Flying is never what it seems.

I’ve flown all over the place, in doing so I have encountered a few situations that at the time were a number of emotions ranging from infuriating to bemusing. For those of us who travel we are used to the occasional delay or smelly passenger sitting right next to us. For me the encounters below rank pretty high on the “Great stories to tell people who don’t travel” index.

One of my earliest stories comes from a flight from Chicago, Illinois to Portland, Oregon. I was a fresh sailor, recently out of Boot Camp and headed home for the holidays on leave. I had gotten on the plane and there was a seat between myself and the pleasant-looking older woman in my row. The young me had not grasped how amazing this was to have that seat empty to provide space between myself and my fellow passenger for books, refuse, or even just a blanket when someone got up for the bathroom.

I was settling in when a flight attendant entered the plane with a young girl in tow. She was what seemed to be around 5 or 6 years old with a yellow ribbon pinned on the backpack she wore. As they approached I noticed the flight attendant looking in my direction and I realized that the girl was going to be sitting in the empty seat next to me. I unbuckled my seat belt, got up, and waited for the flight attendant to get the child settled in.

Take off went well, as did the beverage service. I was entertaining a 6 year old girl because she seemed to have chosen me to focus her energy on. After a few hours of this she had settled down and I sat my seat back and attempted to nap the final few hours of the flight. My eyes had been closed for a few minutes and I was feeling myself slip into that wondrous area between waking and sleep where you hear everything going on around you but you can’t move. Almost instantly upon reaching this state of paralysis I felt the small fingers of a 6 year old begin to poke my arm.

I couldn’t move but I was aware of the little girl as she began to poke and prod me to try and get my attention. I was wavering between consciousness and sleep, and anyone who is recently out of Boot Camp knows, you crave any moment of sleep you can get. So I remained immobile and I heard the voice of the woman on the other side of the girl urge her to let me sleep and the fingers retreated from my arm, face, and neck.

Once again I settle further into oblivion, thoughts about the passenger next to me had disappeared and I was on the doorstep of sleep. Wetness, I felt wetness on my cheek. Then on my forehead, then on my cheek again. I was ripped back to awareness. I couldn’t open my eyes, I was still half asleep, but I was aware of breath on my eyelids. Then more wetness…WHAT IS GOING ON?????? After my initial shock I realized that the young lady was placing kisses all over my face in an attempt to wake me up, and they were very wet. I kept my eyes closed and refused to give in to the attempts to wake me. I heard laughing from the woman on the other side, and even a flight attendant who swooped in to rescue me by offering crayons and a coloring book to the child. Immediately I was forgotten and I slipped rapidly into the airplane sleep we all experience, light and barely restive. When I woke again we were descending into Portland for landing. I was able to distract the girl from the violence of an airplane landing and the long taxi to the gate.

Upon deboarding a flight attendant stopped me and thanked me for helping with the child as much as I did, and apologized for the kisses. I was gracious and asked “What kisses?” The attendant laughed and I headed out the gangplank to my waiting family.

This instance occurred when I was 18, 20 years later it is still one of the funniest things I have ever experienced while traveling. In the future I will share more of my traveling experiences, including my screaming contest with a monkey.


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