With much 'excuse me' 'sorry for existing' huffing and puffing down the aisle, wriggling toddler on hip and body bag on shoulder, I found our row. And I found the lady, herefore to be known as Cruella de Vil, seated on the aisle. She saw us coming, realized we were heading for her, rolled her eyes to heaven and spat to the skies 'you have got to be fricking kidding me.'
I mean, I get it, I do. I wouldn't choose to sit beside a toddler either, but really do you say that out loud? I offered to switch seats with her, give her the window, she asked 'why should I be the one to move?' Then I was told about her knee surgery, as Cruella pointed at my cherub face sticky fingered, red cheeked little guy and said, 'if he touches my knees I will scream.' Internally I released a scream so loud that Dolphins in Florida are still cleaning out their ears.
Then, unbelievably, as Cian was balancing on one leg, two fingers up his nose and headbanging the seat in front of him, she embarked on a chat with me. All cosy like, not a care in the world, listing off her health problems, four heart attacks, diabetes, kidney something or other, obviously wonky knees and a severe reaction to children. I didn't care, but I found myself saying things like, 'isn't that awful, you poor thing.' Why? Why was I being so nice to this hateful woman? She ignored Wylie Coyote beside me, and continued to tell me about her dogs, and how they were going to miss her terribly. Two rottweilers who I envisaged would escort her in through the gates of hell one day. When I asked her, ever so nicely to move so I could go change the kicking toddlers stinking nappy, with much drama, and yes, some shreiking, she got to her feet to allow us half an inch to squeeze into the aisle. Through out the 15 hour flight she found everything she could wrong with the airline, their blankets were too thin, the curvy air hostess had it in for her because she kept banging into her, the cost of the flight, the lumpy pillows, the inedible food. And at all times, I nodded, agreed, oohed and ahhhed and was nice to her, this grumpy, horrible woman. Eventually Cian went to sleep after both of us had had a little cry, and I finally plugged in my headphones to watch a movie. Cruella prodded me, again and again to tell me countless times that she had a headache. I have a toddler but she has a headache.
There were no free seats on the plane. Believe me I looked. The flight ended thankfully. But I did wonder afterwards what is the etiquette in a situation like that? Why did I feel the need to be nice to her, and listen to her complaints? Surely I should have shut her down right from the get go, in a firm but fair manner? What happens on a 15 hour flight then?
We didn't exchange numbers.