Payback at 30,000 Feet

By Sunday, June 1, 2014 2 No tags Permalink

The worst trip of my life was PHL to MSP on the Tuesday after Memorial Day about 5 years ago. It was the first flight out so figure it was leaving around 7:30 a.m. and it was a regional jet so it was 2:2 seating.

My seatmate was a young man – maybe 22 – and he explained to me that he was heading home from Vegas and had spent the night sleeping in the airport. This was curious. Who flies from Vegas to Minneapolis via Philly? Well, of course, no one unless you missed your original flight or were so drunk you thought Philly was a half way point between Nevada and Minnesota.

We taxied out to the runway and seatmate started to get up, make noises. He was told to sit down and when I looked at him, I saw the problem. He was green. He wasn’t going to make it. He sat down and proceeded to explode, vomiting all over the place. (Confirming my belief that he was inebriated).

My racquet sport reflexes didn’t fail me and I quickly grabbed my Burberry bag and simultaneously pivoted my entire body into the center aisle — within seconds of his explosion. I held hands with the 70-year old man one seat diagonally behind me.

This was when I started thinking about payback at 30,000 feet. I didn’t, incidentally, seek revenge on this kid. I mean, what could I do? Muster up my own vomiting drama?

Payback is an old shoe in the airline travel business. And it’s high time women started to play. Sometimes I wonder if the real quotes weren’t meant to be: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned (in first class),” or “Vengeance is mine; I will repay (during takeoff)”.

Payback can be petty. Take last week, for example, I was in exit row and my seatmate, while unobtrusive and respectful of space issues, had a cold. Full scale nose blowing, loud sneezing, cold. Every time I nodded off, he would cough vehemently. So, when he finally passed out, I did what any respectable female corporate traveler would do: I did it right back to him while adding some choking sounds.

Meanwhile, the guy behind me was one of those types that had to pull my chair back whenever he got up or sat down. This move is usually reserved for amateurs. But this guy looked like an experienced traveler and since he was in exit row, I assumed he had some sort of status. So what was he doing pulling my chair back to place himself in his seat? Payback time. En route back to my seat from the restroom, I lost my balance right at 11C and plunged my knee into his leg and subsequently stepped on his foot.

I know this sounds immature, but it’s done all the time. What to do when your seatmate is a snorer? Elbow him. When your seatmate takes off his shoes? Feign nausea. I’m actually quite good at this – I lean over and shake a lot like I’m trying to chase throw up away and then I say things like, “Oh God, I hope I don’t get sick.” Most people would prefer to have their shoes on when their traveling neighbor is threatening to puke.

Write and tell me why and how you’ve played payback. I need some new moves!


  • TK
    June 2, 2014

    Brutal vomit story and admirable retaliation moves, I like it. Sometimes its the little things that keep us going. I’ll share my classic move. Issue: legroom hog (ALL the time-really guys?). I pull my bag out from under the seat, put it on my lap, dig through it for a minute, then put it down in a side rotation and shove the offending legs out of my space with my bag. I usually smile and say “oh, excuse me, I didnt realize your legs were in my space”. The force of the shove is determined by my charcter assesment of the offender. It can go from a light grazing(just clueless) to an all out whack(total dbag-even his mom knows it). I run this on repeat until the message is received…you may need to adminster a mid-flight reminder if its more than 2 hours.

    • Zoe Vogel
      June 2, 2014

      Good stuff! Thanks for the bag banging strategy! I will use it for sure as I imagine many other readers will as well! I look forward to more stories from you; given your travel schedule, I’m sure readers will relish your insights as much as your instincts!

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