On Sunday afternoon I was scheduled to fly back to New York City after a brief trip to Austin, TX. The flight was scheduled to depart at around 2:00PM, but was delayed some five hours because—based on the few details I could understand when bleated out of the gate’s loudspeaker—a flight carrying a replacement part from Los Angeles to Austin was delayed due to a mechanical issue. But those details are hazy at best, so let’s focus on the fundamentals: a plane was delayed five hours, so when I boarded, I was frustrated.
Everyone was, really. The passengers, because their flight was delayed (I could have spent more time with my family, but no, I spent it in the airport surrounded by regretful SXSW attendees), as well as the flight attendants, because they had to deal with angry passengers. I didn’t observe any actual outbursts, but there was a certain subtle misery painted on the faces of everyone beside me in the boarding line—one that, because it was combined with a relief that the flight wasn’t canceled entirely, didn’t manifest itself beyond a sour visual. We were running late, sure, but at least we were going home.
Roughly 35 minutes into the three-hour flight—after we arrived at cruising altitude and the flight attendants sold all the chumps who forgot headphones some overpriced, poorly made earbuds—the food service began. I flipped through the menu in my seat pocket (which, to my disgust, had a wad of gum stuck to it) and began comparing the three very different snack boxes: Tapas, Crave, and Crunch. Please take a look at them.
The Tapas box, with its multitude of textures and savory flavors, sounded perfect, so I decided to get that. The Crunch box was a distant second place, seeing as how I’d spent the weekend eating chips and salsa with nearly every meal, but would do in a pinch. Crave, on the other hand, looked like the contents of a disappointing vending machine that had been knocked over, looted, and sold to an airline for cash. Tic Tacs and hard salami? Get out of my face; but show me the receipts first, because this trash must have fallen off the back of a truck.
I removed my headphones and pulled out my wallet in anticipation of my order, as did the gentleman in the middle seat. (I always sit in the aisle because I’m quite tall and need to stretch my legs whenever I can.) As the first three rows placed their orders, I overheard that the flight was not stocked with Tapas boxes. “They didn’t fully restock us before this flight,” she told one passenger. “We just have Crave and Crunch.”
As I mentioned previously, when the question is Crave or Crunch, the answer is clearly Crunch. And all four people who ordered snack boxes in the first three rows said the same thing when given the options and examining the menu: “Uhhhhhhhh, Crunch.” By the time the flight attendants reached my row, I had not only accepted my fate, but was rather excited about the strange little box. Chips and salsa? Drown me in it. Almonds? Love ‘em. Toblerone? One of the best chocolate bars. Beef stick? I’ll give it a whirl despite the fact that I rarely eat red meat. When in Rome, you know? Fuck me up, Crunch box!
So imagine my horror when the flight attendants skipped both my row and the one behind us. That’s 12 people skipped. How? I don’t know, but it happened. I listened as rows six and seven of coach ordered their Crunch boxes and red wines. Crunch box after Crunch box, gone. I exchanged glances with my neighbors in rows four and five that wordlessly expressed sentiments like, “Did they skip us? I think they skipped us,” “Is this really happening,” and “Are we suddenly in hell?” Eventually I got the attention of one flight attendant and politely said, “I think you skipped my row and the one behind us.” She turned to look at the others, who nodded in agreement.
“I didn’t skip anybody,” the flight attendant said, before gesturing to her partner and adding, “She must have.” After turning back to the happier passengers, she swiveled back to us, apologized, and said she would return to the skipped rows shortly.
And she did! In a few minutes, she approached my row and asked what we would like to drink. From aisle to window, the orders were water, cranberry juice, and ginger ale. After receiving the drinks, she asked for our food orders. From aisle to window, the orders were Crunch box, Crunch box, and peanuts and cookies. A few seconds later, she returned with a single Crave box, and handed it to me. “Oh!” I said. “I wanted a Crunch box?”
“Ah, I’m sorry,” she said kindly. “I think we might be out of them.” As she went to the back of the plane to check, I imagined a happy person behind me eating my Crunch box, and longed to be them. I imagined them thinking the chips and salsa were better than they had expected. I imagined them taking a bite of the beef stick and saying, “Huh! Not bad!” I imagined them finishing the Toblerone and pledging to eat them more often. Before long, she returned and jolted me from my daydream. “I’m sorry, but we only have one Crunch box left.” Reader, here comes the shitshow.
If I’d been in the middle seat, aka the second person to place the order, I believe I would have immediately conceded. Unfortunately this man said nothing but, “Uhhhhhhhh.” I responded with an “Uhhhhhhh” of my own. After 5-8 seconds of these hideous noises, he finally gave in. “You can have it,” he said. “Please.”
Because I have a form of social anxiety that does not “cripple” as much as it “makes me act like a huge idiot,” I said, “No. You take it.” Like a scene out of an improbably well-rated CBS sitcom, we went back and forth for far too long.
“No no, you take it.”
“I insist. You ordered first.”
“Please, have it.”
However uncomfortable this sounds to you, it was several times worse for both the two of us, the far too patient flight attendant, and everyone within earshot. We sounded like idiots, until I finally ended it by sounding like a lunatic.
“Honestly,” I said sternly, “if you don’t take the Crunch box I may actually become so anxious that I lose my mind.” He sort of laughed at this? Maybe? I’m not sure, because both my hearing and vision were getting spotty.
“Do you have an intolerance to anything in the Crave box?” the flight attendant asked.
“No no, I just don’t want either of them anymore. Honestly. He should take them. I’ll just have peanuts.” I’ll just have peanuts. I’ll just have peanuts. Who had I become? “I insist,” I repeated to my neighbor, as my heart rate soared to dangerous heights.
When the flight attendant left to get the Crunch box, peanuts, and cookies, my neighbor suggested we share it. I laughed nervously and told him I couldn’t possibly share it. I think I actually said, “I couldn’t possibly share your Crunch box with you.” Then I imagined how long it would take me to hit the ground if I jumped out of the plane right then. Two minutes? Ninety seconds? I’m not doing the math.
When the flight attendant arrived, she handed me two bags of peanuts, the window seat her cookies and peanuts, and accepted payment for the kind man’s Crunch box. I put on my headphones, turned on some brown noise, and got back to my book—desperate to avoid any additional interactions with anyone. Perhaps ever.
So. Now that I’ve spent 1300 words explaining my ridiculous in-flight behavior, I have a question: what would you have done in my place? Please tell me how normal people act in situations like this.