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I flew home from visiting my parents in Texas last night. It’s a short flight, just under three hours. But it clearly wasn’t short enough for my adorable seatmate, who carried what appeared to be an entire pizza on board -- but in fact later revealed itself to be a greasy box of half-eaten crusts and discarded toppings unceremoniously arranged on a sheet of limp wax paper.
Right as the plane was climbing to cruising altitude, she cracked open her in-flight meal and began to chow down, using the pizza crusts as a scoop and the pile of toppings as a sort of dip. The sudden smell of onions, bell peppers and low-grade pepperoni was bad enough, but it was the constant elbowing and light dusting of pizza crumbs that flew from her mouth into my lap that had me debating opening a window to jump out over Amarillo.
The personal space intrusion was on par with those dudes who MUST air their giant balls out on the subway, fellow passengers be damned. As she obliviously kept cramming her terrible, deconstructed pizza concoction into her mouth, I started to wonder: Why do airlines allow people to bring their smelly meals onto the plane in the first place?
This is not the first disgusting foodstuff in a flying tube incident I've been forced to endure. I had the misfortune to once be seated right next to a gentleman chowing down on a Nathan's Famous chili dog with onions. It was as incredibly unpleasant as you can imagine.
I know, babe -- trust me, I know. The mean old airlines don't feed us anymore. And you're hungry! But that's no excuse to barge on the plane with a bag of stale, congealed, stinky grease and proceed to eat it with your bare hands on an E.coli-infested tray table. We've somehow become an army of rude, bad-mannered flyers, concerned with nobody's comfort but our own. As long as our immediate personal desires are being satisfied, why should we care if our actions affect anyone else? "Listen, lady. It's MY chili cheese dog with onions, and I'll eat it in your ear if I damn well please!"
But if we don't look out for each other, who will? It's just a hop, skip and a jump from bad food etiquette to something far, far worse.
Let me back up and clarify that I’m not talking about a plastic baggie of carrots here or a homemade sandwich there. I’ve traveled with both and been glad I did. I’m strictly talking about those greasy, smelly, putrid bags of airport food that infiltrate the plane with their odor and subject your fellow passengers to the stomach-churning sights and sounds of you masticating less than six inches from their heads. I've chowed down on plenty of horrifying airport fast food in my time, the most recent being oh, JUST LAST NIGHT, but do us all a favor and eat that stuff at the gate, will ya? It's the only polite thing to do.
Also, I'd like to know: why doesn't a bag of food count as the forbidden third carry-on item? If I hide my purse in a crumpled Burger King sack, does that mean I don't have to cram it into my computer bag to adhere to the airline's two-bags-only rule? And why don't passengers have to stow their food for takeoff and landing? It would seem that holding a piping hot pizza on your lap is far more hazardous than allowing me to have my makeup case in the seat next to me so I can have easy access to my lip balm and hand cream.
Last, but certainly not least disgustingly, here's a question for those of you who insist on bringing your stinky food onto the airplane: You just had your hands ALL OVER your luggage, which is likely crawling with bedbugs -- so why would you want to use those same hands to eat with immediately thereafter? Barf.
Got any gross airplane passenger stories, food-based or otherwise? Hit me!
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison