All’s fair in battle of crowded flight

On a recent airplane ride, I picked a proverbial battle. Because I am such a nice person, my husband always gets the window.

I’ve grown accustomed to being squished in the middle seat. Getting settled for a four-hour flight, I scouted those marching between the rows, hoping a small person would join our trio.

That did not happen.

Down the center of the airplane lumbered The Hulk. He wasn’t Twinkie fat, he was bulky with muscles, exaggerated with a Simon-Cowell-tight T-shirt.

When he wedged into the seat next to mine, I became intent on claiming my personal territory. Always looking for travel amusement in the air, combat could be a fine diversion.

Darting like a rattlesnake tongue, I snapped my left appendage onto the arm rest between us. I figured he had the aisle prop and could lean that-a-way.

Securing the arm rest was a victory, but an upper body fortress was only part of my line of defense. I determined the enemy would not get my name, serial number or space. I was in no mood to play the usual airplane question and answer game: “Where have you been? Where are you going?”


There would be no fraternization.

Glancing at his foxhole, I was amused to see him hold his right arm against his chest to grasp a magazine. I’ve been in that position before on airplanes when crossing arms was the only way to avoid an awkward brush with an unfamiliar soldier.

The Hulk closed his eyes to sleep when the seatbelt sign blinked off. That’s when his legs opened and our pants touched.


I gave his gam a nudge, but he didn’t wake up or get the point. It was time to bring out a big gun. I realized I was packing a frightening weapon.

Chowing on midflight rations is important to me. Before boarding an airplane, I pack my carry-on with a sandwich, M&Ms and chips.

Luckily, I bought a tuna sammie at an airport Subway a couple of hours before our flight.

There are two awful things about three-hours-old, unrefrigerated tuna sandwiches: If you like tuna, and you smell it, you really really want a bite. If you hate tuna, and you catch a whiff, it’s as bad as strolling through a city park where thoughtless dog owners neglect to scoop.

No need for waterboarding.

I was armed with decaying fish.

On the tray table, I opened the wrapper on the sandwich. I knew the odor would hit the seat next to me in a matter of seconds.

Hopefully my snoozing neighbor would get a good sniff and spring to life. I needed to get his leg off my leg. He shifted, glanced at my meal, and leaned his body as far away from me as possible.

There was no more unwelcome touching. After my leisurely lunch, rather than roll the remnants of my sandwich in a tight sack, I left a bit of tuna exposed for an hour or two.

Power corrupts.

Tuna power corrupts absolutely.

Our best friends, Tom and Jackie Williams of Lynnwood, my favorite traveling platoon, were in the row behind us on the plane. Back on the ground, while we waited for our duffles to roll around on the carousel, Jackie said she had smelled my tuna.

I hadn’t meant to bother her with my olfactory offensive, but there are always casualties in a war.

Kristi O’Harran, former Herald columnist, lives in Mill Creek. Contact her at

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