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So Bad, It’s Good: My Surreal Return Flight from Vegas

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Flight Horror Stories

Flight Horror Stories

Most any traveler has their own flight horror stories.  How terrible those flights truly were varies, of course.  But in the moment, any one individual can consider theirs the worst.  I recently experienced my personal version of that coming home from Las Vegas.  The reason I know it’s my worst is I can’t remember the combined, unwelcomed wackiness and randomness on any of my other flights.  Let’s dive in, chronologically.  Enjoy (or maybe not)!

The Middle Seat

There’s much I don’t remember, including the last time I sat in a middle airplane seat.  But it was my only option after I decided to make an unexpected change in my flights returning home.  Part of the change involved transiting Dulles, perhaps my least-favorite domestic airport, on the way home.  I had avoided it for years, but now I’ve been through it twice in the matter of a few weeks.  Go figure.

Anyway, I had no other options but middle seats close-in to my departure date.  I begrudgingly chose one of the remaining seats (all middle) on my flight, this one in row 29 on a United 757.  (Why does it seem all United planes are 757’s?)

I arrived at said middle seat, with my window neighbor coming soon after.  He grunted about being in the window seat.  An early morning flight, I considered his hint of grumpiness justified.  I would soon find out there was another reason.

Flight Horror Stories

Things Get Ripe

My neighbor on the aisle subsequently arrived – a nice, fairly quiet woman wearing a peach-colored sweatshirt vaguely proclaiming “Las Vegas” on its front.  She kept a large plastic bag with its rectangular contents on her lap.  We sat at the gate for what seemed like forever.  United seems to board much earlier than other carriers, about 50 minutes before this flight’s takeoff.  On top of that, we were late pushing back from the gate.  I don’t know why, but then again, I didn’t care enough.  Setting down my Chuck Klosterman book and taking out my earbuds to hear the Captain was too much work – true laziness on my part.

As we finished pushing back, I noticed my window seat mate pulling out his bag.  And I don’t mean one holding Funyuns or a knot of personal electronics wires.  Instead, he pulled out the cliche one, the barf bag.  Leaning forward, he started with heavy breathing, then dry heaving, a bit spitting, and finally, the liquid showtime.

I simply averted my eyes toward Las Vegas sweatshirt lady on the aisle.  As we shared a knowing glance, she presumed window guy’s noise-cancelling headphones were activated, while matter-of-factly telling me someone went too hard last night.  Individuals in front of us looked back at Ralph at the window in disgust, as if he had insulted members of their family.  Whether Ralph was to blame for his predicament, I don’t know.  Perhaps he didn’t overdo it the night before, maybe he’s just nervous on planes.  Or perhaps both.  I was annoyed, but I decided to just keep looking the other way.  Ralph felt physically bad enough; he didn’t need judgment from others on the plane – not the noticeable kind, at least.

Flight Horror Stories

Time For Baja Fresh, Of Course

Once airborne, Ralph was still going at it, off and on.  After reaching altitude, Las Vegas lady unveils her treasure: a formidably-sized container of Baja Fresh.  Because a large AM serving of Baja Fresh before or during a flight is an excellent idea.  Las Vegas lady was entirely unphased eating her Baja Fresh while Ralph continued expelling his demons mere feet away.  Sitting between them, I experienced all the sounds and smells in stereo.  I found myself increasing the volume to my earbuds, somehow thinking overdoing one sense will distract everything else around me.

Let’s Have Everything

Soon after, the snack box and beverage service started.  I opted for a cup of water to stay hydrated.  On my same row across the aisle, the travelers seemed to order everything.  Tito’s and boxes for everybody!  Between their large order and inability to manipulate payment with their phones, the flight attendant was there for about 15 minutes, hovering over us.  Even Las Vegas lady paused her Baja Fresh, as that much time with a posterior in her face wasn’t apparently compatible with her breakfast.  My middle seat did the job here, keeping me a few feet of distance away.  That’s what I told myself, at least.

Mission accomplished.

The Seatbelt Sign Stays On

I enjoyed a quick trip to the LAS Centurion Lounge before the flight.  I’d taken care of my business before boarding.  But with my small cup of inflight water, I knew a quick bathroom visit was in front of me.  Meanwhile, the flight’s a bit bumpy, and the seatbelt sign stayed on.  Eventually, I became an outlaw.

Meanwhile, I don’t like inconveniencing people – it’s one of the reasons I opt for aisle seats.  I’d rather not have to ask others to get up for me.  But Las Vegas lady had just finished her Baja Fresh, and I offered to take her bag of trash with me.  After she accepted this offer, I darted to the lavatory with the seatbelt sign on.

As I arrived in the rear galley with a half-consumed bag of Baja Fresh, I sheepishly asked the flight attendant to dispose of it.  She tentatively accepted the not-small package.

Ralph Returns

I settled back into my seat after the lavatory visit, and Ralph wanted to remind me he was still there.  His bag seemed bottomless.  By the time I considered offering him mine, he quietly leaned forward on his tray table.  Perhaps things had subsided.

I was wrong on both accounts.  On our descent to Dulles, he asked for my bag.  I promptly provided it, finally assessing that I should’ve given him this auxiliary much earlier in the flight.  I’ll do better next time.

Flight Horror Stories

Flight Horror Stories – Conclusion

I could go on, but I’ll stop this edition of flight horror stories here.  I loathed this unpleasant flight experience in the moment, but I look back now thinking I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  The confluence of events made the flight an entertaining one.  (Of course, I don’t wish ill on anyone.)  Perhaps I enjoyed the sense of community we were all forced into – during those few hours and otherwise.  We’re all just trying to get by.  And we’ll always share that common bond – no matter how much we may ignore one another.

Life is beautiful.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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  1. If it’ s middle seat or nothing I’ll take nothing all day everyday. There’s always another flight (if it’s life or death then… maybe?) Hours of fresh hell like that, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

  2. LAS seems to be a hotbed of painful travel. Although mine seems to be more of an inconvenience compared to what the author had to deal with here.
    I had a connecting flight from LAS to LAX in order to return home cross country to BOS. I could have taken the direct from LAS but I booked a Delta One seat and stopped a few nights in Los Angeles before the Las Vegas stay.
    Smoke from the wildfires in CA the day I was to leave cancelled all the morning flights out of LAS and my rebooked flight was the next morning. My flight from LAX was still leaving on schedule so I had to find other options quickly.
    Everything was booked into the evening on every carrier due to the disruption… but my friend came to the rescue as he drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for the event we both attended and offered to drive me to LAX.
    7 hours later, I arrive with an hour to spare… the dedicated Delta One entrance was wonderful and crisis averted in the end.


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