In 2007 I flew to Stockholm to meet five of my friends. We all live in different cities around the world - Paris, Frankfurt, New York, London, and Singapore and meet up every year in a different city to catch up over a few beers. I travel often and meet a wide array of people. But never in my journeys have I met an individual as absurd as Matt.
I boarded an American Airlines flight that took off from JFK at 9 p.m. I planned on sleeping throughout the trip. My luck afforded me a window seat at the beginning of the section with no obstructions in front so that I could stretch out my legs. With flying being a painful ordeal these days I felt that my luck was strong, especially since I avoided the too common "random selection" in security with my Muslim background. "Do you have military training?" "Have you been to Kuwait?" "What do you think of Iraq?" I think it seems all right I usually say. It was a true rarity to avoid that hassle.
A few minutes later a tall, well-built, white male in his early 30s took his place next to me. He was chatting on his phone with his girlfriend. "Don't worry baby, I'll be there soon, 7 hours, that's all, not a big deal." In mid conversation with his "baby", he glanced my way, addressing me with "Hey, you down for a few drinks on this flight?" Feeling in a good mood with some levity, I said, "Sure, why not?" A flight is as good as any place to start a holiday. "Baby, I just found a drinking partner on the flight. I'm good. See you in a bit." Snapping his cell phone shut, my passenger mate, named Matt, flagged down a flight attendant. Young and pretty, as most flight attendants tend to be, Megan came over. "We'll have two glasses of wine please," said Matt. When Megan brought over the two glasses of wine, Matt smoothly pulled out a ten-dollar note. "Take care of me and my friend," he told her. "Sir, we can't take tips on the flight," she responded. "Please, I insist." "No, I insist" she said. "We can't take any money." Shrugging his shoulders in acceptance, Matt tended to his wine and struck up a conversation with me.
We talked about how he loves bodybuilding, pulling out a few magazines of overly muscular men, his job as a New York City doorman, and about how his brother, William, is a DJ and therefore Matt listens to the coolest, most edgy music around. I told him of my similar love for music, whereupon he asked if he could listen to some "edgy" tunes on my iPod. Kindly, probably foolishly, I handed it over. By this time, Megan had brought over two more glasses of wine for Matthew, while I was still working on number one. After cycling through my songs, Matt started belting out, "You can't hurry love, no, you'll just have to wait. Love don't come easy, it's just a game of give and take." Diana Ross & The Supremes. Edgy indeed.
Within two hours of the flight, Matt had consumed 14 glasses of wine. I kid you not. He was 7 sheets to the wind, seeing doubles, hobbling around. The man was utterly and completely roaring drunk. A male flight attendant came around and again Matt ineptly handed him a ten-dollar note, slurring, he said, "This is for you, Mr. flight attendant." "Sir, I can't take this," Mr. flight attendant said. "Yes, just take it, take care of us." Shrugging, Mr. flight attendant pocketed the ten-dollar note in his jacket and sauntered away.
Matt then felt very hot and decided to take off his sweatshirt, sitting there topless. "I need a smoke," he said. I told him too bad you can't on flights anymore. He didn't really seem to consider that and said "Nope, I'll do it in the bathroom." Unbuckling his seatbelt, he got up and went to the bathroom. He later came back saying how it was not a problem at all. Not a problem until Megan came by a few minutes later. "Sir, were you smoking in the bathroom?" she delicately asked. "What, no? It wasn't me! I swear, it wasn't me! It was someone else, someone in there before me!" he responded, panicky. Always smooth, that Matt. Megan had no proof he actually was smoking, but she eyed him suspiciously after that.
A little later Matt felt restless. While the entire plane was sleeping, he felt the need to exercise. So, standing up, still topless, he walked into the middle of the aisle and started doing pushups. One, two, three, ten, he just kept going. Once finished, Matt walked over to his seat, still standing, he attempted to put on his sweatshirt, but couldn't quite figure out how to. He was trapped in his sleeves with the sweatshirt around his head and then hit his seat and fell to the ground and rolled down the aisle a bit.
Getting up, apparently not injured, Matt sat down and asked me if I wanted to hang out in Stockholm. I told him not really. He then said that he could hook me up with some of his girlfriend's friends. I told him that I'd be busy with five of my friends. He said, "Well I can't hook up five guys! Just you man. Here, take my girlfriends number and get in touch." After giving me his girlfriend's number, he looks at me, with shock, and said, "Damn it, why did I give you her number? Don't fuck my girlfriend, you better not fuck my girlfriend!" I told him to relax and that I wouldn't, and then he calmly fell asleep. Finally, silence. But after five minutes Matt woke up to ask me how much longer we have till Stockholm. I told him about three hours. He said ok and fell back to sleep. Then five minutes later he got up and asked me how much longer we have till Stockholm. "Still three hours Matt."
Eventually, forty-five minutes before we landed Matt woke up and pulled out a cross around his neck. He said, "We'll be landing soon, to be safe, kiss Jesus," pulling the cross towards me. I politely declined and he insisted, "No, come on, just kiss Jesus." I declined again and he asked why not and if it was because I was Muslim. I told him yes whereupon he said, "Cool," and got up and went to the front of the plane, got down on one knee, spread his arms out, tilted his head down and started praying. That was some sight. He then came back and fell asleep in his seat until we landed. Once our flight touched the ground he woke up and excitedly exclaimed, "We're there already? I can't believe it. We were talking about music and I just passed out. I slept throughout the whole flight!"