The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

The Bold and the Apprehensive

The couple boarded the plane extremely late and toting five carry-on bags between them. The flight crew looked the other way. He opened nearly every overhead compartment in their section of the plane, pacing toward the back, sneering at the more timely passengers’ properly stowed belongings. He opened the compartments and his wife followed along checking as well and slamming them closed. Passengers already seated and belted pretended to stare straight ahead, but gave each other sideways glances.

He passed toward the front, opening the compartments again. His wife had given up and began forcing items under her seat.

A steward tried politely to hurry the man along, asking him to sit so the flight could depart. The man flushed. He handed off one of his heavier bags like a family member passing a screaming child back to its parent. The steward remained patient, but made a face to his colleague and to the passengers at large.

During the flight, the couple argued a bit, sighed often, stood in the aisles blocking traffic, snatched the last glasses of juice off the flight crew’s service trays. When he knocked a cup of water onto his laptop and they both jumped up to dry it off, a woman to their left laughed out loud and elbowed her seatmate, demanding commiseration.

Later, during turbulence, the couple grew very anxious and sullen. She burrowed under a blanket and he held onto her, brushing her hair with his ring-fingered hand as she whimpered. And the laughing woman made a show of not being afraid, sitting up in her seat, but she also made a show of her guilt. She wrinkled her forehead, showing penitence for her prior delight in karmic justice. Blinking over at the couple, she tried tossing glances of compassion. They were all children, anyway, all afraid they might not exist.

-Flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Denver, Colorado.

(Also written under the notes for this story was the following comment: First stop–Taco Bell! There’s no place like home.)

17 comments on “The Bold and the Apprehensive

  1. longtooth
    January 28, 2013

    Karmic justice is a strange thing indeed….strikes me when I least expect it. Of course.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 28, 2013

      Karma was my college roommate. Literally. Nice gal. I hope it means I’m good for life! 🙂

      • longtooth
        January 28, 2013

        You’re set for life…how can anyone top that? having karma for a roommate?? 🙂 hugs

  2. thenicethingaboutstrangers
    February 8, 2013

    Reblogged this on The Nice Thing About Strangers and commented:

    Stockpiling Taco Bell Hot Sauce for a trip back to Europe…and thinking of other things to carry-on…

  3. Joe Kuharic
    February 8, 2013

    I feel like I’ve seen this couple on every long plane trip I’ve ever taken…

  4. petchary
    February 8, 2013

    Oh! This is lovely. I can just imagine it all playing out… I know the burrowing in blanket feeling…

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      February 8, 2013

      Thanks so much! Longtooth reminded me of this story about a month ago, and I’ve been thinking of them ever since. I’m already getting restless about my long-haul trip ahead!

  5. roughwighting
    February 8, 2013

    I fly often enough to recognize these people – even if they’re not the exact same ones on my flights. The couple with the heavy baggage and attitude – urgh – they are hard to take. You write them well.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      February 9, 2013

      It’s not always easy to find the nice things in haughty strangers, but their humanness revealed in the turbulence was like a gift from Heaven! 🙂

      • roughwighting
        February 10, 2013

        Good point – and it reminds me to observe…not judge.

  6. lagottocattleya
    February 9, 2013

    You do write people and characters well – I hope you will collect them all in a volume? I would buy!

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      February 9, 2013

      Well, thank you! That’s a great motivator! I was thinking that this year I need to take on a writing project…thanks for the encouragement. I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

  7. anglophiletoad
    February 11, 2013

    There is no greater microcosm (greater microcosm?) of humanity than the passenger complement of any given airline flight. If you don’t see something strange/fascinating while you’re between jetway and jetway, you just aren’t looking hard enough. Or…maybe it’s you…:o)

  8. butimbeautiful
    February 16, 2013

    your stories are lovely. I really like the last line.

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This entry was posted on February 1, 2012 by in Europe, Inspiration, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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