Once they had started boarding the flight, Nick allowed a nervous looking woman to go ahead of him, which he immediately regretted when he noticed her dragging a huge carry-on with wheels. As he followed her through the tunnel to the plane, he noticed her unsteady shuffle, as if perhaps she had been drinking before the flight. As he followed. She weaved a bit and, just as she was about to enter the plane, took an unexpected turn, tipping her carry-on over on its side. She apologized and righted her bad with his help. Yeah, she had been drinking alright.
He found that they were to be aisle-mates at the bulkhead as she stopped in front of him.
The flight attendant took one look in her bag and said, "That's too big, honey. We have a full flight and won't be able to stow that in the overheads. You'll have to check it in."
"I'm NOT going to check it in," she replied.
"Well, I don't we're going to have enough room."
A nice man took a bag out of the overhead and stowed it under his seat so she'd have more room.
"Excuse me, sir," she said, "but would you mind helping me with my bag? It's too heavy for me to lift."
Nick knew that she was talking to him. But he had already decided that he didn't want anything to do with her. She had already proven that she was going to be a pain in the ass to anyone who dealt with her. So why should he get involved. Besides, he thought, if you can't lift it, you shouldn't carry it on the plane. That's why they call them carry-ons.
Nick pretended he didn't hear her. Five times.
Someone finally helped her and she sat down.
Nick inventoried his flight-gear-not because he could do anything to change it if he had forgotten something, but because he needed the reassurance that he had remembered everything. He had worn his all-cotten longsleeved shirt and pants, for when the plane went down. Cotten, because it would burn before your skin, giving you a better chance for survival, long sleeves and pants for full body protection. Boots instead of shoes or sandals, because you never knew what you might step on or trip over in a falling airplane. His lucky hat, for luck. A long work of classic fiction because he knew the plane would never go down if hadn't yet finished the book he was reading.
The lady across the aisle swiped her credit card to access the television service. placed the headphones over her ears and began nervously working a crossword puzzle. Multitasking to take her mind off her fear.
Nick could sense her madness.
She sat alone in her row. Nick had one other rowmate, with a seat between them.
"I guess we really lucked out," she said, clutching her armrests. "I never get to sit alone. We'll probably crash."
Nick couldn't believe his ears. Why did she have to go and jinx the flight like that? Didn't she know about the "Flat Tire Principle?"
Nick thought back to when he first learned of the Flat Tire Principle as a young boy. He and his family were going to Disneyland. They had happily been playing the alphabet game, when his mother said, "This has really been a fun drive so far."
"Yeah," Nick said, "I sure hope we don't get a flat tire."
Just then, a small explosion took place right behind where Nick was sitting. The car swerved a little to the right of the road and several other drivers honked their horns in agitation. Nick could hear the flip-flopping of the rear tire.
"Now why did you have to go and say that?" Nick's Dad asked him. "You know that's how people get flat tires. You never even think of flat tires when you're driving, boy. Ain't you got sense?"
Nick locked his seatbelt and the plane began to approach the runway. As it picked up speed, the cabin shook and Nick thought about how primitive airflight was. As the engines whistled and the plane took off, he turned to the woman and said "You know, if we all die tonight, it's your fault."