The kindness of a fellow passenger in averting deep vein thrombosis on the flight to Madrid

I was at San Jose airport departures when I first saw him.
As I filled out forms at the entrance to the Iberia check in desk he appeared, asking the attendant if he could keep an eye on his bags while he went to the counter to pay his exit tax.
The attendant said that he could not….according to security regulations he had to keep his bags with him at all times. Unattended bags ran a risk of being hoovered up by the airport police and taken to a bourne from which no suitcase was known to return.
There was a brief altercation, but by that time I had moved on to the desk where my suitcase was whisked away with assurances that it would be sent through on my connecting flight while I – the paying passenger – would have to get the boarding card for my connection on arrival at Madrid.
Could they not ticket me through?
But you can do it for the suitcase.
The Senora is not a suitcase.
Unarguable, really.

Past security – where the abandonment of the idea of passengers removing their shoes may be due to the cost of providing staff with gas masks – and off into the airport proper.
Expensive shops selling tat for tourists, even more expensive food and drink outlets and a cubicle offering massages which gathers hopeful looks from passing male passengers before their wives follow the direction of their gaze and urge them past the danger zone.

Boarding the ‘plane by groups…..
Welcome to our Platinum, Diamond and other assorted rocks customers who are welcome to board together with priority passengers….
So the freeloaders line up with the harassed parents with toddlers and pushchairs, while there is a Gadarene rush to the loos on the part of the rest of the passengers.

The even tenor of proceedings in the Ladies is disturbed by an elderly man in a pork pie hat who bursts in calling for his wife….their group is boarding!

His wife, to judge from her response, has other priorities….my Spanish vocabulary is extended, particularly when he rushes from cubicle to cubicle imploring her in the name of various saints and the Virgin to emerge, which incites other ladies to make known their views on elderly gentleman in general and elderly gentlemen in pork pie hats in the Ladies loo in particular.
He is ejected by an attendant: his wife surges majestically from her cubicle and begins to adjust her make up.

By the time I return to the waiting area my group is being called, and as I sit down to wait for the queue to reduce the man I had noticed at the check in line appears, trundling his trolley in the direction of the loos.

Duly boarded, my carry on bag shoved into the overhead locker, I occupy my aisle seat.
Other groups board; the window seat remains unoccupied.
A couple board with cats in carry on cages and sit in the centre seats.
A French man behind me starts to sneeze, claiming an allergy but does not, as he hopes, get an upgrade; just an exchange with a non allergic person further up the ‘plane.
The cats miaow.
A child wails.
Still no window seat passenger.

The stewards are closing the lockers when he appears….the man from the check in.
The window seat passenger.

He starts shifting all the bags in the lockers to make room for his as I stand to let him get to his seat.


And a blast he was all the ten hours to Madrid.

If he wasn’t raking out his ears he was clearing his nose.
When he’d finished on that he started hawking into his handkerchief.
The man was an otorhinolaryngologist’s dream.
Or nightmare.

Then, by way of variation, he needed to visit the loo.
Three times before the meal was served.

I asked him if he would prefer the aisle seat.
No, he would not. He had paid for a window seat (on a night flight) and a window seat he would have.

After the meal service was cleared away the plane was prepared for the night. My companion visited the loo again and it looked as if he might settle down.
But there was yet one more shot in his overhead locker.
He got up to retrieve one of his bags..
He sat down again and, delving within, produced a plastic container and with the aid of the contents thereof he removed his contact lenses and cleaned both them and his eyes.
Then he put the whole lot away again.

As a kindly – and very handsome – steward had given me an additional bottle of wine with the meal I was ready for a nap…..but fat chance with the perpetual bowel motion machine inboard of me.
He was in and out of his seat like a dog at a fair…..interspersed with the ear nose and throat routine…..and the reversal of the contact lens procedure just as breakfast was served.

All he seemed to miss out on was colonic irrigation.

So it was that I was not in the best of tempers when landing at Madrid in search of my onward ticket to London, but Iberia, accustomed to the old Spanish practices of their network, have a counter as you disembark from international flights where such matters can be sorted, so, duly ticketed, I made the trip on the shuttle to the other part of the airport and found my connection to Heathrow in good time.

I could even catch up on my sleep as the coach from Heathrow to Southampton was caught in a traffic jam on the M25 for over two hours……which also gave me time to wonder whether I had been wise to turn down Iberia’s offer of an upgrade to Business class for five hundred euros on top of my regular fare.

What would I have gained?
Space, certainly, and a chance to nap, but five hundred euros just for that and a glass of fizz?

