Day 295: JFK ✈ CDG

Making a pit-stop from LA to my mom's house before heading back to Paris, I was telling her how in my twelve years of traveling on her family passes, I have sat next to some really interesting people and have been lucky that I haven't sat next to any real jerks. You know who I'm talking about, there's one on every flight. It's the person who calls flight attendants "stewardesses", presses the call button, asks for a million special requests, complains under their breath and takes up the entire arm rest. These are typically folks who are crotchety because they didn't get that upgrade they believe that they deserve because what? They flew two times that year? Luckily, I have always been sat next to good-spirited travelers who have entertained me with their stories, advice and pearls of wisdom.

Unfortunately, I think I spoke too soon...

I was one of the first to board the red-eye from New York to Paris and made a beeline straight to the restroom to get a head start on my “Placial” before take-off. In the bathroom, the zipper on my plastic travel bag containing my moisturizer and cleanser zipped off, leaving me with a sealed plastic bag. I spent over ten minutes in the bathroom stabbing the thick plastic bag open with my apartment key while mumbling profanities and smashing my elbows into the walls of a lavatory the size of an index card. After several stabs, it opened up and I began my plane beauty regime of exfoliating, trying to wash my face with the droplets of water that dripped out of the sink that's clearly made for a Barbie doll and deep moisturize my skin before a long flight.

On the way back to my seat, I passed the galley and said hello to the flight crew, and the person that I'd be siting next to for the next eight hours, had already settled into her aisle seat. She was in her mid-forties, attractive and well-dressed; pleasant enough for a long flight, even if we were stuffed next to each other in the tiny coach seats. She acknowledged my presence but didn't move or make way to allow me to get to my seat. She didn't even shift her body weight to do that fake "I'm trying to make room for you", she just sat there and stared at me. Because she had total French face, I politely excused myself in her language in an effort to get to my window seat.

As I was hovering one leg over her to get in, she asked, “Pouvez-vous vous installer là-bas?” and pointed to an aisle seat three rows back located next to the toilets. 

Can I “install” myself in another seat? No ma'am, no I can't.
Non, mais merci,” I said with a smile while continuing to climb over her to get to my assigned seat.

She seemed a bit taken aback by the fact that I didn't want a less desirable seat just because she had asked, but I didn't really care what she was taken aback by and cracked open my book, waiting for take-off. Ten minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder from the woman beside me. Unamused by our initial exchange, I echoed that sentiment and turned to her with stone cold eyes, “Oui?” I asked her. “Excuse me, but I don't understand why you will not sit there,” she insisted again while pointing to the aisle seat. Really? She couldn't understand why I didn't want to sit in an aisle seat across from the toilets? This wasn't exactly a brain-teaser here.

I was hoping that we were lost in translation because I felt that I was missing something. On top of my frustration that was growing by the second, this exchange was starting to kill my wine buzz that I worked hard to acquire at the terminal bar and just wanted her out of my face, tout de suite.

“Ma'am, I will not sit in that seat just because you ask me to,” I said amazed at her entitlement, “Maybe you'd like to sit there?”
“No, I don't. I want to sleep,” she said as if this was going to change everything. Oh, she wants to sleep! In that case! Because clearly she was the first passenger in the history of air travel that wanted to sleep! Who was this lady?

“Look, I have work this weekend, I want to sleep up against the window, and every second you speak to me is taking away from my sleep, in short I can't help you,” I said curtly.
“I work in Paris too and I want to sleep too. Can you please move to this seat?” she asked, not backing down from her insistence that I should be sitting in another seat just because she wanted me to.

“Yes, we both work in Paris but the difference between you and I is that I am not asking you to move your seat,” I said dryly. What exactly was she not understanding? Why would anyone move their seat for her? This was turning into a bad joke.

At this point, people were starting to look at us as the tension between us was rising and since it was painfully obvious that we weren't going to reach a resolution, I had no choice but to put this in the hands of the authorities because her arrogance was driving me crazy. All I wanted to do was finish my placial, crack open a mini vodka and pass out without her telling me to move. Was I asking too much from the travel gods here?

I have never pressed the flight attendant call button in my entire life because my mom tells me how obnoxious it is, but my communication with this lunatic was reaching new levels of ridiculous and did not want to further discuss with someone who clearly had no reasoning skills. No ma'am, I will not move just because you command me to!

The flight attendant whom I had not met before this flight came over and asked what the problem was. I explained to her that the woman wanted me to move simply because she wanted both seats to sleep. I saw the look of amusement cross the flight attendant's face and knew that I was in the clear and had her in my corner.

“Why does she need to move?” the F/A asked the crazy lady, knowing well that her answer was going to be less than reasonable.
“Because I want to stretch myself out and sleep,”
“Did you buy both of these seats?”
“No, but I want to sleep against the window,”
“How do you know this young lady doesn't want to sleep against the window as well, in her assigned seat?”
“I saw her talking to another one of you workers and I know that she is friends with you people,” 
The flight attendant had no idea that I was traveling on a family pass because they generally don't check the paper work until everyone has boarded, I had just said hello to be polite. What should that have mattered anyway? Being friendly with the flight crew makes me cattle to this lady?
“So because you believe that she is friends with one of the other flight attendants,” and she emphasized flight attendant, “that means that you deserve two seats when you've paid for one?”

