In The Parade – Attack of the Slumbering Passenger

Those feet! That sneeze! Eww! Here’s how it all turned out.
I cannot stand to travel anymore. Flying used to be somewhat pleasant, but after Sept. 11 it became completely torturous. Not only have airlines cut back on flights, but they also have cut back on everything else, from peanuts to fresh air.

Regardless, I do have to travel by air sometimes.

To get to the Newark airport after a week in the Big Apple, I made my way to Penn Station in Manhattan to catch the New Jersey Transit train. Penn Station was packed, and in the milieu of the waiting area, there was only one seat left. A diminutive man had his butt in one seat and his legs thrown over the arm rest into another seat, shoes off and snoring in a way that sounded like a three-piece brass band playing the “Army Song.” I decided not to sit near this man’s exposed stocking feet. Being a smoker, I went to a kiosk and bought two packs of gum to chew on the flight home.

When the announcement came that my train was now being boarded, I rushed with the rest of the passengers to our gate and boarded the train. I stowed my luggage for the 40-minute ride to the Newark station and sat down.

I looked up as someone tossed luggage into the seat across from me to see the same diminutive man who had been in the waiting area flop down, kick off his shoes and seem to immediately fall asleep again. This time, however, his snoring sounded distinctly like “The Little Drummer Boy.” I stood up to move to another seat, but there was no place for me to go. Sitting down, I turned to my free USA Today.

As he took his 40 winks (one for each minute it took for us to reach the Newark station), I looked him over closely. Nice haircut. Nice shirt and tie. The slacks were creased and of good quality. The stockings were an ochre color with a damask pattern, and the shoes were leather, trendy, with the pointy toe and a brass buckle. This man was just another business traveler like me.

The stop at the station gave me barely enough time to get into the airport, past security and to the gate. As I sat down, the same short man sat across from me. I thought for a moment that this freak was following me.

As they announced boarding, my row was called. I found my seat, stowed my laptop below the seat in front of me, sat down, relaxed, popped the first piece of gum in my mouth and closed my eyes for a moment.

I hadn’t been sitting for more than 30 seconds when my stalker tapped my shoulder and told me he had the window seat in my row. No sooner had he sat down than he kicked off his shoes, sneezed onto the seat in front of him, coughed up a loogie, put his legs into the empty center seat, and was once again out like a freaking light.

I don’t know about you, but I have serious boundary issues when it comes to strangers. I also have issues with travelers who don’t cover their mouth when they sneeze, and I abhor travelers who assume you want to smell their dirty feet over a 2-1/2-hour flight.

I considered my options as the plane taxied to the runway, finally settling on one.

I took out my flavorless wad of gum, looked over at this idiot, who was now snoring what sounded similar to the “Air Force Song,” and tossed my used gum into his right shoe. I repeated this exercise for the entire flight with the remaining 23 pieces of gum, making sure that each shoe had an equal number of gum wads deep inside.

Not wanting to be in the vicinity when the self-absorbed idiot woke up, I prepared for a quick getaway. We taxied to the gate, seat-belt sign off. I jumped to my feet, laptop bag in hand, and was two rows ahead of him when he woke up. I quickly exited the plane for the baggage claim.

When I got there, I watched the carousel turn, surrounded by my fellow passengers, And to my glee, none of them knew about my sweet, successful revenge.