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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Nose of the Jet (or, I'm So Sorry. It's Another Snot Story)

Not long ago, I witnessed an embarrassing situation. No, someone wasn’t walking across a restaurant, wearing a toilet paper trail on her heel, and it wasn’t a woman who accidentally tucked her skirt into her pantyhose or a man with an open fly. But you get the idea.

I never know what to do in these situations, and I haven’t really researched the proper behavior one should adopt when these incidents occur. Generally, I just take the denial route, turn my head, and pretend it isn’t happening. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone besides Other Bill, parading around with an open fly. I’m more than comfortable telling him to zip up, because we’ve been adjacent for almost two decades. You don’t live that long with someone without doing things you’d prefer never to do, and wouldn’t think of doing to strangers. And quite frankly, he has done things for me that I couldn’t do for him without throwing up. He had a summer job in a nursing home once, and for years worked with developmentally disabled citizens, so his tolerance level is high. Let’s just say that both of us have had post-surgical issues to deal with that have required more than two hands, and leave it at that. Blech.

Other Bill and I had tickets on a Southwest flight to come home, and it was open seating. We were lucky and got in the “A” line, quickly took our seats and began observing all the people boarding. Sometimes we play Who’s The Hottest Man on the Plane. Other times, even though we would never publicly admit it, we do our own secret profiling. “Does this guy look like he could be carrying explosives in his underpants?” I think. “Probably not, but I better keep my eye on him. Besides, he’s the hottest guy on the plane so far.” Don’t laugh. Remember that we got a conviction for a strong-arm robber who was so memorably cute.

Several rows in front of us, a flight attendant, who was kneeling sideways on a seat, was welcoming the passengers, telling them, “Good morning. Welcome aboard. Just take any seat.” We did hear him sneeze, and later looked up and saw a significant amount of post-sneeze by-product glistening colorfully across his upper lip. Actually, at first we didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a couple of runaway nose hairs, but Other Bill, upon looking closer, recognized that the flight attendant was indeed welcoming the passengers aboard the Booger Express.

“Should I get his attention and tell him?” Bill asked.

“God, no!” I replied, for two reasons. One, nothing embarrasses more than seeing people embarrassed. Two, because this created some great potential footage for me that might one day evolve into an essay.

Most oncoming passengers just looked at him and then diverted their eyes, as if they had just seen The Elephant Man (I am not an animal! I am sinus residue!) Some didn’t even look at him, because we are a nation of people who don’t make eye contact. Some I saw clenching their teeth, trying not to laugh. One boy, as he reached our row, turned around to his big brother, pointed to his own upper lip and said, “Did you see that?” His brother smiled and pushed him down the aisle towards the back.

By this time, Other Bill had had enough, and he was trying to get the boogieman to look at him by waving his hand and pointing to his own upper lip. This mortified me, and was trying to squirm down onto the floor, but we were in coach, so there was nowhere to go. I closed my eyes tightly and tried to go to a happy place. I just wanted it all to disappear. Finally another passenger told the snotooed flight attendant he had something on his lip, and Other Bill, after seeing him wipe it off with his hand, told me I could open my eyes again.

Later, when we reached cruising altitude, the same attendant came around and offered me peanuts and a soft drink.

I politely declined but was thinking: “Never in a million years. I know where that hand’s been.” And I wanted it washed with potable water.

What do you do when you encounter something like this? I know a mature adult would tell him, “You have something on your face” while pointing to the place on his own face to give the offender an idea of where to wipe. But by that time, there is an entire Airbus 300 watching your every move to see exactly where you’re going to deposit that mess.

So I’m looking forward to another Southwest flight. I expect to hear the following pre-boarding announcement, back inside at the gate:

Ladies and Gentlemen, before we begin boarding our flight, we’d like to ask all our passengers, as we have our flight crew, to check the contents of your nostrils, as some shifting or settling of the contents may have occurred during your walk to the gate. Thank you, and welcome aboard.

Creative Commons License by Bill Wiley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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