I spend about 50% or more of my life commuting or traveling these days, and I have to say: I hate traveling. Perhaps it’s the fact that I just flat out don’t like most people, and cannot stand the concept of being crammed into a confined space with any number of assholes with horrible habits that are completely oblivious or inconsiderate of those around them. I could write an entire book alone that consists solely of my commuting and traveling fiascos, but by the end of it, I’d need to be committed to an insane asylum.
In recent years, however, to try and salvage what’s left of my dignity, sanity, and blood pressure, I’ve decided that rather than be that guy who is sitting in the subway car (or plane, or on the commuter bus) stewing over inconveniences and becoming visibly enraged at his surroundings – acting like the universe has singled him out just to make him late and that no one else around him has anywhere as important to be as where he’s headed – to instead find creative ways to mess with people in an effort to make them think twice about how they conduct themselves in public. An example of this happened to me within the last few months…
This past winter, I finally got fed up with the NYC weather and decided to take a trip to visit one of my oldest friends, who had recently taken up residency in sunny Santa Fe, NM. I was extremely excited at the prospect of getting out of New York for a few days. The trip itself basically takes an entire day. It consists of around 5 hours of air travel between New York and Texas, then about two hours in layover time until a 90 minute local flight from Texas to Albuquerque, concluding with a final hour long drive up to Santa Fe. Still, I’d waste two days’ worth of round trip travel at the prospect of not having to bundle myself up and have my balls shrink up within me every time I go outside.
The morning of the flight saw a terrible snow storm hit New York, one that could’ve potentially grounded my 10:20am flight. I got to LaGuardia, which is the shittiest airport in the history of shitty airports, at around 7am and was all through security by 7:30am. As the storm worsened, the morons that make up the support staff of United Airlines announced that anyone with a ticket for my flight could hop on an 8:15am flight instead, as they were expecting significant delays past 9:30am due to de-icing. This is good news.
As someone who normally expects the worst due my previous experiences with traveling, I was pleasantly surprised to find my section of the plane almost completely empty with the exception of a few. I didn’t even have anyone sitting next to me. Every screaming prick of a child with their inept parent that came walking down the aisle during the boarding process, I expected the disappointment of having them seated nearby. But no, each and every one came and went well past my row. Perhaps, just maybe, I thought I’d have a smooth experience for once. Perhaps, for once, I hoped that I’d actually be able to get some much needed sleep on my flight.
My optimism was quickly silenced shortly after we took off when I realized that the woman directly behind me and the guy across from her occupying two opposite aisle seats were two associates on a business trip to Houston working on pitching real estate to an oil & gas company. They had not yet finished their proposal to their potential client and were using their tray tables to go over their notes for the contract. This, in itself, was annoying enough, as they were talking louder than the volume of my headphones could go without blowing my ears out, and kept shuffling papers, causing my seat to consistently move.
About an hour into the flight, a woman from several rows up, who was evidently also a part of their firm, got up and came back to talk to these two. Right there in the aisle, this woman stood, blocking traffic, loudly yammering on, and essentially conducting a business meeting right next to my aisle seat. Her giant fat ass was right in my face throughout all of this, and as a result of these three idiots, there was no way I was going to get so much as a wink of sleep. This went on for 45 minutes.
Now, I have one rule when it comes to travel, no matter if you’re driving, on the subway, or a commuter bus or train. That one rule is simple: Don’t be an asshole. Now, that’s a very vague request, so let me give you a few examples of what that might entail…
Don’t drive like a dick, weaving in and out of lanes, cutting people off, getting right up on the bumper of the car in front of you or, alternatively, drive so slow and obliviously that the people behind you begin to develop brain tumors. Don’t lean your entire body up against the pole on a crowded subway car. Don’t wear your obnoxiously large and obtrusive backpack onto a crowded subway car. Don’t bring your goddamn bike onto the train during rush hour. Most of all, don’t conduct a business meeting in the middle of the fucking aisle of an airplane, with your ass in another passenger’s face, consistently having to lean further back into that person every time someone needs to pass by, loudly blabbering on about bullshit at the top of your lungs.
If you are an asshole, and engage in any of the aforementioned behaviors or countless ones I don’t have the patience to list in addition, expect the same behavior to be reciprocated right back to you. That’s it. Simple.
(This is also why everyone in Manhattan treats each other like garbage)
After a little while, the thought occurred to me that I had enough of a knowledge of the industry these people were in to understand exactly what they were talking about, what they were trying to do, and exactly what the terms of the contract they were loudly going over were, not to mention who their potential client was. I also now knew that their CEO was up in first class and that this fat tub of lard was going to go up there and meet with him shortly after she was done with the two idiots behind me. At that moment, after trying for the better part of an hour to get their attention through a series of ignored grunts and mumbles underneath my breath, I had a stroke of genius.
Once I decided what I was going to do to put a stop to this, I lightly elbow checked the oafish beast obstructing my view, which prompted her to turn around and give a very half-assed, non-genuine apology, in which she condescendingly said, “Oh, I’m so sorry! Did I bump into you!? So sorry! I hope I’m not being rude.” but what it actually sounded like was, “I’m in a women’s suit dress on a business trip, and you look like you just rolled out of bed after a bender. Sorry, sweetie, you’re not significant enough for me to care that I’m ruining your flight.”
This, of course, led me to my glowing moment, when I replied by saying, quite pleasantly and with a smug tone, “No! Not at all! I actually was enjoying listening to your conversation, as I work for one of your competitors, I won’t name who, and am flying down to Houston for business as well. I actually have to thank you, because you’ve just given me everything I need to know about your offer to take back to my people so they can come up with a better one to steal <company name>’s business away from you. So, thanks! Enjoy the rest of your flight.”
The sheer look of astonishment on this woman’s face, as well as the look she then gave her two equally baffled colleagues, would’ve been enough to get me fully erect with joy. But that was just the beginning. None of them uttered another word aside from a few shocked grunts and sighs before exchanging a few looks with each other and the now completely defeated woman returned to her seat, likely to cry.
I had a pleasant flight after that, as the only sounds I heard from behind me for the rest of it while I sat calm and composed with a giant shit-eating grin of victory on my face were the muffled sounds of panicked whispers. I’d occasionally hear things like:
“Who’s going to go up and tell Bill???”
“I’m not doing it! You’re the one who wanted to wait until the last minute and do this on the plane!”
“Well how was I supposed to know who this guy was!?”
“We should make Karen do it. This is her fault.”
“Christ. We’re all going to get fucking fired for this.”
I’d like to think that I made a bit of a difference that day, that maybe these three idiots would be a little bit more courteous to their fellow travelers moving forward. But most of all, I really just hope that all three of them learned the most powerful lesson of all:
Don’t fuck with my sleep.