Saturday, April 14, 2012

Flying solo

My travel partner
I could put this in a more mysterious, blogger-vague way, but I won't: In March 2009, I was assaulted on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Detroit by the man seated next to me. A terrible thing, to be sure, made unique by having to share the same airplane cabin with this piece of shit for the next four hours.

A consequence of this totally garbage experience was the muddling of my sense of self. I consider myself assertive, and yet I sat frozen in shock,
silent! I value speaking out against wrongdoing, yet I felt burdened by reporting it. As the cabin doors opened in Detroit to reveal a fleet of storm troopers basically (N.B. - when you commit a crime on an aircraft, it's suuper federal), I thought, "No, no, I'm too tired for all of this." My mettle was tried and I proved myself wimpy. So disappointing.

I spent the next few weeks feeling on edge and panicked, constantly ill-at-ease. I'd believed deeply in the innate goodness of other people and now felt suspicious of strangers in a way that felt alien. Being fearful does not suit me. Maybe worst of all was the knowledge that I couldn't ever see myself on an airplane again. How could I? Yeah, sign me up for a few hours aboard a nightmare hellship full of creeps.

Time bleached away that panic, quietly and without my notice. It wasn't until I was already flying back from Portland that I realized that this was my first trip flying alone since that happened three years ago.

My seatmate on my (daytime) flight was a man in his 60s who had been visiting his granddaughter. Well, not exactly his granddaughter, he explained to me. He used to be the live-in caregiver and nanny for a single mom and her young daughter. The woman had become quadriplegic in an accident shortly after her daughter's birth. For five years, he lived with them, assisting the mother and caring for the little girl. The family moved to Oregon several years ago and he missed them so much his heart honestly hurt, he said.


  1. One time I woke up in a korean spa/hotel place (with only communal sleeping areas) because someone grabbed my breast. Another time, a man started masturbating in front of me in a dark hallway while we were waiting for the elevator. I don't know what else to say except for that when I say I'm so sorry that you went through that, that I really really mean it, because it makes so many things so hard.

  2. Oh honey. I hate the testing of the mettle most of all, I think.

    I think of myself as assertive and take-no-shit-esque in some areas. I hate it when I have those areas disproved because something feels grey, or I don't want to make a scene, or I'm too tired, or was I right? Surely another human being wouldn't...

    But go you for getting on that plane.

  3. Thanks for the empathy you guys, but the hurt is long gone. I'm just ANGRY when I remember it now. And angry that it's so commonplace. What woman doesn't have a story like mine? Terrible.

  4. Wow, what a striking story. I think it speaks to your character though you were so open to another travel companion's story. Lovely writing too.