Holiday Travel Horror Stories -- Or, How A Complete Stranger Vomited On Me on an Airplane Last Night


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According to AAA, travel during this Memorial Day weekend is slated to be up five percent over last year. Personally, I decided to get out of town this weekend - in fact, I'm already in Cleveland visiting my parents and my boyfriend, while tying up loose ends for my RFT work for the week.

When I fly, I prefer to travel using Southwest Airlines. Lambert's East Terminal Terminal 2 is super-convenient - it regularly takes me less than 40 minutes from my apartment to my gate - and Southwest's fares are cheap. Things generally run on time, too, except for tonight: My flight was delayed, because they held the flight for connecting passengers who were arriving on delayed flights from other cities. We didn't take off until 8:30 p.m. or so, over an hour late.

The person who sat next to me looked maybe in his late teens, early twenties. He had close-cropped hair, perhaps a grown-out buzzcut, and some scattered acne on a youthful babyface. He was wearing white basketball jersey shorts and a black T-shirt with screen-printing, like an Affliction tee or something. (I didn't look close enough.) It was a full flight, and so we were smushed together in the narrow row of seats.

Things seemed to be going well as the beverage service started. I had just received my coffee - see: working late tying up loose ends - and was hard at work at the medium-difficulty Sudoku in the Southwest in-flight magazine. The woman on the aisle and buzzcut next to me chatted idly; I heard him ask how much longer the flight was going to be. You know -- usual, normal questions.

But as my tired brain puzzled through the numbers, all of a sudden buzzcut projectile vomited. On his tray. On his Sprite. On the back of the seat in front of him. On the magazines in the seat pocket. On his Affliction-esque shirt and white, breathable shorts. On his black backpack. And then, due to the laws of gravity, the orange-ish, pungent puke started crawling my way.

It looked like buzzcut had eaten pizza, from what I could tell - I wasn't exactly trying to sleuth that out. In fact, I was frantically trying to use my measly, flimsy Southwest napkin to stop the disgusting liquid from trickling onto my dress. (My favorite dress, mind you - the $40 Max Studio bargain I found at TJ Maxx several seasons ago that I haven't been able to find again anywhere.) I quickly pushed the flight attendant button, as did several people around me. I'm pretty sure I said, "What the fuck?" I'm pretty sure I also looked really, really pissed off. He mumbled an apology, but he seemed mortified more than anything as the smell started to radiate outward from our row.

The flight attendants came and brought a fat stack of napkins. I watched, almost in slow motion, as buzzcut cleaned things off as well as he could. The nice attendant started spraying stiff sanitizer all over the place. I pulled at my dress and noticed that my attempts to clean had been an epic fail. On my left thigh and hip was a big, huge disgusting wet mess made by someone else's vomit. I opted to go to the bathroom at the back of the plane and pour club soda all over my dress while standing over the airplane toilet. They suggested I use a maxipad to absorb the liquid, so I blotted the knit material with that. Another nice worker cleaned my purse, which also had vomit all over it. (I didn't notice until I got home that my left shoe was also encrusted. Gross.) The Southwest flight attendants were nothing but helpful and sympathetic, I'll say that. In fact, the nicest one gave me free booze - "Cheap red wine!" is what he cheerfully insisted I needed. (He was right, of course.) You see, the flight was completely full - we're talking zero empty seats -- so after cleaning myself off, I had to go back to my seat. Where I found buzzcut sitting, with a huge garbage bag in case he decided to go for round two. Now, there was no chance in hell that I was going to sit in his vomit-cursed seat. He seemed somewhat surprised at this, which made absolutely no sense. But he moved out of the way for me, and I returned to my window, red wine in hand, hoping that the last 30 minutes of the flight would be over soon. Despite cleaning and sanitizing, the stench of vomit still hung in the air. The stuffy, non-circulating, airplane air. I'm pretty sure everyone around us wanted to kill the kid.

The flight attendant made good on his promise to give me another free drink after I downed the first one (which I did, thank you very much). So the rest of the flight went by fast. I perched on the edge of my seat as far, far away from buzzcut as I could. And when we finally landed, he sprinted off the plane with nary a look in my direction. I later saw him near baggage claim just sort of wandering around. I did not go near him.

Currently, I'm sitting at my parents' house, my dress in the washer, gearing up to clean my purse tomorrow. I'm no worse for the wear, and now I can cross "being vomited on by a stranger" off my life list.

So, dear Daily RFT readers: Do you have a travel horror story? Do share in the comments.

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