There was silence on the plane as all of the passengers were now peeking over their seats to catch the drama that was ensuing. This was turning into a scene as this woman was being checked for her diva behavior. I fought every urge to turn to the woman, flashback to the early 90's and passive-aggressively say “diss” under my breath, but didn't want to push my luck. The woman couldn't answer back, I'm not even sure if her English skills would allow her to because she kept turning to me to translate her complaints about me in French. Just to recap, she wanted me to move my seat just because she had asked and then wanted me to translate her insults directed toward me. Incredible.

“I don't want this issue to continue on the flight, so let's find a new seat for you, come with me ma'am,” the flight attendant said with a smile - of course. The woman then got up and was escorted to a seat in the back row with a screaming baby leaning over the seat in the row in front of her. She was pissed but you know what, it serves her right. If I have learned anything in my years of traveling, don't piss off the flight attendants with crazy requests on a seven hour trip - especially if you are sitting in coach. Unfortunately premium class passengers get a little more leeway with requests like this but in coach? We're all cattle. I don't know who this woman thought she was.

I arrived at CDG, well-rested because it was me who ended up with the double seat while she had a screaming child in her face. She was better off just sitting next to me. It just goes to show that it pays to be nice...and normal.


  1. What's up with the French not getting up to allow someone to get to their seat? Mr.O and I have had to climb over a French person more than once. We'll announce our seat numbers, smile, point, wait - no movement on their end - and then press our lower halves uncomfortably close to their face; it's awkward for everyone.

    1. I know! I've pretty much given up asking on the bus, because I'd rather stand for 20 minutes than go arse-to-face with a stranger. Suuuuurely that's worse for them than getting up too?

      Good on ya for not letting her get away with it Ella! And welcome home!

    2. @Chickster - You don't like hovering your ass in someone's face on a bus?! How weird!! LOL! I don't get why people wouldn't just get up. You're right, it is awkward for everyone!

      @Gwan - Thanks! It's good to be back! I felt good about not letting her steamroll me with her stupid request.

      I have never experienced ANYTHING like this before. It really was that crazy. I couldn't even get upset because I was so dumbfounded by her request that I was almost speechless. Even the F/A was shocked.

      What made her think that I was going to say "Oh, ok..hold on, let me move my seat for you..pas de problème!" Whatever, she got checked. I can say it!

  2. Instant karma!

    I love it!:)

    Good to have you back on my side of the pond, dear:)

    1. Isn't that so satisfying?!?! Ahahahahah! What was she thinking? I still feel like I missed something, I had's just not possible...!

      It's good to be back! : )

  3. Jeez. What a real piece of work! Serves her right!

    1. Seriously! It was pretty cray...

      Okay, I just wrote cray...I've think I've been Skypeing with my 18 year old cousin too much.

    2. I've never even heard the word "cray" before... I must be getting old. As I've been told this week... several times.

  4. It takes a whole lot of self-entitlement to demand that someone more their seat.... she certainly got what she deserved!

    1. Not only did she ask (which in itself would be too much) but she was insisting! It was so aggravating.

      I'm glad I have you guys to validate that it was indeed ridiculous!

      I love my readers! Thank you!

  5. Is that an x-girl sticker I see on the Travel Stories thumbnail? I wasn't sure until I saw your 90's board on pinterest and it became too clear.

    I never want to hear you call yourself a dork again! You have an out of print x-girl sticker on a vintage 45 record box, for crying out loud!

    Love your blog, you closet hipster!

    1. Wow, you caught the x-girl sticker?! Good eye! Yes, I was a total downtown girl rocking x-girl baby tees, polyester mini skirts with a full mouth of metal and frizzy hair. I almost had it down!

      Thanks for your comment, it definitely made me laugh. Let's say I'm a retired hipster. : )

  6. I really shouldn't have read this post - now I'm worried about who my seat companions (that's right, I'm the lucky one who will be in the middle of two strangers this time!) will be on my trip to Boston today.

    The worst experience I ever had was with a French man in his 30s on a flight from CDG to JFK. I had the window seat and he had the aisle. After waiting for hours and thinking that my bladder would burst, I decided to go to the bathroom. He refused to budge an inch (didn't even do the fake I'm trying to move thing) and reflexively started to hit me when his electronic device started to fall because the cord got tangled up with my leg. Thankfully he pulled himself together and stopped his hand when he saw me flinch. And then I had to repeat the process to get back to my seat.

    Since I can still contort my body to get into a seat, it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it does when someone refuses to move for a much older person. Last time I saw a poor man in his 70s struggling to get in his seat while the inconsiderate lout next to him wouldn't move. To make matters worse, the seats in front of them were reclined. Oh, airplane travel - I love it!

    Welcome home!!!

    1. Thanks MK! I definitely feel welcomed back!

      Your story sounded awful!!! How disrespectful! Nothing annoys me more than seeing people my age be rude and intolerant of people their senior, no matter how senior. Really, what a jerk. Sometimes I really hate my generation...

      I'm sure that whomever you are sitting next to right now is fine (knock on wood), if not, you've got a great story to tell.

      Have a great trip to Boston (I had no idea you were leaving!). Big kiss to you!

  7. She definitely takes the cake. What a nutter! And a bitchy nutter too! I can't even imagine acting like that, ever. But it goes to show, you catch more flies with honey... and with vinegar you obviously end up with a screaming baby in your face.

    1. Exactly...kindness goes a long way. I always find that it's easier to be nice...right?! Am I crazy here?

      I hope you're feeling better! : )