Standing in the aisle of the aircraft, someone farther down the line trying to make a 34-inch long bag fit into a 31-inch overhead bin, while the rest of us behind stand patiently, not making eye contact, laden with carry-ons. As I waited, I counted the rows, scoping out my spot. 6… 7… 8… 9. There it is. My little seat by the window, 9F, waiting for me.
A small, middle-aged Asian woman on the aisle. A large man in the middle seat next to mine. I give them the news they knew was coming, I need them to move so I can get to the window seat. They unbuckle their belts and move into the aisle to open a way for me.
I slide into my seat, getting my iPod and a magazine out of my tote before stowing it under the seat.
Mr. Big in 9E sat back down. He elbowed me hard a couple of times as he was settling in and buckling up.
The flight attendant made the safety announcements, when all passengers concentrate especially hard on their magazines/books so they don’t seem uncool, and we were off.
Mr. Big in 9E had a wide stance, so our thighs were touching most of the trip. But what bothered me more was his wing span. There would be no “arm rest-ling” with this man. Mr. Big in 9E made no effort to fit within his space. His upper arm and elbow were in my ribs and stomach for the entire duration of the trip.
The proximity is why I couldn’t help but see Mr. Big in 9E’s reading materials.
Mr. Big in 9E had a huge white envelope in the seat pocket in front of him. From it, he removed a thick ream of paper, bound with a big metal clip. It was a one-sided photocopy of a book: “How to Handle Bio Fuels.”
“Hmm,” I thought. “Mr. Big in 9E is a green guy, a lover of the earth. Nice.”
Mr. Big in 9E reached into the front pocket of his button-up shirt and brought out a template. Circles, triangles, squares, all in increasing mm sizes. He used the template as a straight edge, underlining passages in the photocopied book.
I started contemplating copyrights. Then I started wondering why someone who was green, who cared for the earth, would have used what looked like an entire ream of paper to do a one-sided photocopy of a book.
He got through the ream quickly, and replaced it in the envelope. I was able to take a nice deep breath of air as he leaned forward, removing his giant arm and elbow from my ribs.
As I was taking that breath, he fished out another piece of reading material, a small pamphlet, from the envelope.
Ugh! He leaned back into his seat, his beefy arm and elbow coming right back into my stomach and ribs. I wondered if the Asian woman on his other side was getting the same treatment.
The cover on the pamphlet said “How to Load Cartridges.”
“Oh, is Mr. Big in 9E a printer repair guy?” I wondered to myself. Then I thought “… what do bio fuel and printer cartridges have in common?” Mr. Big in 9E was multi-faceted. A complex man. Hmmm.
I closed my eyes and tried to be small – not an easy feat for me. I tried to think about the podcast I was listening to on the iPod and forget about the big arm and elbow that had me pinned into 9F.
When I opened my eyes a few minutes later, I glimpsed at Mr. Big’s book.
At the top of the page was a drawing of a missle-shaped object. Then a few paragraphs. Then a couple of photos. The photos were black and white. I squinted a little bit. A man, holding something, squatted down by… what was that? A man, holding a huge gun, squatted over a lion.
The photo underneath was a different man, holding a different huge gun, his foot on top of his kill, a leopard.
Holy crappity! Mr. Big in 9E was not a printer repair guy. He was a big game hunter! Mr. Big in 9E likes guns and killing things! And he is still WAY in MY personal space… elbow and upper arm right up against me. Like he isn’t even aware that’s me, not a seat cushion, that he’s resting on.
Not that I am so surprised by that. I think my friend Polly is the one I first heard put it into words: once a woman hits middle age, she becomes invisible. I started disappearing around my 40th birthday. By the age of 45, I had become completely transparent, blending in and becoming invisible in any environment. When I’m in public, no one knows I exist. I guess that’s why I figured he was treating me like a sofa pillow.
An Ode to Mr. Big in 9E
Who are you, Mr. Big in 9E, with your wide stance and beefy elbow wings spread,
Holding me down in 9F as you read your tree-killing book about keeping bio-healthy gas guzzlers fed?
Who are you, Mr. Big in 9E, who makes weapons more lethal, and celebrates exotic animal homocide,
the suggestion of yellow mustache on your lip, a non-printer-fixing arm on my side?
Who are you, Mr. Big in 9E? You are an enigma to me.