I’m really not sure why the woman I sat next to on the plane couldn’t ever quite grasp that I wasn’t in the mood to make a new best friend. I’m pretty sure I gave her every possible signal to tell her just that, too.

At the risk of sounding like an asshole, I’ll just say that I’m all for a little airplane chat as the plane loads, and I’ll probably even be the nicest guy ever to whomever I’m sitting next to all the way until we take off. Once the plane leaves the ground though, I’ll usually have hit my limit and I’m gonna want some fucking privacy. I sincerely don’t want to spend the entire three and a half hour flight gabbing it up, and I certainly don’t want to play the 3,000 question game.

Shit. Yep. No way around it. I’m officially an airplane asshole. So be it.

I went to Kentucky last weekend to visit some of my closest friends. The trip did what the trip was supposed to do: it revamped me, it healed me, and it filled up my happiness bucket. It was over all too soon, and almost as quickly as I got there, I was back on the plane to come home.

That’s where I met the woman who would not leave me alone for the rest of the flight. She literally would not take a hint, and she would not back-off. She was sitting right next to me, and I couldn’t figure out how to ditch her.

It all started with friendly consensual chit chat, covering the usual “where you from,” and “where are you going,” and “what do you do for a living.” She was normal enough. She was kind. No red flags.

The plane took off. I hit my talk-about-nothing limit, and I said, in a pretty damn friendly way, “it’s been good chatting. I’m gonna do my own thing now if that’s cool.”

“Yeah, of course,” she said.

Wow, did she ever lie.

I started by pulling out my iPad and Apple Pencil so that I could work on some art.

All without so much as a breath: “what app do you use with that? Do you like doing art on that? What kind of art do you do most? Do you sell your art? I used to love drawing. I don’t know why I don’t anymore. I wish I had something to draw with right now, too. That’s so cool you bring that with you. I’ll have to get one of those.”

She finally took a breath and I half-heartedly answered a couple of her questions, then started drawing a picture after telling her I was going to get to it now.

Again, all without so much as a breath: “I’ve just gotta get rich so I can sit up front with first class. I was meant to be up there. I bet you’d draw so much better if you had space like they do up there. WHOA. That’s cool. What are you drawing?” I’m pretty sure that covered about a fifth of all the things she said to me that time.

She finally took a breath and I reached into my bag for headphones. “If it’s okay, I need to just concentrate on what I’m working on,” I said. I didn’t even answer any of her questions this time. I put on the headphones, planning on them working for me the way they had always worked to shut up other overly chatty passengers in the past.

I made it about three minutes into a new mandala I was working on, and…

Tap, tap, tap. I shit you not. She tapped me on the fucking shoulder.

I pulled my headphones back from one ear and asked what was up. “What you’re working on is just so cool, I thought you should know that.”

I smiled as sincerely as I could, trying not to let her see that I was not happy about her touching me. “Thank you. That’s very kind. Just getting started,” I said as I laughed and replaced the headphones.

Three minutes later…

Tap, tap, tap. I shit you not. She tapped me on the fucking shoulder again. This time I didn’t hide my annoyance. “What?” was all I asked.

“When we land can you grab my bag from the overhead compartment for me?”

If looks could kill, I would have been arrested for murder once the plane landed. We were only fifteen minutes or so into our flight. “Yeah, I’ll be sure to do that,” I said. And I put my headphones back on.

Ten minutes later…

Tap, tap, tap.

This time I showed my frustration to her. “Yeah? What?”

“When the flight attendant comes, will you make sure to wake me up if I fall asleep? I also should warn you that I might have to go to the bathroom soon. I always have to go like three times when I’m flying. I have no idea why…”

I stopped her right there. “Just let me know if you need to get out. And please. Can you do me a favor and not tap me on the shoulder? I know you’re just being friendly, but it bothers me and I just want to sit here and work on my art.”

She agreed. And by some miracle she left me alone for the next twenty minutes or so.

Tap, tap, tap.

“Do you need to get out?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I was just wondering if the art you’re making is going to be a tattoo for someone.”

“Nope.”

Tap, tap, tap.

“Do you need to get out?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I just wanted to show you the art I’m going to get as a tattoo someday.”

“Cool.”

Tap, tap, tap.

“Do you need to get out?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I might soon, though.” Then she literally didn’t say anything else. I put my headphones back on.

Uhhhhh…

Tap, tap, tap.

“Please stop tapping me. It’s intrusive and I don’t like other people touching me, if I’m being honest.”

“Sorry, I just need to get out real quick,” she said. I let her out. I worked on my art while she was in the bathroom. Tap, tap, tap. I stood up and let her back in.

Silence. For ten minutes. Beautiful silence.

Tap, tap, tap.

This time I just powered my headphones completely off and shoved them back inside my backpack. I wasn’t going to be able to finish my art. Not when I was as grumpy as this lady was making me. “I really would appreciate if you…”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “You can put your headphones back on. I’ll try to leave you alone.”

“It’s fine,” I said with a sigh. I knew giving up and giving in might very well be the only way I could keep my sanity at that point. “What’s up?”

I talked to her about seemingly everything and absolutely nothing for the next hour. Strangely, it just pissed me off a lot less to pretend I was interested than to keep trying to show her that I wasn’t.

“I’m gonna take a nap,” she said out of nowhere as she pulled a travel pillow out of her own bag. She didn’t wait for a reply and just settled on into it, clamped her eyes shut, and stopped talking.

I just looked at her with humored bewilderment and silently fantasized TAP TAP TAPPING her on the shoulder as soon as I was sure she was asleep. I resisted the urge, put my headphones back on, and started drawing again.

I even got pretty far with it that time, too. I got twelve minutes of uninterrupted bliss, at least. And then…

Tap, tap, tap.

Sigh. “Yeah?”

Dan Pearce | Dan Pearce Was Here

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