I’m writing from Delta flight #3622, with service from Detroit to Marquette, and I’m seated in row twelve, which, on this little plane, is the last, and while I would love to blame Delta for this, it’s no mistake that I’m here: when booking my ticket on Delta’s website, they offered me the chance to select my seat. But, I declined. Yes, I declined to select my seat. And why? Why wouldn’t I want to exercise my right to choose? Because at the time of booking I didn’t care where I sat. Obviously I care now, but I’ve never claimed the ability to predict the future. I had no way of knowing that what I didn’t care about yesterday would become important today. It was impossible, so let’s leave it at that, because rather than ruminate on the past, I would prefer to live in the present.
The thing about row twelve is that seats here don’t recline, so what I want to know is: Can I survive this? Can I sit upright for fifty-nine minutes, from Michigan’s all-the-way-south to Michigan’s all-the-way-north? The answer is maybe: maybe I can survive this, depending, of course, on tactics and strategy.
The first thing I’ll need is diversion. Typically for diversion in this situation, I would tend to my “bathroom needs,” to borrow from the official Delta Airlines vernacular. But on this flight, so the attendant told all of us over the loudspeaker, my bathroom needs cannot be met, or at least, cannot be met all the way. I can tend to the most important of my bathroom needs, but what I can’t do is wash my hands, because this plane has no water. The hands-cleaning part of my bathroom needs will not happen, and this is why my survival on this flight is so uncertain.
Delta has, to their credit, offered the lot of us moist towelettes. But they haven’t delivered them, and here’s where I face my crisis: Do I ring the call button and ask for one in advance? Do I gamble that they’ll just know and be waiting for me when I emerge having tended to my needs only partly? Will I return to find one waiting on my seat?
These questions, along with many others, are not ones I can answer. The only answer I know is maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe if I scratch my head one more time I’ll give myself dandruff. Maybe if I manage to sit upright for these full fifty-nine minutes I’ll do away with my back pain for good. Maybe the lady next to me, she who reads Lincoln’s Men, the discounted version, knocked down to $7 from $26.99, has a stash of towelettes all her own, and maybe she’s willing to share.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.