High Attitude, high tension from Seattle, Washington to Reno, Nevada
28.02.2007 - 01.03.2007
The two drunks were sitting across the aisle and one row behind me on the flight were getting louder, and I was starting to question the wisdom of the flight attendants who had served them the double jack and Cokes (with not much in the way of Coke). I’m not positive that trying to reason or argue with drunk people is a very good idea, so I just looked out the window and tried to ignore the constant stream of swear words. However, another passenger decided to take a different approach, and the man sitting two rows behind me finally told them to be quiet.
“Why don’t you come over here and shut me up,” one of the drunks asked, his tone suddenly nasty. “Now, why don’t you shut up and f**k off.”
This was not going to be the best flight I’d been on.
- * *
I take a lot of flights, but usually take them at very specific times to very specific places. The Monday morning and Thursday night flights are mostly full of people travelling on business, and most often pretty frequent flyers. Add to that the locations that I am flying - Newark, Seattle, San Francisco or Atlanta are large metropolitan areas with lots of business going on. On those early Monday or late Thursday flights, you pretty much get a plane full of people who have done this before, do it regularly, know what to do and aren't likely to be taking much joy in the process of travelling from point A to point B.
Occasionally, though, I fly on days other than Monday and Thursday or to locations that are more known as tourist destinations rather than places to work. Such a flight was my Wednesday night flight from Seattle to Reno. I was going down to Reno to spend a few days working, but there was a large subset of the plane that was going down to Reno for fun. Reno is the second or third largest city in Nevada (depending on whose stats you use), and in addition to the obvious draw of Nevada's legalized gambling and sports betting, the self-proclaimed "Biggest Little City In the World" is also only 35 km from Lake Tahoe and some amazing Nevada and California skiing.
Given those draws, the better portion of my mostly empty Alaska Air flight was filled with kids going skiing and grandparents going gambling, and to be expected of those going on vacation, they were already starting their good times with a few drinks at the bar.
As has become almost expected as of late, our departure time came and went, and we soon learned that we would be delayed 2 hours, meaning we would not land in Reno until 12:30 in the morning. I, having a full day of work ahead of me on Thursday, took the time to read quietly and do mental calculations in my head of how much sleep I was going to get. Some of those going on vacation, though, took the opportunity to imbibe even more alcohol.
Finally we boarded our flight, and I took my seat in an empty row near the front of the plane. In the row ahead of me sat a man who was dressed in clothes that immediately made me think protestant minister, and I assumed that he was going to Reno something more akin to work rather than the sinful pleasures of gambling. Across the aisle from him were two youngish (i.e. my age, so we'll call them youngish) men who were happy and loud, obviously mostly drunk and loud enough that the entire plane soon knew that they were from Victoria, Canada, they had been delayed 7 times today in trying to get to Reno, they passed the time of their delays by drinking, and their plans were to gamble tonight and ski tomorrow.
A few rows back a man boarded with a wild beard and hair down to the small of his back. He stumbled to his seat with bloodshot eyes, and collapsed into his seat in a bit of a heap. This amused the youngish Victorians to no end, and soon enough the more rambunctious of the two had moved to sit down beside the wild man with his wild hair. As the flight progressed, and the two drank more and more double rum and cokes (easy on the coke), they got louder and louder, more foul with their language and nastier with their tone.
Now, I'm pretty thick skinned and have no expectations of comfort on flights, so I did my best to ignore the two and read my book. Some of the other passengers didn't take the disturbance in stride though, and soon there was a few heated exchanges between cranky, sober passengers telling the drunkards to shut up, and the drunkards, cursing the sober passengers, laughing manically, and then trying to make friendly conversation with their tormenters, which just seemed to irk people even more.
There was one exchange between the drunken Victorian and a man who I can only describe as looking like Willy Nelson, if Willy Nelson had his nose chewed off by a mountain lion. He looked like the kind of guy that you wouldn't want to mess with, the kind of guy who lived in the mountains and wrestled bears for fun. But the drunken Victorian, who looked a lot like a guy who worked in an office - not exactly in fighting shape, certainly not to take on a wild, frontier man - was not deterred.
Finally, the protestant minister look-a-like sitting in front of me rang his call button, and whispered something to the flight attendant when she came by. We landed, and things were heating up in the cabin between the drunken Victorian and Willy Nelson, when the captain came on asked everyone to take their seats as security was boarding the plane.
Two Reno airport cops boarded the plane, and the protestant minister look-a-like pointed at the wild haired guy with the bloodshot eyes, the drunken Victorian who had been talking smack to Willy Nelson, and his rather surprised friend, who admittedly was a little loud before the flight took off, but had been pretty quiet most of the flight. The more drunk of the Victorians cursed, and the cop, putting on his best "respect my authority" look, told the Victorian he'd better, "watch his language, son," which was especially funny to me because the cop and the drunk were about the same age, though I didn't laugh. Laughing didn't strike me as an especially bright thing to do in the tense atmosphere of the plane.
The cops escorted the men off the plane, the one quieter Victorian looking somewhat dumbfounded and sheepish, but the other two (the wild man and Willy Nelson's tormenter) looking defiant, which I chalked up to either complete drunken ignorance or some sort of misguided stand against the man. Either way, I didn't figure that the Victorians would be doing much gambling tonight.
I, it being almost 1 in the morning, wasn't interested in doing much gambling either. I just wanted to get to my hotel and fall into a comfy bed and sleep. Sometimes the most taxing thing about travelling is the fact that you sometimes have to share a tight space with other people...