No sooner had I sat down on the plane from Chicago to Dublin than the lady directly across the aisle to the right of me began to make some unfortunate throat sounds. I turned to see her leap into the air with a hand cupped over her mouth and her head shaking ominously.

“Just great!” groaned everybody. “She’s gonna blow!”

Fortunately for her and everyone else, the mid-plane bathroom was just two rows back. When I saw that her retching hole was safely pointed away from my direction I returned to my peaceful existence and figured she’d be ok. But a few moments later I was still hearing the disturbing choking plus something like the sound of cat claws on a chalkboard. I turned to see her breaking nails in an attempt to open the complicated door latch, a futile attempt anyway since somebody had already occupied the bathroom. Now she began a second dash to the other side of the plane, all the while like Medusa endangering everyone that fell in her line of sight/oral projection.

“Oh no!” screamed everyone.

But miraculously she managed to keep her stomach contents balanced midway up her esophagus long enough to make it into the second bathroom and everyone was spared a tragedy or worse. She came out momentarily looking sheepish and apologized to one and all nearby, proclaiming “I’m not ill, really! I just sucked some apple juice down the wrong whatever.”

The Irish lady seated next to her sounded like she’d been pulled off central casting with her stereotypical word choices:

“Now, now dearie, you’re all well again. Here love, just take a small sip of water to clear your throat.”

“No,” the almost-barfer replied, “I don’t think I will take another sip. Thanks.”

Next to me on the left were two more ladies, a mother and daughter, heading to Ireland for a week’s vacation. They were from Springfield, Missouri and I told them I’d been there before, and seen the big Bass Pro store with the waterfall and the bears. The daughter seemed like your typical mid-30s single American female with thick glasses, a lip ring, arms tattooed to who-knows-where, and probably purple hair only I couldn’t tell because she was wearing a knitted cap. In fact both she and her mom were knitting away furiously and I guess it goes to show you can bring sharpened steel spikes a foot long onto the plane and brandish them about at high speed, but God forbid you try to bring a bottle of hand lotion.

The daughter was one of those types who have a genuine but somewhat illogical fear of certain aspects of flying, which I have never quite understood but have observed that for the victim it seems to be a very real phenomena.

The daughter asked me, “Have you ever flown on one of these really big planes before?”

“It’s been a while but yeah.”

“I’m just wondering how they are compared to the smaller planes, especially the ‘going up.’” (Those were her exact words.)

“The ‘going up’ seems to me about the same thing in a big plane or a small one,” I told her.

“Well I hope so,” she said, “I don’t mind the coming down but I really have a problem with the going up.”

From my point of view the going down is the part where you crash so that kind of seems the worser of the two, but that’s just me. I also made the mistake of saying this out loud, but she didn’t seem to think it was a joke.

“What about night,” she asked, “have you flown at night before?”


“Is it different?”

“It’s darker is about the only difference I noticed.”

She renewed her knitting at double pace while considering these highly important pieces of new information that I’m sure she couldn’t have obtained from any other wise person than myself.

However, contrary to her predictions she did pretty well on the takeoff, which is over in a few seconds anyway. Sadly we had turbulence all across the Atlantic which did not please her, or me for that matter because it prevented anyone from standing up and stretching their legs. I did stand up anyway but immediately had a stewardess ask me kindly to please sit back down.

After 7 hours of sitting on what felt like a marble slab and without one minute of sleep possible, we finally began to descend and now the daughter was really beginning to panic. I offered her my sound-canceling headphones and she gladly accepted them even though she had never heard of such things before. (No, these were not the Apple Airpods but a set of Sony over-the-ear headphones which are even better.)

At each new creak and groan and thump of the landing gear and squeal of the flaps her Mom offered helpful comments in a loud voice, “Good thing you’re wearing those, you sure wouldn’t want to hear that!”

But the daughter just smiled in her artificially generated silence and we all landed and managed to remain calm.

While standing in the aisle waiting to exit I started talking to a young kid behind us, who turned out to be from Midland, Texas. He was on his way to Scotland for a month before he started a new job and his life of youthful freedom would come to an end. I thought that was pretty adventurous but then he also added that he had a girlfriend in Scotland who was meeting him and who would move back to the States with him at the end of the month.

Well that sounds exciting but this made me rethink his adventurous nature as that didn’t seem to involve quite enough pain and suffering to qualify.

He asked what I was doing and I told him I’d be living in France for a few months and then maybe elsewhere afterwards, just working remotely. He seemed impressed and was very interested to know how long I’d been living such an exhilarating lifestyle.

“Buddy,” I said, “this is day one.”

So in the end he was probably equally as dubious of my adventuresome qualities as I was of his.

It was pitch black in Dublin so I didn’t see one shred of Ireland. I did see that the next flight after ours was headed to the North Pole though.

Next flight for somebody – the North Pole