I stowed my bag, then put my iPhone, noise canceling headphones and a copy of The Moon and Sixpence into the pocket in front of me. Delta flight 33, a non-stop from JFK to LAX, is my favorite flight that doesn’t land on an island in the South Pacific. I was in 17C, an aisle seat in the exit row and planned to spend the next six hours with my legs stretched out, reading a whole book in one sitting. I ran my hand along my arm from shoulder to wrist admiring the feel of my white linen shirt, wondering if they sell linen socks and boxers in SkyMall. 

I catalogued passengers boarding the plane, wondering who would be next to me. Model, great-grandma, librarian, peanut vendor, pomade, Kathy Bates. When I saw Clinton DeShields turn the corner onto the plane, I knew he would be in 17B. Let me be direct about this. He’s enormous. I heard his breathing from 20 feet away and smelled the sausage gravy on his breath from 10. As he waddled down the aisle, he looked up at each row number then down at his ticket. He stopped next to me and we looked at each other.

“I’m in B,” he said, pointing at the seat next to me. I didn’t say anything, just stood up.

“I need to leave the armrest up. Otherwise, I don’t fit.” I nodded. He lifted the arm rest and sat down, taking a long time to attach the belt extension. When he finished, I sat back down. There was no way for me to sit in the seat without our shoulders, arms, and legs touching.

“What line of work are you in?” he asked.

“I’m a consultant.”

“Oh. A consultant. That’s pretty cool. Fashion? Interior design?”


 “Not much on the small talk, huh?”

I reached for my headphones, which he interpreted as a cue to elaborate at length about his educational background. During taxi and takeoff, he relived his tenure as editor of the Yonkers High School Yearbook. During our ascent to 30,000 feet, he ate a Reece’s Cup and chronicled his two year stint as Chemistry major at Skidmore in Saratoga.

When the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign, I unbuckled mine and stood up. He said, “I studied chemistry at Saratoga, but now I’m a writer for The Onion.” I sat back down. Writing for The Onion is my dream job.

“Seriously?” I asked. He nodded yes and I said, “I can’t believe this! My favorite headline was ‘Standard Deviation Not Enough for Perverted Statistician’. Oh and I loved ‘Time Invented to Keep Everything from Happening at Once’.”

“I wrote the one about the perverted statistician! I also wrote the one right after Bush got elected that said ‘Bush Declares That Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over’.”

“I can’t believe this! Let me buy you a beer. How does a Chemistry major get a job at The Onion?”