By Daniel Dunaief
She could feel the tension mounting. She had been down this road, or, more specifically, on this runway, numerous times before.
Flying didn’t bother her. She had taken many flights before she met her husband. Since they’d been married, they had also taken trips each year.
That’s when the trouble started. He didn’t blame her, but as someone who shared his feelings and wanted to help him when she could, she often felt at a loss as this moment approached.
She looked at the stranger next to her, eager to encourage a new person to enter the dialogue and distract him from his frustration.
At first, the stranger didn’t engage in conversation, preferring to read his book and to look through the movie offerings on his phone.
The ride around the airport took a while, as the plane stopped a few times to let other flights land.
Unable to break the ice with the man on the other side of her, she turned to her husband and hoped the game they’d developed might help.
“Hey,” she said, “how long do you think it’ll take this time?”
He grumbled something between his gritted teeth.
“Well,” she said, not bothering to ask him to repeat himself when she felt that the words were less relevant than the angry emotion that built up inside of him. “I’m going with eight.”
“Eight?” he spit back at her incredulously. “No way! It’s going to be at least 12.”
When the plane stopped and the Jetway came out to meet it, the man started his stopwatch, holding it up so she could see.
After three minutes, the passenger on her other side, who had heard the abbreviated conversation and could feel the tension rising between them as the man glared, unblinking, at the front of the plane and all the passengers between him and the next step on his trip, decided to break the frustrated silence in their row.
“Are you guys guessing how long it’ll be before you get off the plane?” he asked.
“Yes,” she sighed, grateful for the relief from watching and taking care of her husband.
A flight attendant made an announcement.
“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, we’re waiting for a gate attendant to fix the lock on the other side. It should only be a few minutes,” she said.
The man near the window shook his head. The woman shrugged at what she hoped was her new ally.
“Well, we’ll just start now,” she offered, as she set her own stopwatch on her phone and encouraged him to follow the new timing.
“You see,” she said, “he gets angry when people aren’t ready to go after the
He turned away from the front of the plane long enough to explain himself to the stranger near the aisle.
“They turn off the seatbelt sign and people don’t get their luggage,” he snarled, gesturing with his palm at all the offending passengers between the door to the rest of his travels and the seat that barely contained his irritation.
“Look at them, sitting there. It’s going to take each of them a while to get off. They have to find their bags, pull them out and get off the plane.”
The stranger offered the weary wife a supportive look. She appreciated the gesture, even as she made sure all her items were ready to go.
“These things are beyond your control,” the stranger offered.
“That’s true, but it still bothers him,” she sighed as she held her bags tightly in her hand.