After placing my carry on bag in the overhead compartment I sank into the luxurious econ chair and clicked my seatbelt into place. My fellow traveler, Ambien, was jumping up and down in my purse beckoning me with promises of slumber and sweet dreams. Using telepathy I reminded the little pill that it had to wait a few hours because of two things. One, I wanted to watch Silver Linings Playbook, and two, I always like to see who will be sitting next to me prior to takeoff on a 15-hour flight. I didn't have to wait long.
The mid-40ish Aussie couple stopped at my row, complaining about Californian drivers while simultaneously discussing their in-flight dinner plans, pulling items from bags, and tossing them on the seats beside me. The first words the mother of four muttered to her hubby after finally belting up were, "Why on earth would they put women in the exit row? I mean, what are they thinking?"
Looking around at the travelers in our row I counted four women and three men, myself included, and as far as I could tell we all had arms and hands. My new neighbor continued, "Honestly, do they really think that a woman has the strength to open that door?" She gave her head a quick nod toward the exit door nearest to me. I kept my mouth shut. As a rule, I've learned that people who make stupid statements like that are either stupid or insecure, so I put on my headphones and stared at Bradley Cooper for two hours. Not a bad way to travel.
On arrival at Sydney airport, I trudged through customs only to be confronted by a ridiculously long line of fellow weary travelers waiting to catch a bus to the domestic terminal. Note to self -- next time pay the extra for priority check in. The folks with the yellow stickers on their bags were coming out of nowhere, hundreds of them, like ants, all going forward while the line that I was standing in was stagnant.
I managed to find time to consume a quick Aussie style scrambled eggs, toast, and skinny cappuccino before boarding my final flight. Tossing my belongings once again into an even smaller overhead locker I was confronted with a whiff of stale cigarettes and cheap hairspray. I traced the aroma to my next travel companion.
There was only one way I'd get through this flight. I casually unzipped my purse, grabbed my favorite bottle, released the top, and dabbed a little lavender oil on the tip of my finger and under my nose. Great-Grandma-Lynnette was oblivious as she gazed out the window, and the aromatherapy worked magnificently against the odor she was producing. My gagging reflex restrained itself.
About an hour into the flight, I was convinced that Lynnette had turned into Marge Simpson and she was only halfway through telling me about her list of grand and great grand kids. This was followed by the absolutely thrilling tale of how her four-year-old great grand son told her husband to give up smoking. "Can you imagine that?" She asked, not actually waiting for an answer but continuing on with her fascinating rhetoric. She had me captivated, but then again -- where else was there for me to go?
Finally the captain's voice gushed over the speaker, "Weather in Tasmania today is a little chilly. Seven degrees Celsius with winds up to one hundred and eleven kilometers per hour in some parts of the state." Lynnette looked up at the air vents to give the man her complete attention before stating, "Christ, thank god we're landing soon. I'm dyin' for a bloody fag!"
I hope that if the mother of four from my previous flight is ever in need of the exit to be opened during an airplane catastrophe, that she finds herself sitting next to Lynnette. There is no doubt in my mind that Lynnette would put all men to shame when it came to survival of the fittest.
I imagined Lynnette flying through the air like Superman, cigarette in mouth, her bouffant-purple-tinted-grey hair solid as a rock, and her floral dress somewhere up around her bloomer-styled undies. She'd rescue every passenger, crew member, and family pet, placing them safely on the ground right next to her favorite local pub in the heart of Sydney.
"You right then?" She'd ask before slipping into the hotel for a quick Shandy (half beer and half 7-Up).
Mother of four would look up, her face full of doubt and say of Lynnette, "She must be one of those... you know, men dressed in women's clothing. Because women can't do stuff like open exit windows."