We all have imaginary conversations in our heads, right?
I have them constantly. I replay conversations that have already happened and think of all the things I should have said. And I rehearse future conversations with friends or acquaintances that I think will be hard. Like, “Here’s why I can’t come to your birthday dinner,” etc.
But most of all, I make up confrontations between myself and strangers. The kind of angry, chest-poking interactions I wouldn’t even think of having with anyone I’m going to see again.
Nowhere do I do this more than during air travel. Between arriving at the airport and getting off that plane, there are endless opportunities for a run-in. I mentally act out every one of them.
Here are the places these fantasy arguments may or may not have taken place on my latest trip:
1) In line for check-in.
When the people in front of me have moved forward but I haven’t yet because I’m finishing a text or something, this is the short play that goes on in my head:
PERSON BEHIND ME: Excuse me, you can move forward.
ME: I will in just a second.
PERSON BEHIND ME: Well, we’re all waiting here behind you.
ME: You’re not going to get to the front any faster whether I move up now or in a minute. There are still 20 people ahead of us.
PERSON BEHIND ME: But you’re creating a delay.
ME: No I’m not, it’s just a space between me and the person in front of me. It would cause a delay if I were at the front of the line and being called but not going forward, but that’s not the case. However, since it seems to make such an emotional difference to you, I’ll move up right now. Because you seem rather fragile.
What really happens: I see the space in front of me, and move up.
2) On my way through security.
I hear them asking people to please remove their jackets. I’m wearing a longish cardigan, and I know they’re going to make me take it off – as they have before. In my mind, I defend my right to keep on the cardigan:
INSPECTOR: Ma’am, please remove your jacket and put it in the tray.
ME: Oh, actually, it’s not a jacket. It’s a sweater.
INSPECTOR: Ma’am, please just remove it. You can’t go through the detector with a jacket.
ME: But what makes it a jacket? Is it because it’s hip length? Or because it opens in the front? If it were a pullover, would you make me take it off? Feel it — it’s knitted merino wool. That makes it a sweater.
INSPECTOR: Ma’am, you’re holding up the line. Please just remove the jacket.
ME: Fine. I’ll remove my “jacket” — which we both know is a sweater. But this is ridiculous. And, the last time I fly this airline.
INSPECTOR:[ No answer.]
What really happens: I don’t want to be that person. So I take off the sweater and put it in the stupid tray before anyone can make a stink.
I have my carry-on and two personal items — a structured bag, and a small tote that holds my wallet, phone and boarding pass just to keep them handy. You’re only allowed one personal item, and so I wonder if the gate attendant will try this:
GATE ATTENDANT: I can’t let you board with all three of those bags.
ME: Oh, it’s really two bags. This tote fits right inside the small bag — see?
GATE ATTENDANT: I’m sorry, ma’am, it’s still one extra bag, whether it’s inside the other bag or not. You’re only allowed one overhead bag and one personal item.
ME: Why do you care that I have a bag inside my one bag? Have you gone through all the other passengers’ bags to make sure they don’t have bags inside of them? What if they have a bag of food inside their one bag? Or a cosmetics kit? That’s a bag. If you don’t let me on with my bag-inside-a-bag, you’ll have to go through everyone else’s bags to make sure they aren’t sneaking on interior bags, either.
GATE ATTENDANT: OK, you have a point. I’ll let you on with it but in the future —
I don’t hear the rest of what she says because I’m done with her and boarding the plane. I’ve won this round.
What really happens: I take everything out of my tote and stuff it into my other bag before I board so it’s not an issue.
4) On the plane.
The aisle is blocked for at least half an hour by the snack and beverage carts. I decide to use the restroom at the front of the plane, anticipating this:
FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I’m sorry, this bathroom is for first class passengers only.
ME: Well, the aisle to the other bathroom is blocked.
FLIGHT ATTENDANT: You’ll just have to wait, ma’am.
ME: I have a bladder condition. And waiting will just make it worse and lead to medical complications, which would be the airline’s liability. Since no one is waiting to use the first class bathroom, why not let me use it really quickly? Wouldn’t that be easier than getting your name tied up in a long, involved legal case?
(I don’t have a bladder condition, but I easily could. Does she really want to take that chance?)
What really happens: I use the first class bathroom and no one says anything.
5) Boarding for the second leg, on a tiny prop plane.
GATE AGENT: Have a great flight. And hold on — you’ll want to put this tag on your suitcase and leave it at the end of the jetway for storage.
ME: What? Why?? It’s a carry-on.
GATE AGENT: Well, it’s too large for the overhead compartments.
ME: But it’s regulation size!
GATE AGENT: Regardless, it’s too big, and it won’t fit.
ME: Well I bought it specifically so I wouldn’t have to check and wait for my luggage. And I chose it according to the airline’s specifications. Now you’re telling me that the dimensions on the website are wrong?
GATE AGENT: All I’m saying is that it won’t fit. This is a tiny prop plane. You can try, but I promise you, it’ll end up stored below.
ME: Great. Just great. Maybe US Air should pay for this luggage set I bought for nothing.
What really happens: Actually, that is what happened. I didn’t make this one up. Though I muttered the last line to myself so that the guy couldn’t hear it. But as you can see, the ones I conjured in my head aren’t far off the mark.