I flipped through the airline magazine as other passengers boarded the craft. Skimming its glossy pages, which boasted luxury hotels and decadent restaurants that I would probably never experience, I silently rejoiced in the fact that the seat next to mine remained empty. The Boeing 763 has 187 seats in economy class; I guesstimated that this flight, enroute to Canada from Japan, would be three-quarters full. It seemed I would get to stretch out. A lucky break for someone trapped in such a confined space for over 9 hours.
But I jumped the gun.
"Is this the right seat?"
He appeared to be about my age. His eyes indicated he was either tired or spent too much time (and money) in a Narita lounge.
"Yes, I'm by the window", I replied. Before I had time to curse my situation, my new flight companion threw his rather large carry-on bag beneath the seats in front of us. It barely fit. After sitting down and making himself comfortable, he quickly went to sleep. Not before extending his limbs into my own leg space though. "Fuck", I thought to myself.
Flying is easily one of the most stressful things one can partake in. Airports are stressful. Boarding and departing is stressful. Eating the disgusting food and wondering how you are going to digest it is stressful. This guy – this sleepy, possibly inebriated, feeble, inconsiderate man – was now stressing me out. I started to feel claustrophobic. The vastness of the ocean below couldn't cure it.
I "accidentally" bumped my elbow into his arm, which now also occupied the armrest between us. He didn't budge. Fuck. I tried making a lot of noise while rifling through my purse and clearing my throat repeatedly. It appeared to act as a lullaby, soothing him into deeper slumber. Fuck. Nine hours. Nine more hours of this hell. I then started to wonder how I would make it to the washroom. This guy was't moving for anything.
"Something to drink, miss?"
My saving grace. My angel in an Air Canada uniform. After handing me a glass of water, the stewardess did the unthinkable – she shook the shoulder of my sleepy, possibly inebriated, feeble, inconsiderate neighbour, asked if he desired a beverage and then informed him that if he wanted a window seat, there was an empty one a few rows up. He took her up on the offer, grabbing his giant carry-on and leaving my life, armrest and leg space forever. I was so thankful. So relieved. Sigh. So comfortable.
I spent the remainder of the flight stretched out across both seats, living large economy-style.