Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Screaming Lady

Most of you probably heard this story right after it happened, but for those of you who are new to my exploits, here goes my craziest on-plane story.

I was on my way to Houston, TX from Dallas, TX on a small commuter jet; three seats across (one seat on one side, two seats on the other side of the aisle). I was sitting in the second to last seat on the side with only one seat. The last lady to board the plane sat behind me in the very last seat. When she passed me, she was sniffling just a bit and had watery eyes. I assumed she had probably just left someone she loved and was a bit emotional.

Anyway, when the plane started up, I could hear the lady sniffling a bit louder behind me. And then, when the plane started moving, she began to sob a bit. And as you might guess, when the plane took off, the sobbing increased. It was at this point, I realized she must have a fear of flying. I was conflicted as to whether to turn around and offer a warm and comforting gesture or respect her privacy. Since she was much older than me (interpretation: I was not attracted to her - for shame!), I decided to respect her privacy (interpretation: I leaned back in my seat to take a snooze).

About thirty minutes into the flight, we hit some very significant turbulence. At this point, the lady completely panicked. She reached around my chair to grab hold of it, but she also got two handfuls of my hair. Before this story progresses, I must remind people that I used to have very long and very curly hair. So, my hair and her fingers were like Velcro.

Besides grabbing two handfuls of my hair, she started yelling at the top of her lungs, “If anyone survives, let my son know I love him. Let my son know I love him.” And each time we hit turbulence, she yanked my head back and forth while she was yelling her undying love for her son. In retrospect, you have to admire that her love for son is what emerged when she was in complete panic mode.

So, there I was, pinned to my chair by a panicked lady alternating between screaming and sobbing. I was gently trying to pry her fingers out of my curly hair, but I had no luck. During this time, I could hear the two ladies who were sitting across the aisle from her talking to her. One lady was saying “Tell me about your son. How old is he? Where does he live? Please let loose of the nice man’s hair.” I later found out this lady was a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I could hear the other lady saying comments such as, “I really like your hair. Where do you get it done? Let the man’s hair go so I can see you nails.” As you might guess, this lady was a Licensed Cosmetologist. The flight attendant was seat belted in at the front of the plane during this whole ordeal. I made eye contact with her repeatedly during my traumatic experience, but she did not budge. Of course most of the passengers looked back to see what was going on, but the only two passengers to get involved were the Therapist and Cosmetologist (God bless them).

So, for about 10-15 minutes, my reality consisted of the lady yanking my hair, screaming, and sobbing while the other two ladies tried to distract her and get her to let go of my hair. Finally, one hand released so she could show the Cosmetologist her nails. And then I heard the Cosmetologist say, “Oh my, those are lovely nails. Is your other hand done the same?” A few seconds later, the other hand released. As you might guess, I quickly leaned forward as far as I could in my seat. Out of my peripheral vision I could see two hands extended into the aisle, and I could hear the lady behind me sniffling. I did not want to overly embarrass the lady behind me, so I did not look back at her. However, I did glance around to my right and mouth “thank you” to the two ladies.

Throughout the rest of the flight, every time we would hit turbulence, I would lean forward so the lady could grab my seat unrestricted, scream at the top of her lungs, and/or sob uncontrollably. When we finally landed in Houston, and the plane came to a stop, the sobbing stopped immediately. The lady rushed by me (I am assuming because she was embarrassed). I walked off the plane with the Therapist and Cosmetologist, thanking them for helping me. I gave the flight attendant a scathing look that said, “Thanks for nothing.”

And so ends the story of the screaming lady.

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