My travel partnerI 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.