Flying from Pisa to New York was the most profound test of my Buddha-like patience for rudeness and psychoses since I tried to buy a car in Romania.
My immediate neighbor was a batshit crazy woman from the Dominican Republic, who was totally helpless, unable to even fill in her own name into the US arrivals form without help from the flight attendants. When the flight attendants stopped paying attention to her she talked me. When I stopped paying attention to her, she talked to herself. She also fidgeted for nearly the entire flight and repeatedly applied lotion to her hands and arms that had an overwhelming stench of cough syrup.
The woman across the aisle from me was an Italian of middle years, seemingly on her first flight, who fancied that the entire crew was there to serve only her. No flight attendant could pass by her without being stopped and asked to perform some kind of trivial service, like taking away a magazine that she had finished reading. The flight attendants eventually stopped using our aisle whenever possible.
The worst, though, were the two 50-something, vacuous, women from Long Island sitting behind me. They both had booming voices that, even in normal conversational tones, traveled for five rows in all directions. Even with my silicon earplugs stuffed deep enough into my ears so that they actually formed synaptic connections during the flight, I heard everything they said with perfect clarity. And they were frequently even louder, as they yelled to friends sitting three rows away.
Though they quieted down for one of the three movies shown during the flight, mostly they just talked. And talked. And talked. It was exactly as if a Bluetooth transmitter had been implanted in Paris Hilton’s brain and then paired with a Twitter account. Every move, every comment, every idle, passing, inane thought from these two ladies was broadcast to dozens of people in their immediate earshot.
The following is a sample list of verbatim comments (to the best of my memory) that transpired throughout the flight:
• [To a flight attendant during boarding] “Do you know where the food was made for this flight? Was it Italy? I hope it was Italy, because the food on the flight from America was just awful! I mean, really, really, really awful!”
Flight attendant: “I don’t know how to respond to that.”
• [While regarding the big screen, flight progress display] “Hey! We’re flying at 34,000 feet!” [moments later] “Look! Now we’re at 10,000 feet!” [beat] “Now we’re at 34,000 feet again! What’s going on??” [many minutes later] “Do you think the 10,000 feet was actually meters?”
• [When the crew accidentally started to show “Quantum of Solace” a second time] “Hey, they’re showing ‘Quantum of Solace’ again! Or maybe this is part two?” [Five minutes later] “No, I’m pretty sure this is ‘Quantum of Solace’ again.”
• “Blah, blah the beach club. Blah, blah, beach club. Beach club, blah, blah…”
• “Our tour guide was terrible! He had an awful accent.” [Reminder: these ladies were from Long Island]
• [Repeated every time there was a new listener] “Well, my husband is a dentist, and he thinks…”
• [Yelling to friend three rows away during Hour 5 of flight] “Hey Joyce! Are you awake? Hey Joyce!! Joyce!!!”
• “I haven’t turned my phone on for two weeks. Do you think the battery is still charged?”
• [Seconds after touch down] “Quick! Quick!! Give me your phone! I have to tell Ron that we landed!” [other replies] “But isn’t he waiting for us at the airport?” [response] “Yes, but he likes to know when I land.”
I have never wanted to openly moan so much from the pain of someone’s else’s speech as much as I did during this flight. I know threatening flight staff is a federal offense, but what if I threaten a fellow passenger that really, really deserves it? That’s still legal, right? I know Obama will make it legal.