Every so often I surprise myself with my actions, especially when they are not ones that I am proud of, but sometimes necessity takes over. The following example probably represents the best and worst of traveling passengers who are doomed to coexist in their journeys.

The story starts off in the Nashville International Airport, where I find myself waiting for a flight to Philadelphia for a long weekend trip to see family. Waiting for that initial boarding call, I notice a man who is obviously under the weather. You know the one I’m talking about, don’t you? Of course you do because everyone in the terminal seems to be pointing this gentleman out. It isn’t just that he appears sick, the noises that emanate from this man give him away immediately. It’s that noise of clearing sinuses that can only be compared to the mythical reverberation of the Chupacabra or if you remember the redneck that gave Steve Martin and John Candy the ride in the back of a pickup truck in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It seems to echo into the nether regions of Concourse C as the boarding begins. Silently, all passengers look at each other with that trembling fear of, “Oh Please God, don’t let this man sit near me.”

Now first let me explain myself and give you some background. I’m not a germaphobe but I have had my tendencies in the past to avoid hacking sick people at a moments notice. I’ve somewhat mellowed in this department as I realized that even the greatest of efforts to ward off sickness seem to fall flat. But on a plane? A traveling tube of somewhat filtered DNA? That old-style mentality kicks in and I look to the heavens for forgiveness and redemption.

Mercy Was Given

As the line slowly filters into the test tube with wings, a great sigh of relief envelops all the passengers when we hear the best word ever on a flight. “Spread out folks, plenty of room on the flight today.” It was as if a repellent was sprayed onto this gentleman and we were the fleas bouncing off. Not a soul sat within 3 rows of this coughing and nasal-cleansing passenger. And for the next 2 hours, we enjoyed our pleasant trip to Pennsylvania.

As you know, life can throw some curveballs your way and just as fast as the good can happen, so can the bad. Fast forward 4 days. I’m sitting at the gate for my Nashville departure when all of a sudden I hear the painful bellow of mucus vibrating behind me. No, it couldn’t be…it isn’t….and then, as I turn my head, I’m met face to face with the ONE! How could I have met such a fate? I quickly snap myself out of the disbelief and lullaby melody of a lawnmower slicing through jello sounds I hear from behind and move to the other side of the gate waiting area. Crisis averted. The world is good again.

Time to board and I shudder to think of the poor sap who will now place their health in God’s hands as we enter the plane. As I quickly stash my belongings and start to take off my coat for stowing in the compartment, a face appears above the rows of seats, and soon the mating call of the nasal discharged Chupacabra echos the dreadful words, “Looks like we’re traveling together. Want me to stow your coat above?” Quickly I think to myself of what my response should be….”Uhhh, no…but thanks! I’m a bit tired and I think I will use the coat to get some shuteye.” With a smirk, he settles into his seat next to me. It might as well been covered with the paper you’d see in the patient rooms at the doctor’s office as he quickly morphed into Snotty McSnottster.

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Mercy Was Taken!

I’m not the rude guy on the plane, never have been. If the conversation is good and seems sincere, I’ll chat. But this wasn’t that time. I could tell he wanted to talk as he started to ask questions of what I do for a living, where I lived, and so on and so on. But unlucky for this guy, my germ prevention stance went up like an eruption of a volcano, answered quickly between his snorts and draped the coat over every orifice to prevent contamination. It was as if I was Harry Potter and my coat was the invisibility cloak. Maybe he won’t see me if I’m under here. Hell, I wasn’t even tired, but for the next two hours I sat in a cramped position listening to the ungodly sounds of drainage making its way from top to bottom. Knowing that to prevent this toxic air from invading me, I should take refuge under the air dispenser above me at full blast, I position it perfectly. Just enough to ward off any potential wanderers of spit.

And then it happened. The only exposed part of my body, my hair suddenly stops blowing from the breeze above me. As if someone just called my Momma something, I jerk up to see my infected seatmate turning my air off. Are you friggin kidding me dude! My response in my nicest yet take notice way is, “Can I help you?” To which he says, “Oh, you want this on?” Uhhhh, seriously? Are you going to take away the only Kryptonite I have? As the air again turns on, I see the last glimpse of him for the next hour and a half. With nose cocked up ready to suck in the sour taste of his snot, he disappears beyond the fabric of my coat. It was a bunch of protection for an event that never should have happened. Why? Because I found out that he wasn’t even in the right seat! Foiled by a fellow passenger that simply didn’t want to disturb the guy next to me. No good deed…

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My question is, “Am I wrong?” Should I have just “sucked” it up and talked to this germ factory for two hours and ignore my protective instincts? Maybe this guy had much to offer in terms of dialogue. Maybe he had a story to tell. Maybe….? I don’t like to be that guy, but on this day I was. But, at least I wasn’t that guy, because in the end I know that all people, including myself, get sick and have to fly. But there’s no reason to break the sound barrier with your nostrils and don’t start up a conversation with someone if you know you hold the keys to a few weeks worth of misery for the recipient. ¬†Happy travels to all and to that man in Row 18? Go see a doctor!