I don’t think so.

Not until I’m totally decrepit.


82 thoughts on “The kindness of a fellow passenger in averting deep vein thrombosis on the flight to Madrid”

  1. Oh so familiar! I used to always book an aisle seat because I don’t like being confined but on the last couple of flights I’ve opted for a window seat…less hassle and slightly easier to find somewhere to rest the ridiculously minute airline pillow.

  2. You made me howl with laughter Helen. It may not have been good for you, but it made my day. I’m 6-4 and anything longer than 2 hours needs to be in business… otherwise I’m in danger of never walking again. Thank God the company pays. Good to see you back.

  3. “The man was an otorhinolaryngologistโ€™s dream.”—Haha! Funny but horrifying. What a miserable flight. I’m not sure I would have survived. I watched a fellow passenger clip his fingernails once, and it almost did me in. What goes through these people’s minds? Ugh. Well, at least you got a blog post out of the deal. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I was wondering how to adapt Murder on the Orient Express to the violent death on Iberia flight 6314…..but the little grey cells weren’t up to it.

      I suspect that the stewards would have hidden the body for me though…

          1. It’s after lunch for me in Ohio, too. I’m just having too much fun answering blog comments to get to it. And don’t worry, nothing can stop me from eating…

          2. What about the man trying to shave his head on a flight to Turkey? Or the man who took his socks off before propping his feet up on the bulkhead – probably watching too much of The Hobbit….

  4. Ouch, I feel for you, Helen. The unwanted exercise would have been bad enough, but the nearness to intimate personal grooming musty have been truly horrid. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  5. As always Helen, you’ve given me a good laugh. I usually try to get an aisle seat, but your story has made me wonder if that is really very wise. I think I would have been tempted to say something to one of the flight attendants. Although, if they were anything like the ones on my recent horrific flight to Chicago with my mom, they would have at best ignored you, and at worst threatened to toss you off the plane in mid-air. Flying has become a first class nightmare.

    1. We had an all male crew in economy…who did a first class job, but with a packed ‘plane there was nowhere to go! I do avoid American airlines as their service seems distinctly iffy…..

  6. And so I suppose you weren’t able to snap a picture of the Madrid airport’s carpet? Helen? Hello?
    And I thought being seated next to a huge man in a muscle shirt was bad enough, yours takes the cake. Shouldn’t there be a law? If you are exposing your underarm hair to the world, you are not allowed on the plane. Go away. Or put on some clothes. It would be hard to choose from the plethora of gorgeous phrases in this post just which is my favorite, but I think I’ll settle on “All he seemed to miss out on was colonic irrigation.”
    By the way, the last time we flew in China the flight attendants led all of us in a form of calisthenics, post-meal. Arms waving and legs stretching (easier when you’re of Asian stature as opposed to our relatively Amazonian size, but still.) Seemed an excellent idea.

    1. No carpets at Madrid……but such is your influence that I did take a look just to check…and none at Heathrow or Valencia either while we’re on the subject.

      Why would someone choose to travel half naked? You see it here with surfers returning to the wilds of the frozen north and wonder if their gonads might shrivel on arrival.
      With luck.

      I like the callisthenics idea….but if Leo flies in his gardening boots again it’s goodbye to the seat in front on the leg stretching bit of the routine…..

        1. She was build on the grand scale and boy, could she surge! Her husband, in contrast was tiny and wiry.

          She reminded me of the coronation procession of Elizabeth II featuring Commonwealth heads of state…one, the Queen of Tonga, was built on ocean going liner proportions and she was accompanied by a small man in morning dress.

          Who is that with the Queen of Tonga?

          Her lunch.

          1. I’m old enough to remember the sight of the Queen of Tonga and I also remember the laugh about her lunch. Don’t think it was Richard Dimblething.
            The flights back from the Carribean were always full of large hipped ladies with hand luggage that had slaughtered animal almost contained in it.

  7. Between the grope-a-thon involved with check-in, the cramped space on flights, the lack of anything nourishing to eat (unless one wants to take out a wad of cash) and the array of bizarre behavior exhibited by fellow travelers, I wonder if the airline industry is looking to put itself out of business.

    I used to think riding a Greyhound bus was in and of itself the singularly most awful way to travel, but airlines, at least US airlines, are catching up quickly.

    At least you got a funny post out of it. I simply made enemies on my last flight.

    1. Alas, I am not made of such stern stuff as my parents. Mother would have advised the man to tie a knot in it; father would have demonstrated the technique.

