Human Relations: How quickly things can turn (Observations from Row 17)

I was looking forward to a few days away from the hustle and bustle of New York City to attend a conference in Las Vegas.  What I wasn’t looking forward to was my loud and obnoxious alarm clock at 4:00 a.m.  My flight would depart from John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport at 7 o’clock and I’d hoped for nothing but a smooth ride to the airport, an easy and painless TSA security screening and a peaceful and quiet 6-hour flight.

Well, two out of three wasn’t bad.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So much for my quiet and peaceful plane ride.  I’m not a morning person, so even birds chirping would be an irritant.  At 7:00 a.m., all I expect to hear are light snores — not 5-plus bloody hours of a Mr. Chatty Cathy — yes, Mister.  By the way, the flight was full.  I was surprised about this.  Who in their right mind wakes up before dawn to be in an airport?  Who?  Obviously me and about 75 other passengers, that’s who.

I kid you not. From the time we were airborne to approximately 30 minutes before we landed in Las Vegas, an older gentleman talked the ear off his neighbors — actually, one in particular.  He was in a seat of three, and he was positioned at the aisle and the woman (who frankly, seemed to be a willing participant) in the middle seat was his target.

Side Note: I’ve never understood why some people, as soon as they get on the plane, feel the need to fire up a conversation with the person next to them.  You don’t know me, but you want to talk my ear off, like you’re so desperate for conversation that a trapped passenger — because that’s what we are, trapped — is all you need?  I don’t get that.  Anyway…)

At that hour of the morning, there’s not a person ready to answer 50 questions like they’re in the middle of an interrogation.  What made matters worse, Mr. Chatty Cathy’s voice wasn’t exactly a whisper.  I was several rows behind and could hardly concentrate on reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”. With the exception of this person, the rest of the economy cabin was in a slumber.

Cut to the last hour of the flight.

There were several observant Jews on the plane.  (I found it interesting that they were heading to Las Vegas, although I guessed I wouldn’t see them on The Strip.)  A young Hasidic mother with a baby, less than a year old, was seated in the row in front of me in the aisle seat.  (P.S. The baby was the perfect baby. Not a sound. Um, when has that ever happened on a plane?  Right. Never.)  Of course, Mr. Chatty Cathy with a heaping dose of it’s-non-of-my-business-but-I’m-going-to-ask-anyway, decides to strike up a conversation with Hasidic Mom.  I was wondering how long it was going to take him to talk someone else’s ear off and pepper them with questions.  He’d already dulled the ear drums of the woman next to him, and jumped at the chance to interrogate the gentleman also in his row but seated at the window when his middle seat neighbor went to the lavatory.  Unfortunately, for him, as it would turn out, Hasidic Mom was seated directly behind him.

He begins by asking how old the baby was, where was she from (she wasn’t originally from the U.S., but she’d earned her citizenship), where did she live, where was she going in Las Vegas (turns out she and her husband, who was seated several rows ahead, were heading outside of Vegas), etc.  She was very polite, answered all his questions (which was nuts).  The conversation couldn’t have been more pleasant and he seemed quite taken with the baby, who, I must again note — was the perfect baby.  Yes, it is important to repeat this.  But then, he brings up Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Now, for those of you who may not be familiar with Williamsburg, it has turned into a haven for hipsters — youthful (if not in age, in mind), trendy, politically aware, socially conscious, green-market-supporting, 20-somethings to perhaps 60-somethings — basically, coolness personified in the 21st century.  However, before the hipsters got hip to Williamsburg (which happened because people got priced out of Manhattan, which was ridiculously more expensive), historically, a very large Jewish — mostly Hasidic — population was what you thought of when you heard “Williamsburg”.  Oh, how times have changed.

Well, out of the mouth of Mr. Chatty Cathy came a series of statements (and I’m paraphrasing) that the Jews in the Williamsburg were extremely unhappy with the influx of non-Jews, and were offended by the clothing that women were wearing (Hasidic Jews are extremely modest with their dress — men and women), women riding bicycles with their behinds not fully covered, and bottom-line (no pun intended), they didn’t want them or any other “outsiders” there.  Furthermore (oh, he wasn’t finished), he said that Hasidic men don’t respect women anyway — I went blank after that…whoa, Nellie!…

Oh, no he didn’t.

Yep, he went there.

Now, what I find ironic (if I’m not mistaken) is Mr. Chatty Cathy was himself Jewish, although not a Hasidic Jew.  And, what I find very perplexing is that he would be making these statements (I still cannot figure out how the topic of conversation switched from babies and visiting friends outside of Las Vegas) to a woman who was as clear as day Hasidic. Huh? What?

Well, Hasidic Mom was having none of that.  She spoke loudly enough that several rows before, beside and behind her heard what she had to say, which was basically, “Shut the f*ck up”, and in no uncertain terms she let him know she was offended and the conversation was over.

No. Correction: O-va! *finger snap and neck roll*

Not another word after that.

In a blink of an eye that man was silenced.  Silently, I was cheering for her because he was an a**hole in every sense of the word and she defended her faith and her community.  I was also cheering because my desire for peace and quiet came when I least expected it.  Sure, it was only a few minutes before we would land, but I’ll take peace and quiet any way I can get it.

Yes, this fool messed with the wrong chick on an early morning flight — and he never saw it coming.



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