The Drunk Guy on the Plane

November 19, 2004

At first, I thought it was my lucky day. I was about to board a three and a half hour flight, and I just found out that I had been granted an unrequested first-class upgrade. I'm not sure why; I'm just barely to the "silver" level of Delta's rank and grade system, but I guess that combined with low demand for those seats combined with having purchased a ticket that any sane person would laugh at got me through.


I settled into my big plush window seat, and asked for a diet coke, momentarily forgetting that I could have had a free vodka tonic, bloody mary, or beer. Shit. A few minutes later, my seat neighbor arrived. He stumbled to his seat and started to try to stuff a large but mostly empty hanging bag under his seat. He smelled like a distillery had exploded and he had just spent four glorious days rolling in its muck.

My drunk friend introduced myself and asked if I was going to Miami for business or pleasure. I had a momentary moment of panic. I thought I was on the plane to San Juan. Then I noticed his boarding pass sticking out of his pocket that said San Juan. I replied, "business." If he thinks he's going to Miami, then I'll just go with that.

The drunk guy was a blue collar New Englander, a salesy type guy who liked to talk. I was game to talk about the Patriots for a little while, but I didn't want to gab for the whole flight. We started talking football, the plane started to taxi, and he called the stewardess over to order a bloody mary.

Note to self (and Brent): Stewardesses get bitchy when you stink of booze and try to order a drink during taxi and takeoff.

When we were barely in the air, the stewardess came by to see what dinner selections we preferred. He opted to order a bloody mary. The bitter stewardess made him select between chicken or lamb.

A little while later, hot napkins arrived, along with the drunk guy's bloody mary. This put him in better spirits. He wiped himself with the napkin, and the celebrated by holding it above his head and waving it around in circles. It was about this time that I decided that I wasn't going to get to read, but that this guy might amuse me for a while.

We talked about ourselves for a while. I spoke normally. He spoke like a guy in a bar. I saw other stuffed shirts in first class try to read the same page over and over, getting more annoyed the whole time.

When he got up to go to the restroom, I took the opportunity to put on my headphones, pull down my cap, and stuff my face in my magazine. He followed suit by pulling out a CD player and donned his own headphones.

After a couple of minutes: "WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?" He was screaming. That's no exaggeration, he really was. Heads turned angrily in our direction.

Rather than embarrassment, this amused me, and I carried on the conversation for several minutes with headphones on and this guy screaming his entire side of the conversation.

He kept drinking and started talking crazier. Here are some more snippets:

  • "You know how much money I brought?" I didn't know. He opened a little shaving bag and flipped through a stack of hundreds that was an inch thick. He squirmed around so that he could reach into his pocket and show me a similar wad. Holy cow, this guy really is crazy. "No one knows about all of this money. I run my own business, which allows me to take a little at a time that no one knows about but me."
  • "My wife didn't know where I went. I just had enough of the cold, so I left. I called from the airport and she was relieved. Then I called from Atlanta, and she was pissed. Women.
  • "I was supposed to go to Costa Rica. But they wouldn't let me board because my passport is expired. They rebooked me to Puerto Rico." This never occurred to him before he bought the ticket.
  • "You ever been with a black woman?" We're gettin' kind of personal now. He talked for a while about his desire to get with a black woman. The other passengers pretended that they weren't listening.

At the end of the flight, he got a bottle of water. The liquor had made him hot, so he took off his hat, poured some water on his head, and then shook vigorously from side to side like a dog. This got most of the people in first class a little bit wet, leaving some pretty annoyed looking faces. I have to admit that I was tired of this guy by now too.

We departed, and I told him where I was staying. "Look for me in the sports bar at the Marriott." I was both relieved and disappointed to find out that there was no sports bar at the Marriott.

When I got to the airport to return home several days later, I saw a crowd by the gate, so I diverted my path and went to a less crowded area. I sat down in a chair, looked up, and -- I swear this is the truth -- it was the same guy. He was sober this time, but still crazy. He asked me to look after his stuff (the shaving kit that had held so much cash, and the near empty hanging bag) so that he could go buy a paper.

Would you believe that the guy was gone 45 minutes? He decided to buy his family some souvenirs while he was shopping. He even bought me a bottled water. I suppressed the urge to pour it on my head and then shake the spray all over everyone.

I didn't see this clown once I had boarded my flight back to Atlanta. I don't know what his name was. I'll definitely keep an eye out for him the next time I fly.