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porcupineAt last, after saying our tearful goodbyes with the family I walked into the airport.  I’m not sure what possesses the airlines to have such short layovers but they do.  My layover was forty minutes, however, a mom and dad with three kids held up the line and delayed boarding time.

On the plane, I found my seat, andhurriedly looked up in the bin above it to fit my carry-on.  Somehow the fear of catching the second flight preoccupied me so much that I apparently froze right in front of my own overhead bin as if it were the only one available, and proceeded to calculate whose bag I could remove to fit my own.  At about this time a woman, two persons behind me in the line, yelled: “I want that spot.”

What the hell?  Is this new? To have dibs on the overhead bins?

“Excuse me? “ I said.

“Well, are you planning on using that spot?”

“Yes.”  What the F..

I was going to use it.  Besides your bag is too big.”

It’s a freaking carry-on. 

“You should have checked it.” 

You have a fat ass and your hair looks like frightened porcupine. 

A seated man who either felt bad for me, wanted to prevent a cat fight, or just wanted to get on with the flight, tapped on my shoulder, then coolly pointed to simply one…bin…over.  “Oh.” Here, I moved a jacket about and voila’, suitcase was in the bin.  This of course left the wench her coveted spot.

After shoving her poop-colored bag into the compartment, she said: “That’s my seat,” pointing to the one Right Next To Me.

We were on a four-hour flight.  To top it off she was already reaching over me so the man next to me would help her with her damned i-pad.

In retaliation, I forced the armrest between us down, hoping to squish her and barricade myself from her evilness (Oh yes I showed her all right).  My mind was about to concoct more stupid reactions when a better option presented itself.  I decided to stop, take a deep breath and calm down by reading the book I had brought with me, on one of my favorite topics: food.  Instead of plotting one act followed by another, and then another, etc, I’d do only two: breathe and read.  It seemed like a good option. In case you share the same interest, the book was Comfort Me with Apples, by the famous food critic Ruth Reichl. 

As I became less tense, so did porcupine.  Once she settled in her seat, she turned to me and said: “I’m sorry for being short earlier.  It’s just that I’m flying to see a dying friend.  He is so sick that he may not even make it by the time I get there.”

I was genuinely sad to hear it, enough to actually wish, for his sake and hers, that he would stay alive long enough to see her one last time.

Her statement woke me up.  Think of all the people we see who have erratic behaviors.  How quickly we form an opinion, get upset, and label them without so much as a thought about what else may be going on in their lives.

Maybe the child who cries the whole flight is in pain.  What can a young mom do up in the air?

Perhaps she has a reason to travel with her child.  She may have lost a job and now has to go live with her own mother.

Maybe the man who acts like a jerk just lost his wife and doesn’t want to show his vulnerability to all of us strangers.

Most of us carry issues or pains within us.  As a friend and philosopher Peter Rollins says, “We are all in the same boat.  Just different issues.”  Keep it in mind and your own life will be easier.  You won’t be so reactive to others, and as a result not as stressed all the time.

In my case, the lady even helped me in the end.  Our layover was shortened to 30 minutes. Our connecting gates were next to each other (go figure), but five terminals from where we landed.  Her familiarity with that particular airport made me make the second flight just in the nick of time.

Here’s to composure, compassion, and longer layovers.

Happy Travels.