Flying With The Others

flying with The Others

You know how I said my flight back from Miami last weekend passed without incident?

Well, it mostly did. I mean, there was no turbulence, no lost luggage, and the flight didn’t crash, which is really the most I expect from the nightmare that is flying.

There were Others on board, though. Lots of them. And their behaviour, as ever, completely confused and amazed me, once again proving that just when you think you have The Others all figured out, they’ll come up with some new and horrifying way to surprise you all over again.

As a bit of background to this story, you have to understand two things:

01. I have a phobia about feet: specifically, the sight of feet being rubbed together. It completely freaks me out, always has. It’s bad enough when the feet in question are bare, but it’s even worse when the feet are clad in dingy white socks. Which brings me to my second point:

02. I have a “thing” about white socks.  I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as a “phobia”, and I don’t object to them when they’re inside shoes, but you know when people walk around in nothing but white socks, and the soles are filthy, bearing the clear imprint (in dirt) of the wearer’s feet? Yeah, that makes me want to gag. Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

Naturally, then, The Others always go out of their way to present me with the sight of their white-socked feet (complete with filthy soles), being rubbed together over and over again.  They mostly do this on flights: presumably because it’s a small, enclosed space which I can’t escape from, and because it’s not like flying is bad enough already, is it? Oh no, wait…

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that literally every time I get onto a flight and sit in the aisle seat, the person opposite me will instantly remove their shoes, revealing white socked feet, which they will then thrust into my eye-line and proceed to rub together for the next 9 hours. So it was on Saturday.

The Other in question was a woman, who I will call White Sock Woman. The second she got into her seat, she whipped off her sneakers and stretched her feet into the aisle, right in my line of sight. This would’ve been typical, but bearable, but the other thing you have to understand about this flight is that the aisle in question was FILTHY. More so than usual, I mean. They started serving the meal around 30 minutes after take-off, and one of the stewards managed to drop a meal in the aisle, right in front of my seat. For some reason or other, they decided not to bother cleaning this up, so I sat there and ate my own meal with a plate of salad strewn over the carpet before me.

Other things I hate: the sight of food sitting on top of a filthy carpet. Because, yuck.

By the time I was done, this has started to bother me so much (My various neuroses are at their heigh when I’m flying…) that I’d decided that if no one from the airline was going to clean it up (And they obviously weren’t), why, I would have to do it myself. I didn’t have to, though, because as soon as her tray was removed, White Sock Woman got up, and had herself a nice walk up and down the aisle. Right over the food. In the white socks. The white socks which were now decorated with food. So, that solved the “there is food all over the aisle” problem at least, but…


Then she went to the toilet.

The toilet on an aircraft.

The FILTHY toilet on an aircraft.

The filthy PUBLIC toilet on an aircraft.

In the white, food-scattered socks.


I thought this was pretty gross, to be honest. I mean, would YOU walk into a public bathroom in your socks? Or am I just being weird about this? I mean, I wouldn’t really have described myself as a germaphobe, to be honest. Sure, I started to get that way after repeated exposure to Miami’s generally unpleasant public bathrooms, but in general I take reasonable measures to be hygienic, but I don’t OBSESS over it, you know?

I would not, however, in my wildest dreams, walk into a public toilet in my stockinged soles.

Want to know what else I wouldn’t do?

I wouldn’t walk into a public toilet in my stockinged soles, then, upon returning to my seat, stand directly in front of the person opposite me, raise each of my feet in turn until they were level with that person’s tray table, then use my bare hands to brush the accumulated food, debris, and let’s-not-even-think-about-what-was-on-the-toilet-floor off the soles off my feet, before sitting down and resuming eating a bag of crisps with the same hands I had just used to brush other people’s pee off my filthy, no-longer white socks.

That’s what White Sock Woman did, though.


I thought this was as bad as it was going to get, I really did. Upon turning my head to try to get WSW out of my line of sight, however, my attention was grabbed by the man sitting directly behind her. I’ll call him Bare Feet Man. I’ll let you work out why.

Bare Feet Man was also occupying himself throughout the flight by thrusting his (BARE) feet as close to me as possible and rubbing them together. What really troubled me, though, is that when he got bored with this, he ALSO started wandering around the cabin and visiting the filthy toilet… IN HIS BARE FEET.

Bare feet. In a public toilet.

And with that, a new low was reached, and my phobia about feet and socks reached an all-time high. I was glad when they switched off the cabin lights after that, although not really, because when they plunged the cabin into pitch darkness (OMG I AM TRAPPED INSIDE A TIN CAN IN THE DARK AND THERE IS NOTHING BUT BLACKEST NIGHT AND DARKEST OCEAN OUTSIDE THE WINDOW! HALP!), it was revealed that the reading lights weren’t working (OMG THE ELECTRICS HAVE FAILED, WHAT ELSE MIGHT HAVE FAILED? PROBABLY THE ENGINES?), so the pitch darkness was to be unrelieved for the next five hours or so. Now, as a nervous flier, I rely on reading to distract me from The Fear, which always intensifies during the “let’s make the cabin darker than the crypt” portion of night-time flights. I can’t sleep on planes (As I mentioned last week, this is because it’s totally up to me to keep the plane in the air. If I have even a momentary lapse in concentration, sorry, but we’re all doomed…), and I find it hard to concentrate on TV, movies etc when I’m flying, so any time I fly, I make sure I have a couple of good books on hand, to keep myself distracted.

On this flight, however, the darkness was so complete that I couldn’t read at all. In the end, I had to get out the iPad and use the feeble light from its screen to illuminate the darkness JUST enough to allow me to decipher the text in front of me. And I had to hold it up in front of me like that for five hours. At least I couldn’t see the Feet People while this was going on, though. You have to be grateful for small mercies, don’t you?

It’s not much fun flying with The Others. But to be completely honest, I don’t think it’s all that much fun for them flying with ME, either…