I try hard to make myself look as unapproachable as possible on airplanes, but occasionally a seatmate misses the memo.

Earlier this month, I flew to California. Long story short: my flights were canceled at the last minute and I was rerouted on a real shitty itinerary that included a six-hour layover in Chicago.

My first flight was on a small plane with two rows of two. I took my seat beside a guy in his 50’s and promptly closed my eyes.

“You traveling for work or leisure?” he asked.

I peeked my eyes open. “Leisure.”

“I’m traveling for work!” he eagerly shared. “I have the manliest job in the world, working with the three ultimate man things. Trucks, fire, and—” (I forgot the third thing. What’s the third manliest thing? I’ve been plagued by this question ever since.)

He said I would not believe the size of the trucks he works on. So he pulled out his iPad and showed me pictures of him standing beside the tires, which were three times as tall as he was.

He went on to list all the countries he’d be traveling to, ending with Australia.

“I studied abroad in Australia,” I said.

He smirked. “Can I tell you a bad pun?”

No. The answer to this is always no.

“Sure,” I said.

“I studied several broads in Australia.” Wink wink.

That’s when I closed my eyes again. But he kept talking. “How long is your layover in Chicago?”

“Six hours,” I mumbled.

“I’ll let you into the Admirals Club lounge with my membership,” he said. “It has all the free food and drinks you could want.”

I opened my eyes.

Look. I know. But please reference the title of this post.

It actually worked out perfectly—he had an extremely short layover, so when we landed he just swiped me in, gave me a brief tour of the buffet, informed me that the guacamole is excellent, and left me alone in this glorious land where free food and alcohol flow like the river.

After obtaining a mocha from the fancy, touch-screen coffee machine, I wandered into the separate “no-noise suite” and settled in to a recliner. The suite was the size of my entire house, and nobody else entered it the whole time I was there.


So that’s where I read and slept the day away, occasionally getting up to use the women’s restroom, which was decorated with bouquets of free tampons, and which I also had all to myself, because have I mentioned that literally everyone else in this lounge was a middle-aged white dude?

What a truly rude awakening it was, six hours later, when I was forced to rejoin the regular, airport plebes with their tired eyes and red, splotchy faces.

I may have been forever ruined on air travel.

While airport lounges were once a mythical phenomenon I’d only heard vaguely referenced in passing, now I will never again walk through an airport without noticing the signs for them at every turn, all too aware of the alternate travel experience being relished by rich, white dudes on the other side of the wall.

But I also learned that sometimes, it does pay off to talk to your seatmate. Gross puns and all.