On a flight from Tampa to Akron, I encountered a woman with a big, red bag that was almost twice as large as as she was. She was about forty years old and 5’ 2” with dark hair, glasses and very little patience. I was walking behind her when boarding the plane, giving me a front row seat to the discomfort of having to watch her cram all of her worldly possessions into the overhead bin.
At first, she had no trouble at all, lifting the bag well over her head and slamming it into the tight compartment with ease. But one of the pockets was bulging out a little too far and suddenly nothing was moving. Without taking a moment to figure out what was causing the problem, she began to beat the gargantuan obstruction into place as though it had once murdered her father with an ice pick in a previous life. I became captivated with the one-sided boxing match that was unfolding in front of me.
I’m not sure why I didn’t help her. I could say it was because I felt bad for her abused baggage. I could say there was simply no room for me to move in. In the end, I blame my social anxiety and inability to be comfortable in most everyday situations. With all eyes already trained on this pissed-off passenger, I found myself frozen in both fear and fascination. She noticed relatively quickly.
After a sharp glance in my direction, she turned over to the woman she would soon be sitting next to.
“Look at this guy.” She muttered, almost inaudibly. “Just watching me.”
Now I was directly involved in the situation. The passengers in the back of the plane, who had once been eagerly waiting for an annoyed traveler to have a mental breakdown, were now staring directly at me.
In another socially awkward moment brought on by fear, I decided to do something without actually doing anything. I just smiled, took a few steps towards the struggling woman, and raised my hands as if to help her push the bag in. I was still at least two feet away.
The view from the back of the plane was priceless. A middle-age woman ferociously pounding on a red bag with her fists while a grinning, twenty-something male stands behind her, groping a forcefield. Had I not wanted to crawl into the overhead compartment myself, I may have chuckled at the absurdity of it all. Then it got worse.
“Well this is just great.” The woman shouted, this time ensuring that no passenger on the plane couldn’t hear her. “I didn’t realize we were living in an age where a man won’t help a woman in need!”
Everything fell silent. If you listened carefully enough, you could hear the faint sound of a hundred travelers stabbing me with a broken bottle in their daydreams. I made eye contact with a woman in her late seventies a few rows back who just shook her head at the decline of modern society, otherwise known as me.
My first instinct, which is testament to how sick of a person I am, was to pretend to be deaf. With a few clever movements of my hands I could have instantly become the most misunderstood person on the flight, and this angry passenger would have to live forever with the guilt of having verbally castrated a person with a disability.
Yet another large part of me wondered why I remained frozen. Perhaps the embarrassment and shame of having not risen to the occasion to help a fellow traveler in need was something I deserved. At the very least, nobody in this situation was correct. Maybe had the woman asked me to help, I would have been less reluctant to move in. Then again, I should have seen the signs and offered without hesitation.
Before I could do anything, an older gentleman in another seat stood up and, with one successful push, fit the bag in the overhead compartment once and for all.
“Thank you very much, sir.” Said everyone on the plane.
“Yes, thank you.” I said, handing him my testicles and making my way down the aisle to sit next to the bathroom and wonder how this became the best seat in the house.