      I avoid the U.S. in order to avoid the grope – and the rest of the unacceptable behaviour – and at least they feed you on long haul flights.

      By contrast, the National Express coach service in England provides comfortable seats and free wifi…almost a pleasure to be stuck on the M25 for two hours.

      1. Yes, my mom would tell them where to stick it and my dad would, if pushed far enough, let her do so.

        I generally take it like a mouse, hoping not to be singled out and thrown into a TSA-version of Guantanamo, which I equate to one of the lower circles of Dante’s Inferno.

        1. One of the reasons I am glad that mother could not fly over to visit us is the experience of U.S. immigration and TSA.
          By the time she’d told them that she hadn’t fought against Hitler only to find the S.S. running American airports she’d have been in the orange jumpsuit and on her way to a different destination….

  8. the joys of long distance travel are many and varied; being packed in close proximity to humanity is an ordeal at the best of times but a tin can makes it all seem so much worse.

    At least you were spared DVT, so count yourself lucky. (ok, I know, the joke is in bad taste.) Enjoy the time on terra firma if you can.

    1. I’ve met some pleasant people in sardine class in my time….but this chap took the biscuit!

      Oddly enough the seats were fairly comfortable in these newer planes…it’s just, as usual, that you can’t get into a comfortable position to sleep.

  9. Ah, Helen, I am so literal I spent several paragraphs waiting for the heroic effort of either you, or the obvious hero, the man with the bags to be left unattended, to bring medical aid to a fellow passenger, or you to him or he to you or whatever….
    I may fly again if shoes are not removed. And you surely will fly again, as an alternative route to Costa Rica remains on the drawing board.

  10. You brought back so many memories. All of them horrid. Thanks a lot. My personal favorite was a Honolulu to Tel Aviv flight, stopover in Newark, with a seat companion who freely admitted he “really liked those stinky cheeses.” I can’t relate any more of the story without crying so let me just thank you again for your post.

  11. Another great post, Helen. It is a wonder to me how some people can be so unaware, or uncaring, of their fellow passengers’ comfort and health. Common courtesy is now uncommon courtesy, and consideration is as rare as knee-room in an economy seat. Enjoy your stay in London!

    1. I can only imagine that he was a dedicated solipsist… could you be so unaware of your behaviour in a public place!

      A pity they don’t have sin bins on aircraft….as the rhyme goes
      I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury
      Says cunning old Fury
      I’ll hear the whole case
      And condemn him to death…
      Or at least ten hours where he could indulge himself to his heart’s content without disturbing me.

  12. A well woven story with humor…just the ticket this stormy evening. By the way, I completely agree about U.S. airlines and travel. If it wasn’t so hard for me to immigrate, I’d flee.

    1. Better to laugh than to cry…it wasn’t so much the lack of sleep but the continual disturbance that got to me…

      I’ve given up on travel via the U.S….how anyone puts up with it I don’t know…

  13. . . had a really inventive comment lined up but by the time I got down here I’d forgotten what it was – sod airline travel!

  14. There used to be a fitness guru on the TV in the eighties called Mr Motivator. I imagine sharing a ‘plane seat with him would only be slightly less irritating.

  15. As a fairly frequent long haul traveller (well it’s all long haul from Aus isn’t it ) I’m giving you a very big LIKE for this post Helen. They say long haul = boredom. At least the antics of your your travelling companion saved you that problem ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I’m not bored on long haul flights…I have books with me…..but it’s the small things – where to put the pillow and blanket…how not to lose the unused earplugs before they come to gather them up again…
      I suppose i could say that he literally kept me on my toes….but was I grateful?

  16. So glad I can avoid air travel so effectively! Your flight sounds exhausting. At least the usual M25 traffic jam meant you could have a good snooze. I used to travel by National Express (and Eurolines) a lot. My mum still does. Great service and so cheap.

    1. I don’t mind long flights as long as I have something to read…but I’m a great fan of National Express coaches….well organised, comfortable and reliable!

  17. Laughing like a drain! Love it! I wonder if the passenger is aware that his most intimate of habits on a ‘plane are being shared across the internet?!

  18. I’ve sent this to my husband who flies far too often and generally feels picked on by some form of irritant in human form sent to make the journey a nightmare. For me, the last time I flew back from the US, I was trapped in my seat by the vastness of the lady next to me and my natural English inability to ask her abruptly to move. The following day I was in UCH being treated for DVT – swapsies? ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Oh, what a rotten thing to happen! I hope all went well at UCH.

