Packed plane rides tend to be the worst because if you’re not lucky enough to get on early, you get stuck with whatever is left. And that usually means being cramped in a middle seat squished between two others. It might be livable on a short flight, but a long flight can be torture sitting like that. For Jessica’s case, it was obvious to her when boarding that her flight was going to be a miserable experience.
Everything was taken, and the only seat left was a middle seat in a cramped can of a ride. However, things got weird before she could even get her bag in the storage and sit down. Instead of sitting down, a man walked up and told her she couldn’t sit in the seat she finally found. The reason why just about knocked her off her feet.
Jessica had been in the military for a while already and had gone through multiple training scenarios for stressful situations in battle or under duress. But for some reason, all her situational control went out the window when the man on the plane confronted her. Her brain seemed to freeze and she started shaking. What the hell?
Trying to Get Home
The trip had been a long one already. Jessica was trying to get home on the holiday so she could see her family and familiarity again. She had been on a long tour of duty, and each day closer to the vacation time was tearing at her. Finally, getting her leave, she bolted for the airport, got her ticket and boarding pass, and was on the next plane out, but when she got to her seat something was off.
The problem with modern flying today is that it suffers from too much cost-cutting and efficiency. Every ounce of space is squeezed out to make every plan produce as much revenue as possible. That means seats are cramped, even for the smaller-sized person. However, flying still remains the fastest way to get to a distant location. So, Jessica wasn’t going to complain much when her time came up and she was able to get a ticket home.
An Odd Number
Jessica was already an odd number in the military. She was military officer in an organization that was predominantly men and lead predominantly by male officers. And someone noticed her rank when she got on board the plane that day.
Most people fly economy or coach. It’s the most inexpensive plane ticket to get, and the difference between coach and business is tremendous in cost. Jessica was no exception, and an economy ticket was what she should have to deal with to get home timely. Cramping was just part of the necessary evils to use flight for fast travel.
She had boarded the plane in her fatigues uniform, which showed off her rank for those who were paying attention. Her bag was slung over her shoulder, and Jessica’s boarding pass had the big numbers and letter of 31B as her seat. So, she shuffled her way past the business section with the expansive leg room, making her jealous along the way. But there was no way Jessica could have afforded the upgrade.
As Jessica worked her way to the back of the plane to get to her seat, another person was talking to a stewardess specifically about Jessica. As the soldier finally got her way back to row 31 in coach, she hefted her bag into the overhead cabin and prepared to work her way into the middle seat to sit down. And she waited, and waited, and waited. The plane wasn’t taking off.
What Was the Delay For?
There wasn’t any kind of bad weather outside, which then meant something was going on with the plane or someone on it. Jessica wasn’t oblivious to her surroundings. Her curiosity started to get peaked as the minutes ticked on. She tried to ask a passing stewardess what the delay was being caused by but none appeared. Weird and weirder.
As she kept looking forward Jessica noticed the cabin crew were clumped together talking. There was a lot of chattering and zipping back and forth and talking on the plane phone. Something was up. It was clear the stewardesses were talking about a passenger as they were comparing boarding passes and the manifest. Then one of them started walking down the aisle.
A Uniform Stands Out
After a few seconds it was clear the stewardesses were focused on Jessica and looking at her as one of them approach. They were also laughing. Jessica’s edge started to rise. Something was about to happen, and it involved her.
All military are unfortunately trained to anticipate uncomfortable situations when they travel. The concept of the training came from the 1970’s when soldiers were returning home from Vietnam and would be attacked or spit on at the airport on trains by Americans protesting the war. By the 1980’s, traveling soldiers were also targets for terrorists. No surprise, Jessica was well trained for the unexpected, but she was also tired and just wanted to get home. She didn’t need this.
From a different angle Jessica noticed a tall man was also making his way towards her. He was in a very nice suit and his eyes stood out. She also noted his confidence; he walked like someone who knew how to go after what he wanted.
The man was coming in Jessica’s direction as well. And he was looking at her too, just like the stewardess was. As they reached Jessica’s seat, the man began to speak directly to here. He wanted her attention, but the reason why caught Jessica totally off guard.
“You’re in my seat.” Jessica had to do a double take, “What?” He spoke again, “I was in your seat,” inferring she needed to move. Jessica was now entirely confused. He took the opportunity to clarify, “What does your boarding pass have?” He sighed, waiting for her to respond.
Jessica shook her head. She knew what her boarding pass. “No, I’m 31B!” Her ticket had those numbers and letter printed on it clear as day. She pulled out the boarding pass and confirmed her thinking, what the hell was this guy talking about? The stewardess was nearby with another, and Jessica looked at them to clear it up.
The man decided to let Jessica in on the surprise. He recognized that she was an officer, and he was going to give up his seat in business class for her as thank you for her service. Jessica was floored.
Deer in the Headlights
The man continued, offered Jessica his business class boarding pass, and reiterated it was a thank you for all she had done for her country. Jessica was in shock, she tried to refuse, but he made it clear Jessica was going to take the business class seat. The stewardesses nodded their heads.
The seconds it took for her to move, relocate and sit in the business class seat seemed like a blur. Suddenly she had more space on her trip than she knew what to do with. What just happened? Her muscles were sore and aching from the trip on top of the beating she had taken in officer training and her tour. She was tired. The seat felt good.
Jessica realized she would actually get some rest on the trip home. The mystery stranger had really done her a huge favor. But as relaxed as she got, Jessica couldn’t stop thinking about the man’s gesture.
To Say Thank You
Jessica got an idea. She pulled out a pen and starting writing a note. She also pulled out a $20 bill. Then she flagged a nearby stewardess. She then asked the stewardess to bring the note and the money to the man who had traded seats with her.
Jessica’s note was simple and to the point. She offered to buy the man a snack and drink on the plane on her, and added if everyone in the world was as nice as he was, the planet would be a better place.
When it arrived, the man read the note and looked at it intently. However, he was not going to accept the gift. Instead, he wrote Jessica a response, asking her to dinner on him when they landed. Jessica’s just about giggled when she read the note. A date? He was handsome.
The Date Was Confirmed
Jessica agreed and, when they both got off the plane, she went to dinner with the stranger. They met at a nearby restaurant and started talking. Amazingly, all her exhaustion just flowed off of Jessica as they talked. Her excitement took over. For the military officer, it proved that there was still good in the world and being nice was still possible. For Jessica, she met someone who became very dear to her in the most unpredictable place in the world, up in the air.