3.11.2011

The Tsunami vs. The Airplane

The lady next to me on the plane is sleeping.

You have absolutely no idea how thankful for this I am, or the weight that particular statement carries. I've been on the plane for about an hour, and for 50 minutes of that hour, the lady next to me has been absolutely adamant that she have a view of the ocean. When she sat next to me in her middle seat, she grabbed my arm, looked right into my eyes, and said "WE MUST SEE THE OCEAN!"

We're in a middle row.

I said "Uh, I don't think that's going to happen..."

She replied that we will be flying over the ocean for a moment as we depart from LAX, and we need to see it. I replied that I knew we would end up in the air over the ocean, but that our seating would make it difficult.

She then began hyperventilating and breathlessly trying to say "OHMYGOD" over and over and over. The entire time, she's got a death grip on my right arm.

Now, aside from the whole I-fucking-hate-strangers-who-touch-me-thing, this death grip wasn't that big a deal. She's tiny - maybe five feet high, if that, with hands that can't even begin to wrap around my arm. So I'm not in any pain during any of this, I'm just freaked the fuck out.

As is she.  And during the fifty minutes this ordeal went on, she went on to explain how vital it was we get in the air on time, and did I know there was an earthquake in Japan which caused a 300 foot tsunami which is racing toward us and is going to plunge Los Angeles into the sea?

I tried to explain to her that no one else was panicking, and for good reason, because even though the destruction in Japan is devastating, the swell that would reach the west coast in just a few minutes would be between one and three feet high, and as such, the only people who are going to really need to hurry to get anywhere are surfers, for the primo spots.

It didn't help much. She was panicked. She seems normal in every other regard. I suppose she just got the idea in her head that we were in danger, and it was really hard for her to realize it wasn't going to happen the way she was imagining.

I tried employing the earphone defense, which left the guy to her right to deal with it all. It worked for a short while, until I felt a tap on my shoulder and a series of incredibly hard to understand questions about flight times, scheduled departure, sea swells and if I knew anyone in Japan or Hawaii. I do, and all have been heard from and accounted for. They were healthy and fine.

When we took off, I let her lean over and look out the window through the gaps formed by the faces of our neighbors, and things seemed somewhat calm -- a little froth on the shores, but nothing crazy. That seemed to calm her down.

And now, she's asleep, and I'm on the airplane WiFi, typing this up for you fine folks and trying my best to breathe, as I am terribly sick. I'm willing to bet that between her hyperventilating and my horribly nasal, raspy responses, the people around us think we're both from a Baltic country of one sort or another.

Excuse me, I need to get some ginger ale and orange juice.