Giving thanks for that drunk guy on the plane

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My flight back to DIA last night from an extended Thanksgiving vacation was remarkably stress-free. I was flying United, which always makes me nervous (This is the airline, after all,  that once stranded me in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with a $15 meal voucher and a Best Western room with no hot water. Westword has documented plenty of other horror stories, too). But last night, I was pleasantly surprised to find my flight on time, the airline attendants cheerful, and the ride smooth and snow-free.

The only downfall was my seat-mate, the requisite Drunk Guy on the Plane. As he squirmed  into the chair beside me, reeking of that stale mouthwash-and-sweat perfume so popular with homeless guys at bus stations, he informed me that yes, he had made a stop at the airport bar before boarding. I politely began breathing through my mouth and opened a book to ignore him, certain that he would be asleep in minutes. Which he was, face-first on his tray table.

As the three-hour flight progressed, things got more interesting. Drunk Guy woke up, of course, when the drinks were being served, and was unhappy to discover that neither of us had been given the free headphones needed to watch the movies on our tiny plane screens. Drunk Guy asked the flight attendant about this oversight, but unfortunately, there were no more earphones to be found (this was United, after all). So Drunk Guy compensated by ordering three vodka cranberries. Thanks to this $18 investment, he was able to amuse himself for the next couple of hours, watching the silent images on the TV screen and giggling.

When we landed, I thought I was safe from any further conversation. But no, Drunk Guy was sufficiently sloshed to believe this was the perfect time to get to know me better. He informed me that he was from Jackson Hole but commuted daily to Greeley to work on an oil rig. He would never want to live in a big city, he explained, because he loved his guns and the freedom he had in Wyoming to drive around with bullet holes in his truck without getting stopped by any pesky cops.

At which point, I realized just how lucky I was to have been seated next to this particular Drunk Guy on a plane. Out in the real world, where guns don't have to make it through security screening, I might not have been so lucky.-- Lisa Rab

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