Five in the morning is too early to fly, especially if you’ve spent most of the night before waking up and thinking about the possibilities of living in Washington, D.C.
But there I was, heaving my carry-on’s down the crowded aisle of the plane. I found my seat too soon, for I had already noticed the two middle aged men wearing vacant expressions and seating on each side of it.
I dawdled on, looking around hoping that was not my seat, but of course it was.
I fought one of my bags into the compartment above, and was not surprised to see that none of my seat companions offered a hand, but I excused their lack of amiability and slithered into my seat.
As I sat down I had to fight my gag reflexes, for the worst, smelliest, grossest smell of beer, sweat and after-shave invaded my nostrils. The man to my left smelled HORRIBLE. I turned to the man on my right, but he was now sleeping.
I wondered if I was exaggerating, so I braved a short inhale through my nose and experienced the same awful discomfort. It was right then and there when I knew this three-hour flight would be my worst yet. I considered my possibilities. The plane had not taken off yet and maybe I could switch my flight by pretending to be sick or pass out. But of course I was not about to do that. (I would like to reiterate that I was not exaggerating, that really was the worst smell I have ever experienced.)
A female voice brought me back to my unpleasant reality. It was the flight attendant going over the regular safety routines. At that moment, a new whiff of air came from the left, and as soon as I was able to, I reclined my seat and undid my ponytail so that I could breathe into my hair and smell my shampoo instead.
Something to my right snored. The man to my right had fallen asleep, while the man to my left hastily asked for his third glass of iced water. Twenty minutes into the flight had passed, it seemed more like an hour, but I continued reading my book until sleeping-beauty to my right started taking over my seat.
Considering that my space was already limited due to the powerful aroma, this new complication really annoyed me. I was trapped, literally, and the flight attendant must have noticed because she brought me extra snacks and a pillow.
As I sat there, I tried to focus on what awaited me in D.C., I was really excited about all the things I would learn and all the interesting people I would meet. To be honest, I was also somewhat nervous and my present situation didn’t help either. I tried waking “sleeping-beauty,” who I soon learned talked in his sleep. But he did not even blink.
Finally, after three long and painful hours, the voice of the pilot put me out of my misery. We were about to land. But that wasn’t fun either. Mr. Hangover almost threw up during the descent.
I jumped out of my seat the second we landed, and ran out of the plane into the fresh air of the airport.
Part 2- Work, work, work.
The following Monday I began working at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. My daily commute consisted of the metro and one or two buses (depending on the time). I was the Public Affairs Associate in the Office of Communications, and we managed media requests, sent out daily reports to our sister agencies and the White House.
I was impressed with the caliber of the individuals I interacted with on a daily basis. They were incredibly smart but also very nice and willing to share tips and tricks of the trade with me.
To be continued…