Don’t Look! These Essays are Personal!

Stowing Seat Trays & Expectations

I'm a copywriter by trade, but my passion is swiftly identifying the guaranteed hot person on any flight—a phenomenon more dependable than the departure time. Although I was traveling for work, my real job started at the gate, where I honed in on said hottie. This mullet-adorned, sexually ambiguous man was reading the choice words of Sally Rooney, sitting cross-legged in his loved converse. Not everyone's cuppa, unless you live in any borough minus Manhattan, then this is precisely your brand of conquest. He didn't sit by me, as is the tradition of every airport hunk who came before him. Instead, a vanilla man popped an unwelcome squat next to me in row 17.  

He was unassuming, wearing a mask because he was better than me (I'm not being facetious, I honestly believe anyone who still wears PPE cares eons more about public and personal well-being than I, a scourge). However, 20 minutes into waiting for a tardy flight attendant, he thought his mask was soundproof and mumbled, "this is fucking bullshit." I guess he was right, but damn random guy, chill out—you're in economy. You've got to upgrade to first-class for anyone to hear or care why you're tantruming. But alas, we're in row 17, barely safe from the bathroom hot zone. You have no control, and that should be freeing, not infuriating. 
Ten more minutes ticked by and the elusive sky waitress was rather successfully making an enemy out of 17A by unsuccessfully showing up at her job. I assumed she fell victim to the unrelenting and ever-creative ways NYC public transit can get you where you don't want to go, but my seatmate seemed to think she was putzing around the Delta Sky Lounge. The other flight attendant eventually announced she was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances and we'd take off ASAP.

With an ungodly amount of enthusiasm for a 7 A.M. flight, my seatmate opened Twitter—because what he had to say was important! My keen periphery got me a behind-the-scenes look into the first draft. He tweeted, "When the pilot says they're working on 'last minute paperwork,' they're lying. Right, @United." A couple of things here: (1) The pilot didn't make that announcement, the punctual flight attendant did. (2) She never claimed/alluded/lied by omission that they were working on paperwork. (3) Knowing these two things, wrong @seat17A.
As a relapsing overachiever, I was quickly promoted from annoyed to perturbed by watching him respond to work emails and messages on airplane mode and having every single attempt bounce back. What was so important that he couldn't wait to buy the inflight Wi-Fi or land in Chicago? Was I sitting by a senator? Did he have an organ on ice in his stupid laptop carry-on? Was it his ego, id, or superego that drove him to ignore all reason and continue to send the same failed message? Didn't Einstein classify this as insanity? Why did I ask all these questions when I knew the answers? Am I insane?

But what was most maddening about this unrequited fixation is that I'm no better. He was disappointed the flight was unexpectedly delayed, and I was disappointed by a stranger's reaction—both wastes of time. We were letting our unfulfilled expectations dictate our moods. I might be even worse because I spent the entire meeting I flew in for writing this manifesto of sorts. Hopefully, his messages eventually turned blue, my expectations will sink, seat 17 C & D handled it better than we did, and that flight attendant will have a kinder commute tomorrow.