This is an experiment that I’m starting today on my Blog. I’m not sure where it will take me or how this will end up. I’ve had a story rattling around in my head for a couple of months. It is based on something that really happened during one of my many early Monday morning flights. I am usually pretty sleepy and, on one particular morning, I sat in the wrong seat. The passenger whose seat I was in was nice enough to just sit in my original seat and I fell back to sleep. That is where the parallel with my experience ends, but, as a twisted writer, I thought there might be something interesting there.
I’m going to gradually roll out this story through my blog. It is unedited and mostly stream of consciousness. You can really help me by commenting on the story and letting me know if it should continue. I will likely finish it anyway, but your comments will determine my level of enthusiasm and dedication in doing so on a regular basis.
So, please enjoy Road Kill. I very much look forward to your comments.
By Don Massenzio
It was a typical Monday morning. I was up at 4:30 in the morning to wander sleepily through a shower and into presentable clothes for the weekly commute to whatever Sheraton hotel was in whatever city was the target of this week’s work.
The travel was tough at first. I was a nervous flyer, but had now, after a year of traveling nearly every week, become accustomed to the early start on Monday, the 42-mile car ride to the airport, and the customary window seat where I would nap until touchdown in Atlanta.
If you live in Jacksonville, Florida and fly with any regularity, you quickly learn that all roads (flights) lead to Atlanta and beyond. Delta airlines is the major carrier and, to get to most places, you are bound to this carrier and had to travel through one of the busiest airline hubs in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia.
This Monday started like any other. The black Lincoln Town Car picked me up and I drowsily engaged in conversation about the latest current events with the driver. Then, I arrived at the airport and headed through the TSA pre-check line through security and to my gate in Concourse A.
I had taken this flight enough that the Delta personnel, the heavyset gentleman with the beard and the blonde with the stereotypical southern accent were familiar to me. They nodded to me as I hovered my phone over the electronic scanning device. Miss southern accent tried to pronounce my last name as she thanked me for my loyalty to Delta. Her attempted pronunciation was different each time I passed through to the jet way. My flight status had me boarding the aircraft just after the first class passengers. The faces of my fellow flyers had begun to look familiar too, as many were on the same Monday through Thursday travel cycle. All of us happy to live in Jacksonville, but having to travel to make a decent salary.
This particular February morning was cold and rainy, which was typical for this time of year in north Florida. I glanced at my iPhone screen to confirm where I was supposed to sit. I settled in to seat 16A, leaned against the window, and started to doze off as the other passengers passed down the aisle to their assigned seats.
“Excuse me, what seat are you supposed to be in,” a voice directed at me rudely woke me from my pre-flight nap. I thumbed the screen of my phone to life. “I’m in 16A,” I said with just an edge of rudeness. “You’re in 17A,” my human alarm clock said. He was tall in a dark suit and sported a man-bun.
I looked at the label beneath the overhead bin across the aisle. They displayed 17 D, E and F. Apparently, in my delirium, I had sat in the wrong row. Mr. Man-Bun must have sensed this. My row-mates in 17 B and C started to shift nervously. “Look, I’ll just sit in 16A,” Man-Bun said. He sounded a bit condescending, but in my semi-conscious state, this sounded like the quickest route back to my nap. “Okay. Thanks,” I said. My row mates settled back into their seats, Man Bun settled into his and I drifted off into that semi-restful airplane sleep.
On cue, when the dual ding of the final approach into Atlanta chimed through the cabin, I woke from my slumber. This, as always, was followed by the sound of the landing gear locking into place, and the gradual descent over the railroad tracks and warehouses that dotted the landscape on the approach to the airport.
I glanced at my watch. We were early this week. This was fortunate. I would have time to grab a quick bite on the way to my connection. My destination was Phoenix this week. I officially had an hour and fifteen minutes to connect, but, with this early arrival, I had an extra fifteen minutes tacked on. Making a connection in Atlanta demanded at least an hour as the movement from concourse to concourse could vary in length. Some mornings, when my flight landed in T and I had to catch a flight in D, it could take 30-40 minutes to make the trip.
As we touched down, I changed the settings on my phone, which I had dutifully set to airplane mode (you never know). I went to the ‘Fly Delta’ app and saw that I just had a short journey from the ‘B’ to the ‘A’ concourse for my connecting flight. The jet way was in place and the airplane door opened.
Much like worshipers in church, the aircraft emptied row-by-row starting from the front. Soon, as the deplaning process approached my row, I grabbed my backpack, and did that crouched stance that one did when waiting to exit. As the row in front of me exited, I noticed that Mr. Man Bun was still asleep in his seat. His row-mate in seat 16B nudged him, to no avail. He was a deep sleeper. One more forceful nudge and he fell forward hitting his forehead quite hard on the back of seat 15A.
Something was wrong. 16B hit the flight attendant call button. The flight attendant purposefully walked back to row 16. “Sir,” He called in a forceful voice. “Sir, are you okay?” The male flight attendant grabbed Man Bun’s wrist and a different look crossed his face as the realization set in. He quickly returned to the front of the plane to confer with the other crew members. Then the announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the calm southern accent-twinged voice of the pilot said. “We have a bit of a medical emergency on the flight today. I’m going to ask the passengers remaining on the plane to take your seats while we wait for emergency medical personnel to come aboard. We will make every attempt to get you off the plane in order to make your connections. Please be patient.”
The calming voice of the captain did the trick. The passengers in 16B and C moved to other empty seats to give another flight attendant and one of the pilots access to the passenger. From the looks they exchanged, it appeared that the emergency medical personnel were going to act as transporters of a dead body.
The EMT’s boarded the plane after a surprisingly short period of time. They checked Man Bun with a stethoscope and assessed his condition. Apparently he had been dead long enough that they didn’t attempt CPR. They simply lifted him from his seat and brought him to the waiting gurney in the jet way.
This was a new experience. I was quite shaken. I drank two cups of expensive, bitter airport coffee and tried to convince myself that these things happen. Mr. Man Bun, whose name I would later discover was Thomas Channing, looked young, healthy and much too pretentious to die quietly in an airplane seat. I had interacted with this man much more than with most passengers on my typical Monday morning flight. He had died in the seat assigned to me. Not that the seat assignment had anything to do with his death. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.