The Five People You Meet in Heaven (While Flying on Spirit Airlines)

airline passengers You jet first class when you fly to Paris with your Louis Vuitton luggage. You’re a member of the Admiral’s Club and wouldn’t be caught dead sitting in an airline boarding area. Richard Branson is on speed dial and you’re weighing a trip into space. Flying for you is like brushing the face of God with your immaculate manicured fingertips.

But, you’re Harvard educated and trained to be curious. You wonder, “How do the poor folk fly? Those wretches you read about in the Wall Street Journal. The ignominious 99 percenters.” Let your inner anthropologist be satisfied. As a graduate of one of the lesser Ivies, I will share with you the five people I met in Heaven, while flying on Spirit Airlines.

Mr. Nike. Mr. Nike is in the aisle seat. I can’t avoid noticing that he is apparently allergic to deodorant. He is all knees and elbows, mostly in my rib cage. He kicks off his Nikes, which he may have purchased at Goodwill after the 1988 Olympics, and a mysterious odor tantalizes my nostrils. The smell plays with me, taunting me to identify it. Sulfurous rotten eggs? That takeout container I found in the back of the fridge? My great aunt’s gefiltefish? I double check to make sure my seat is equipped with a motion sickness bag. This may be a discount airline but they don’t want me vomiting on the carpet.

Grandma and Mr. Wickams. Grandma is already wedged into the window seat, a Vera Bradley vision of Paula Dean at a Weight Watcher’s convention. Did she have an industrial accident with her dollar store eau du toilette this morning? Within five minutes, I am developing a migraine. Grandma has photos of her 27 grandchildren? And, Grandma has Mr. Wickams. He is such a good kitty. He is such a beautiful kitty. He is such a brave kitty to fly on such big plane with Grandma. Is it the flying or Grandma’s nauseating flattery? Mr. Wickams has diarrhea 30 minutes after take-off. Have you ever smelled cat diarrhea? Thank God for the motion sickness bag.

Super Mario. Kids take to planes like ducks to water. If you know how to wrangle them. Super Mario has a hand-held game that boops and beeps incessantly. He kicks the back of my seat the entire flight. I hate to complain and seem anti-child. On a discount airline, they don't enforce the headset rules. The flight crew is too poorly paid to care if rules are followed or passengers are comfortable. Super Mario has a tantrum worthy of an Oscar when he has to turn off his game for take-off and landing. This is one child I would leave behind.

Charlie the Tuna. Yes, fish is good for you. Yes, fish oil reduces cholesterol and can be part of a heart-healthy diet. But, no, a tuna-and-onion sandwich do not belong on an airplane. Enough said.

Spanky and the Gang. As soon as the seat-belt sign goes off, a large horde of children who have been plied with caffeinated beverages and sugary treats take over the back of the plane. Oblivious that we are in hurtling through space in a small enclosed metal capsule insulated with hard plastic surfaces, they begin rambunctious games that involve high-pitched squeals of delight for the next three hours. They run up and down the aisles, spilling snacks and elbowing passengers in the aisle seats. The flight crew is too busy charging folks $5 a bottle for water and making sure we don’t congregate at the lavatory to stop the shenanigans. 

Yes, this is how the 99 percent fly. Enjoy first class. If we hit Mount Everest, you die first, a crystal goblet of Moët & Chandon in your manicured hand.

Gretchen Martens is a DCH graduate who performs with Been There Done That and Brain Wearing Pants. When she’s not working as an executive coach and trainer, she writes satire for her blog She is finishing her first play, sanINity, an irreverent look at losing a loved one to mental illness.