      Most of the time fellow passengers have been pleasant and normal…..this chap was – I hope – an aberration.

      1. Actually by the time I got to UCH (where they were all beyond brilliant) the thing had started to disperse and thus far I have not had repercussions though I do now insist on the sexy support stockings even in very long drives!

  19. I found myself next to a gentleman with a strange sense of personal space last week. Luckily it was only a 60 minute flight, not like yours. I do love reading about your travels even if you don’t enjoy doing it.

    1. I think it is because I usually have to travel alone that things get on my nerves more than perhaps they might. Travelling together at least we can sit together…alone, it’s always an unknown quantity!

  20. Late to the party. Again. Leo is right about Noel Coward, by the way.
    I have sworn never to fly another long haul…but it’s almost impossible to adhere to at this end of the world.
    An enormously OVERWEIGHT man was checking in at Heathrow and I said, meaning every word, “If he’s going on my flight I will not pay excess baggage.” He was on another flight.

    1. Long haul is unavoidable to go to see my mother….so long haul it is. Normally it is not too bad as long as I don’t have to sit in the middle row on the inside with people either side…..most people are careful to keep to their own space.
      Though once with an empty seat beside me a girl asked me if she could sit there so that her boyfriend could stretch out in the middle row…you can probably imagine the answer…

  21. I’ve never had a neighbouring passenger as dreadful as that. But Jenny has had some awful male neighbours in her time – spreading their legs into her leg area, talking non-stop, malodorous, picking their nose etc. Some passengers have absolutely zero consideration of other passengers.

    1. I used to travel a great deal on business. I have always taken issue with the way that many men, no matter what their size, attempt to possess more than their allotted space, certain that the female beside them will meekly cede the area directly before her.

      Not so this female. The instant any man sat arms akimbo with his meaty or boney elbow protruding dangerously close to my breast, or splayed his knees as wide apart as any “Where’s your hoss?” punchline, I would immediately channel my inner Yo Yo Ma and fling apart my own extremities to their most distant extremes.

      Invariably, these men were taken aback when my suit-skirted stockinged knee rammed a skosh less than gently against their own and my jacketed elbow wound up atop theirs. Depending upon my mood, I would either sit silently and wait for the uncomfortable and meek shuffling away of the offending limb, or I would turn to the offending party, smiling politely, and say something to the effect of “Oh–Pardon me! Did YOU plan to use this armrest, as well?”

      Blasted sexist space-hogs!

      (I really ought to post about this…it’s part of a bigger issue that gets me a mite hot.)

      This is the second post of yours I read. As great as the first. I got ticked off AND I laughed–what fun! Thank you!

    2. Oops–Sorry, Nick–you see at the end there, I addressed that bit to Helen–bit of a synapse lapse, that. I’d blush, but if I blushed every time I screwed up, there’d be no blood left circling round below my neck.

  22. I would have gone for the upgrade, it would be cheaper than the fine for assault!
    So glad you had an enjoyable trip. However you appear to be in Southampton at the moment, does this indicate further adventures on the way home?
    I canny wait!

    1. I have managed to return home….via Southampton, London, Valencia and Madrid…..despite the best efforts of the volcano to shut the airport.

      No adventures…just a struggle with two pieces of overweight luggage, a carry on case filled to straining point and a large bag which sneered when asked if it would fit under the seat in front.

      ‘Canny wait’, indeed! Sadist!

  23. Sorry but I could not help giggling as I read this, so typical of some passengers. Was there not a stewards seat available as a spare? The cost of up grading is why we are not flying anywhere these days. N’s feet cannot cope with cattle class any more and he needs to be able to straighten his legs. We keep looking at flights to RSA but our pension has a major heart attack when we look at the prices! Still waiting for the Euro millions ticket to have a major win – fat chance of that happening. Take care you two. Diane

    1. The stewards looked about as cramped as the rest of us….and yes, once rested i had to laugh too…it was just too surreal.
      Leo would like to go back to Africa and we have a friend in Cape Town whom we would love to visit…but the prices! Even in sardine class!

      Still…we can dream…

  24. Do you not still have a Scottish accent Helen…that’s usually enough to deter the worst offenders…as long as each request/instruction always ends with the threatening “…wee man.”

    1. Unfortunately Scotland, the Scots and the reputations thereof are unknown in Costa Rica…thus eager gentlemen wasting their breath trying to sell me things….
      And i am not yet at the stage of Spanish to allow me to translate ‘See me….’
      Let alone ‘See you, Jimmy…’

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