7. Flying, pt. 1. (1998)

(Originally published in “Dig” Magazine, 1999.)

I backhanded a guy on a plane returning from Los Angeles not too long ago. I was reluctant to tell the story because it could make me seem like some sort of short-fused prick, which really isn’t true, but it is pretty nuts and just illustrates how unnecessarily fussy people can be.

I was sitting next to a very nice, very attractive, upscale woman probably in her early 30’s and much to my surprise, she talked to me pretty consistently throughout the flight. She was interesting enough that I didn’t realize the flight was arriving late and I only had five minutes to reach my connection; Once I did I immediately stepped into the aisle and, continuing our conversation, so did she.

Sitting catty-corner from us was a guy drinking Jack & Coke’s, and reading a book about the ‘70’s TV show “BJ & the Bear”; “BJ” being a man, “Bear” being a monkey, and the series being one of the worst I’ve ever accidentally witnessed.

The man bumped and shoved his way into the aisle, apparently still pissed about the cancellation of the show two decades earlier. After being pushed into the seats a few times, my seatmate asked him very politely if he would mind waiting a minute to get settled because she was getting hit every time he moved.

“I’ve got to put my STUFF in my BAG so I can get off the PLANE! Jesus.” A few minutes later, after pushing her a bit more and clipping her with his bag from the overhead compartment, she asked again if he could possibly wait a minute to thrash around. “FUCK YOU BITCH” he says, and then glares at her for having the audacity to speak to him again.

After taking a minute to compose herself, the woman said calmly “I really feel sorry for people that have no control over their anger.” “…WHO the FUCK… blah blah blah… SHUT UP BITCH… blah blah blah… I’ll do whatever the…” Finally I say “Hey man, wind it down. We all have to stand here for a while, no reason to make it worse.” He responds “YOU PRICK, WHAT THE… blah blah blah… JUST FUCK OFF!”

In a final swing at diplomacy, I offer “Listen, please wind it down. No one wants to hear you swearing at everyone…” … but no such luck. “YOU GOT AN ISSUE WITH ME, YOU PRICK? FUCK YOU!” And in true ‘70’s TV style, he winds up and shoves me, flop-top hair flying, swearing all the while. I blinked for one second and then used the hand not on my bag to crack him squarely in the head. His sunglasses flew off, he fell into the seat behind him, and as he started gathering steam to get back up, I stared at him, pointed to the seat, and quietly told him to sit the fuck down until I got off the plane.

The stewardesses were trying to contain their laughter, my seatmate was trying to get off the plane as quickly as possible, and my next awareness was running through the airport and realizing that I had just smacked a stranger on an airplane.

Maybe he learned a lesson, but it’s likely all he was thinking is that he should have hit me first.