couple beers I chugged at an airport bar, I (gently) bumped into the armrest as I boarded and sat down in my seat.
CRACK! Like a prop in a high school play, the armrest comedically snapped, the electrical wire catching it inches off the floor.
The woman sitting next to me was in her late 60s. She wore a black cardigan, had black eyeliner and kept a sleek blond pixie cut. I imagined she worked in fashion or at an art gallery in a previous life. I could tell we’d get along great.
Together, we stared at the dangling armrest. I could see every emotion cycling in her eyes—shock, anger, confusion—before she settled into a state of heightened morality, something I was clearly lacking.
“We need to tell the flight attendant, “ she said, whipping her head around, staring me in the eye.
She was right. Even though our plane had already been delayed once due to inclement weather, she subtly waved the attendant our way.
“The armrest broke,” she said, gesturing to the broken armrest.
The attendant let out a long, deep breath, a calming purge before the shit storm about to flood the cabin. Everyone, including me, wanted to get the hell of Minneapolis as soon as possible to catch our connecting flights in Cincinnati, grab some normal-people dinner, or get some sleep before our busy workdays.
Plus, for the past two weeks, most of America has been riding a rodeo of winter weather. There was the Polar Vortex. Then an unnamed dump of snow. And now we’re sitting somewhere in-between, on the eve of another massive storm heading towards Minnesota. Wait too long, and we may never leave.
The attendant left to the front of the plane. She talked to the other attendants then hopped on one of those old-school yellow phones.
About five minutes later, two dopey Delta maintenance men made their way down the aisle towards us. One by one, as they passed, looks of confusion swept over the faces of passengers.
The captain’s voice screeched over the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen, there seems to be a slight maintenance issue with one of our seats. As soon as it’s fixed, and we fill out the paperwork, we’ll be on our way.”
I could feel the eyes turn towards me and my innocent seatmate. I sunk lower, bracing for a riot. Instead, everyone kept their rage mostly inside, buried deep in that special place saved for delayed flights.
The two workers left for a few minutes, presumably to get the proper gear to fix the seat. After about more 10 minutes, they came back with what looked like white duct tape, but it had blue graphics and lettering on it. It looked like it had little, cute airplanes on it, but that could have been the alcohol talking.
They stripped the dangling wire holding the armrest to the seat then wrapped it about 25 times with the tape, completely covering it. I sat and watched, wondering, “Is there such thing as aviation tape?”
My seatmate kept a calm demeanor, staring forward as though two men in neon green vests weren’t standing inches from her face.
“We just have to fill out the paperwork then you’ll be on your way,” one worker said to us as they finished up.
The woman and I looked at each other in relief, knowing that as soon as we were airborne, this would become nothing more than a short story to share with an Uber driver.
We waited for what felt like another 15-20 minutes before the caption got back on the horn for another update.
“The maintenance issue has been resolved, but before we take off, we’re going to de-ice the plane.”
Knowing how long #armrestgate took, who knows how long de-icing would take?
It turns out it would take another 45 minutes. As I sat, sobered up, looking out the window at a crazy Star Wars-esque contraption spraying down the plane, I couldn’t help but ponder the complexities of the airline industry. With all the tiny tubes flying around the sky, and all the drunk turds breaking armrests, clogging toilets, and generally fucking things up like a bunch of animals, it’s a miracle that any planes leave the ground, let alone millions a day.
The group of people I was flying with later confirmed that their respective seatmates both had subtle meltdowns. One woman slowly mouthed “motherfucker” while viciously typing into her phone. Another man wearing a large bluetooth earpiece was on the phone, screaming at Delta. “How the hell can this happen!?”
So, go ahead, kid. Cry like the little baby you are. And kick away.
I deserve it.