I visited Argentina once. I liked it. The countryside was pretty, the architecture in BA was cool, and the food was great. But the most memorable part of the trip happened before I stepped foot in the country.
As a frequent flier, I boarded the plane early to find room for my bag. I had an aisle seat on the inside section, which had four seats. My traveling companion was a dear friend, and she happened to have the other inside aisle seat in the same row. We sat chatting over the two empty seats between us as the plane filled. As people stopped boarding and our departure time drew near, the two seats between us were still empty, as was the entire group of four directly in front of us. We began to hope that we could stretch out and chat during the long flight. We were wrong.
Just before the plane’s doors closed, the last six passengers boarded as a group. They were memorable. These were six big guys, with shaved heads, muscle tees, and more than a few tattoos. My heart sank as they took their seats between and in front of us.
They weren’t as loud and rowdy as I feared, though it was clear that flying was a novelty to them. I kept to my personal space in my aisle seat as much as one can when the guy next to you (and next to him) is a seat-and-a-half wide. We both tried to sleep, me as much to shut it all out as being truly tired. Finally, about an hour from landing, it got interesting. As breakfast was served, rousing the cabin, my seat mate woke and…changed his shirt! Right there in his seat. As I sat there horrified, fully aware of what was happening, he pulled a shirt out of I’m not sure where, took off the one he was wearing, and put the new one on. I’ve never so desperately tried not to look somewhere as right then and there. But it only got better. He then pulled out a bag of peanuts, again from I’m not sure where, ate half of them, and then offered me the rest. “No, thank you”, I mumbled. I’m good. Really.
At the same time I was earnestly trying to be as distant and alone as I could possibly be in a modern airline cattle car, my friend was chatting up her seat mate. They were headed on to Uruguay. No, he’d never been there. Boy was this a long flight. When she and I finally reconnected in the airport and watched as the burly group went on toward customs, my friend couldn’t wait to have a good laugh at my expense. It is funny now. But who were they, and what in the world were they going to do in Uruguay? For all of her friendliness, my friend didn’t have the guts to ask. I’ve never forgiven her, nor myself, for not asking. Her theory is that they were MMA fighters. I wondered if they were construction workers for some specialized industry. We’ll never know. Which means we can each write our own ending to the story, which, I admit, I like best.
“The best things in life are unexpected – because there were no expectations.” –Eli Khamarov