Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Flight

A week ago today, I was preparing to take off for a girl's weekend in Seattle with Jenny... so excited! I posted that I couldn't wait to just get on the plane and relax without a baby crawling all over me. Included in that, though I didn't specifically mention it, was the relief that I wouldn't have to worry about cleaning up puke or changing diapers for several days! Woohoo!

So we got to the airport in Honolulu in time to enjoy a glass of wine before getting on the overnight flight to Seattle. Cheers!!

I boarded the full plane, found my seat on the aisle next to a nice looking couple and we exchanged pleasantries before closing our eyes and trying to drift off into the most peaceful sleep possible while seated in those horrible seats and flying through the air at 30,000ft.

Somewhere toward the middle/end of the flight, I awoke groggily from my 75% sleep to the feeling of something warm seeping through the cotton of my lightweight sweatpants. As my eyes opened, it occurred to me that my seat neighbor had just spilled her coffee on my legs. Ugh. Then I heard her say, in a complete state of shock, "I'm so sorry."

Then the smell. The unmistakable smell. That was not coffee. Oh. My. Gosh.

Without a word, I stood up and walked back to that little teeny tiny lavatory in the back of the plane. It was the only place I could have the privacy I needed to take off my favorite white sweatpants and do what I could to wash the puke out...

So there I stood, at 2:00 in the morning, in my underwear, scrubbing airline soap onto my now wet pants and trying desperately to remove the stomach acid that was all over both pant legs. Wishing wishing wishing I had another pair of pants or short or something I could put back on instead of these (now wet) white puke-pants.

Unfortunately, wishing doesn't make a new pair of pants magically appear. So I used a bunch of those little paper towels to soak up as much of the excess water as I could and then, yes, put my wet white puke-pants back on. What else was I going to do??

The next question was where I was going to sit for the remainder of the flight. My neighbor hadn't singled my legs out as the only destination for her puke... No, the projectile vomit landed all over the seats in front of us and the floor. And those good-for-nothing- flight attendants did, um, nothing, to help the woman and her husband clean it up.

I was prepared to stand in the back galley for the rest of the flight if I had to. I was NOT going to sit back in that seat. I returned to the row though, and the woman's husband apologized to me. I half-heartedly mentioned that he shouldn't worry about it and then told him I was going to ask the flight attendants if they might possibly make another seat magically appear on this full flight. Luckily for everyone involved, the man told me that their teenage son was sitting alone up toward the front of the plane so I could exchange seats with him. Perfect.

But before I had the chance to go up to my new seat, the agonized woman reappeared after taking some time to clean herself up in the other rear lavatory. She apologized and then right away said, "I'm going through chemotherapy. I don't know where that came from. It just came out of nowhere. I'm so sorry."

Wow. My heart instantly went out to her. I have goosebumps while writing this. I touched her arm and told her whole-heartedly not to worry about it for a second. I told her that I've been there. I've been through chemotherapy. I've been the one puking at 30,000 feet on an airplane and remember it as possibly one of the worst moments of that whole ugly year.

The woman and her husband tried to give me money for my ruined pants. No way. I wouldn't even consider taking that. I just wanted that woman to be able to sit down and relax. I know that years from now, when her treatments are all over, that incident on the plane will still be with her and she'll remember it as one of the lowest moments of her whole ordeal. I didn't want to make it worse for her in any way. So I did what I could to insist that she not worry about it and then took my new seat toward the front of the plane and let their family have some peace together.

So much for the hope that traveling without a baby would mean not cleaning up puke on the plane! In all honesty though, I'm glad that I was the one sitting next to that woman. I'm glad for her, that at least in the low moment, she had someone who truly 100% understood. What are the chances?

20 comments:

jessica said...

that just gave me chills -- wow.

My MIL is having a wretched time with her chemo and can't really gather the mental strength to go through another round in two weeks. She's anything but an athlete, but I told her your story hoping it'd help to hear that someone can be so down, and then so very up just a few years later.

X-Country2 said...

Totally gave me chills too. That woman thinks of you as an angel. :o)

Anonymous said...

Wow. As a new mom who is also a triathlete I have been lurking on your blog to learn about what others are experiencing. I had to finally speak out b/c this is your most powerful post yet. My mom is going thru chemo so this was very touching to me. I applaud you for the very classy way you handled the situation.

BTW, I love your blog. My little one is 6 months so it's nice to read your stories and learn about what to expect. The detailed schedule you left last week was sooooo helpful!

Keep it up!

Lucy

Katie A. said...

Of all the gin joints...
I had goose bumps, too. We call that at my house a quincey God. So sorry the flight wasn't as relaxed as it could have been, I am glad that you was the one she was sitting next to, too - if that makes sense at all. Hopefully, that incident was the act of getting all the bad mojo out of you for your race! Can't wait for the race report! ;)

The Chapples said...

Oh man, Michelle. Thanks for sharing that. Prayers for that woman and hugs for you.

Lizzie said...

That is so . . . well, I can't even begin to describe it, but I think goosebumps covers it. You probably made her day in what would normally be awkward circumstances.

Clare said...

thank god it was you. i hope we all remember to have that much compassion when something icky happens, even if we haven't been there...

Ange said...

You were in that seat for a reason. And X-country2 is right...you are an angel to her I bet.
thank you for sharing that story. there is an important lesson in there for all of us.

Angela and David Kidd said...

I teared up reading that. Wow. Like others said, you were in that seat for a reason.

Although given your track record, maybe you should start carrying an extra outfit on flights with you?

Rebecca DeWire said...

I second what everyone else said. Reading this story made me choke up! It just reminds me that from the outside, you never really know what is going on with anyone. I am really glad that woman shared with you that she is going through chemo.

Roo said...

You are awesome!

GoBigGreen said...

Oh Boy, that is a miracle that you were there and not someone that would have ripped into her. Events like that make me really feel blessed and lucky to be healthy and ABLE to train and race, not to mention all the other ADL's we take for granted.. Thanks for sharing.

BriGaal said...

I was retelling this story to my husband and I started to tear up! How horrible for that woman to have to go through that situation on the flight, but so lucky it was you. I didn't know you had been through chemo before.

Regina said...

I was completely unprepared for that twist in the story. That poor woman, and you were so kind to her. Because you were so understanding I am sure she will remember your kindness above and beyond the humiliation of the event.

May you be rewarded with good karma (as I am sure you will be)

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

I too second what everyone said. And got chills...and teared up. I believe you were meant to sit in that seat -

You ARE amazing.

Keep it up Michelle! You are truly an inspiration!!

N.D. said...

aww that made my ears get all teary!

cherelli said...

gee, that is quite the spine-tingling culmination to the story..very touching and I will always keep that in mind now should I end up in that situation (also, i might start carrying extra clothes in my carry-on too). Thank goodness that lady was sitting next to you, thanks so much for sharing.

Sara said...

Wow! That's definitely not the story I was expecting! That gave me goose bumps. My heart goes out to her.

MamaFeather said...

Oh gosh - the tears are flowing on that one!!!

Beth said...

Well I'm just going to say the same thing as everyone else but I figured it doesn't hurt to hear it again - what an amazing story and I got teary eyed reading it! You were certainly in that seat for a reason as I'm pretty sure not many other people would have handled it as gracefully it understood. Thanks for sharing Michelle!