Forces of Nature… Or of Human Nature When Travelling

This week, share a force of nature from your corner of the world.


I managed to get to my window seat without anybody stepping on my feet; there was plenty of room for my carry on bag; there were no screaming children seated close by; and the gentleman seated next to me appeared to be a very civilized, polite person. I sighed with relief – all these aspects were nothing but miraculous, given the chaos of people boarding what was obviously going to be a full Airbus A310. There was still hope, I could enjoy the flight, I could relax and empty my mind while staring at the clouds – yes, I know, I have all too often bored everybody with my predilection for seeing the wonders of nature from above. I could even take a nap – I was exhausted after all. As it turns out, it was indeed a good opportunity to ponder on the wonders of nature… of human nature when travelling, that is…

Has it ever struck you how people undergo a radical metamorphosis when traveling, especially if they are on vacation? We often resemble a swarm of locusts rather than the civilized individuals we embody in our day to day life. Yes, I am aware of the psychological factors, but that doesn’t mean observing this manifestation is any less fascinating. We eat and drink everything and anything, dishes and beverages that we wouldn’t even touch at home. We wear the most ridiculous outfits either because they are more than comfortable, or because we have some distorted, cliché ideas about what we should wear in a particular place. But it’s allowed when travelling, right? And let’s not even get into all those ridiculous souvenirs that we buy, only to wander what we were thinking when we get back home. I admit I also have a couple of tacky fridge magnets which make me doubt my general sanity… Somehow, travelling makes most of us more desperate to consume everything that’s available, from food and entertainment to art and culture.

The trip isn’t really over until we get off the plane, so the flight time is the final occasion to let our inner locust thrive. But while many of my travel fellows were restlessly looking forward to their snacks and beverages, I was contemplating going to sleep. The view out the window wasn’t too impressive, I didn’t feel like reading and my inner locust draws the line at airplane food, since I am a picky eater even if I am travelling. I knew I had to wait until they were done with their food, the unappetizing smell of the warm meal and the noise were going to keep me awake. But who knew the travel habits of the gentleman sitting next to me would keep me awake too?…

He was clearly very interested in his appearance – a man in his early fifties probably, in good shape and neatly dressed in his casual designer clothes, to which he had matched a rather expensive watch and a very nice pair of shoes. Thus I wasn’t at all prepared for what followed…

The flight attendant served us our lunch and as usual, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I didn’t even want to see the unappetizing dish on the folding table in front of me. So I thanked her politely and thought I could eat the chocolate bar and have a glass of orange juice. After all, there are people starving in the world… but since I couldn’t figure out how my consuming that awfully smelling meal would help them, I didn’t touch the rest. While I couldn’t help a grimace of disgust, my neighbour asked for a glass of wine, a glass of apple juice and a glass of water, which he carefully aligned next to the food tray. After almost inhaling the questionable meat and whatever gooey things accompanied it, scraping the dish clean, he moved on to the bread roll… which presented a certain cardboard-like quality. With expert moves, he spread the small lump of butter in a thin layer and even the crumbs were gone in record time. I would imagine slightly buttered cardboard makes one very thirsty, so this is probably why the gentleman proceeded to drink from the carefully aligned glasses – apple juice, wine, some more juice, water and so on, until no drop was left in any of them. Just as I was watching him with the corner of my eye, thinking he had nothing left to devour, he made one final discovery – there was a bit of jam he hadn’t seen before. In a matter of seconds, everything had been scooped out of the minuscule plastic container. In a fit of restraint, he set aside the chocolate bar, so he could have it with the cup of instant coffee and with that of hot tea the flight attendant served after the meal. True enough, she did ask, “Coffee or tea?”; but when our gentleman replied, “Both,” she chose not to debate it any further.

Now I can finally go to sleep, I figured, once the trash had been collected. I was just dozing off when a somewhat familiar rattling noise brought me back to reality. It was time for my neighbour to check his finances, obviously – he had taken an impressive amount of coins out of his man purse and now he was counting them diligently on the folding table. Lots of five cent pieces, I couldn’t help noticing… Once that little task was performed, he could finally find some peace of mind and move on to taking a little after lunch nap. Good, that meant I could sleep too.

He’s chocking, was the first thought to cross my sleepy mind some ten minutes later. No, not chocking, just snoring… And to think I had assumed peace and quiet were guaranteed just because there were no screaming children around… Luckily, there were still things to be consumed, so he didn’t sleep for long. Once awake, the ladies’ issue of the airline’s magazine received his undivided attention, so I could take a blissful half an hour nap. It was an overwhelming aftershave fragrance and some unexplainable warmth that woke me up this time. I opened my eyes to see the fashionable gentleman leaning over me, only a few centimetres away, staring at the clouds, his forehead close to the window. I cleared my throat and my angry glance made him sit down and stare at his shoes for a while. Well, I was certainly awake and since sleep was no longer an option, I started analysing the oddities of human nature when traveling… I suppose they need to be referred to as eccentricities when it comes to certain people…

And speaking of eccentric individuals… after another nap, our gentleman proceeded to entertain himself with the other magazine the airline had so generously provided him with. For my final delight, he took interest in the map showing all the flights and destinations of the airline we were flying. And that’s when it happened. A strip of paper found its way out of my neighbour’s bag and after a brief, yet careful analysis of both the map and the paper, he started measuring. Yes, the width of the paper became a measuring unit, allowing him to roughly calculate the length of various routes on the map…

I tried to immerse myself in the grandeur of nature and life unfolding under us as the plane started to descend. Humans have managed to tame and control forces of nature in many situations so far. How do we tame and control the human nature of the traveller though, especially of the eccentric one? Is it advisable to try or is it one of those things that should be accepted as they are, an integrant and undeniable characteristic of our species? Humans might be one of those forces of nature more difficult to tame and contain after all… But between the people sitting behind me bragging about how much they had spent on their holiday and the eccentric gentleman surreptitiously “borrowing” the free magazines, I just couldn’t reach a conclusion…


41 thoughts on “Forces of Nature… Or of Human Nature When Travelling

  1. This is a very interesting story…thanks for sharing. Anyone that has traveled, certainly can relate to your experience. Life is full of surprises and traveling will certainly give you plenty!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. anna – felt like i was right there with you (and him) on this ride – and you write so well – with such nice tidbits – and really nabbed
    “the human nature of the traveller”

    Liked by 1 person

      • well I like the clouds so far… and funny how our entire plane ride can be impacted by who we sit next to – and on my last trip – I was in my own row going – that was nice – and a nice college kid (recent grad) coming back- but I have had some crowded rides – with stinky people, loud babies, bar air – and all of it. But your passenger takes the cake. ha!

        Liked by 1 person

          • ha! yes – at least he was not smelly – that is pretty rough. and there are many kinds of smells – not just BO – because on the train recently there was a lady with cheap perfume and we could all “taste” it – ulgh = and some people mean well, but it is not always a gift to others. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

              • oh my gosh – I agree – and I think those folks mean well – and they use it likely as a social courtesy – you know – to not be a stinky person and all that – but yikes – how much is enough for those folks!

                Liked by 1 person

              • yes…. and that is the key word – moderation. And I heard that a good way to wear perfume/parfum is to just have enough so that if someone is very close they can enjoy a small whiff. Also, the quality ones mix with your body oils and become unique for you – and so sometimes feedback from others helps – lol


              • yes – I agree – even a pleasant one can be too much. and side note – a couple times I have thanked someone for smelling so good. Like once, while shopping of all places – this older gentleman – had on the best men’s cologne and it was truly wonderful – sniffed a couple times and as I was leaving I noted it to him – that it smelled so nice.

                Liked by 1 person

              • same here – and once in a while I thank the guy – ha! you know – we need to reinforce this social courtesy – and they usually smile big time.


              • Definitely 🙂 From what I noticed, they enjoy receiving a well-deserved compliment as much as we do. And why shouldn’t they, after all?…


              • well thanks for the hug – and I do have one more quick story about cologne. Have you ever smelled Polo by Ralph Lauren? The one in the classic green bottle? Well in my very frist apartment a guy lived there before me – and he spilled a bottle of that int he bathroom cabinet (it smelled nice) – and ever since then (almost 2 decades) every time i smell Polo I recall that special year – funny how smells and memories are so related. ❤

                Liked by 1 person

              • Indeed… it’s amazing how a scent can bring about a flood of memories, flashbacks about situations, people and places. No matter how many times that happens, it still takes us by surprise and it often alters our mood.
                Anyway, you were lucky the guy spilled a bottle of something nice 🙂 I know from personal experience how the scent of spilled perfume tends to linger – a perfume bottle broke in one of my suitcases years ago and even after washing everything twice, I could still smell it on some of my clothes. As for the case, it had a very pleasant aroma from then on – that was the only bright side of that incident 🙂

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              • oh u are so right, it could have been a cheap bottle of yuck that he broke. and I bet the suitcase was even nice for the baggage handlers to handle. ❤

                Liked by 1 person

              • ha! and I hope it did not distract them – like “mmmm, Todd – did you smell that one?” “Yes, Joe – whew – quite a delight” – ha!

                Liked by 1 person

  3. It probably wasn’t funny for you at the time ( and I empathize with you…really I do) but I found your story hilarious! 🙂 LOL hilarious. The kind of story I would find in a David Sedaris book! Keep writing. You’re good at that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great compliment, Carol 🙂 Thank you! I’m glad you consider the story to be funny, that’s exactly how it was meant to be. Fortunately I’m not grumpy enough – not yet at least – in order not to appreciate the humorous factor as the events unfolded. Besides… I’ve survived flights much worse than this 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful details and resonant of both the uniquely personal encounter you relate and the universal experience of being ‘up close’ to a stranger while traveling… really enjoyed reading your account! Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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