I get on airplanes assuming everyone else is really weird and I am the only sane passenger present. The woman down the aisle totally collects lint and makes it into busts of celebrities and the man next to me is reading one of those SkyMall magazines in a non-ironic way. They’re creeps. They’re boring. They’re clearly intellectually inferior. Right?
This past week, as my classmates and I boarded a plane that would take us to Atlanta before going to Paris, I found myself seated in front of a man who in my notebook I refer to as “The Snob.” The Snob appeared to be in his fifties, had gray hair, had a family of four, hated peanuts, and had stopped smoking for eight months. He was also in the habit of speaking very loudly, providing an endless source of amusement for my friend Caroline and I. He’d say things like, “I’m kind of a coffee snob,” or “I’m less Carnival and more Royal” to the woman next to him. When our flight was delayed, passengers were told that they could get off the plane and roam around for a little bit. The Snob told the woman next to him that the airline was probably under contract to make sure all of those passengers were back on the plane when it took off. “Wow,” she said. Caroline and I died.
The flight continued like this. The man would say something along the lines of, “I’m not saying we should go to Brooks Brothers every time we get on a plane, but I’d like to go back to the days when people wore ball gowns and tuxedos to fly.” What he was saying itself alone wasn’t particularly outrageous—it was how he was saying it. With each comment on the city of Atlanta, his children, or an article he just read, he assumed a tone of superiority. He was pretentious. He was silly.
Later, on the same plane, I read a novella called Ghosts. In it, author César Aira told me that I had no original thoughts—they were all ready-made for me by the world and that the only way I would ever have a substantial thought was if it just came to me as I was reading. I realized this was pretty much true. I also will say that I picked my nose at least three times on that flight and legitimately considered the advantages of a beard scarf as I read one of the SkyMall magazines.
Suddenly, I realized that I, too, am The Snob. Although my snobbery is not equal to his, I am just as ridiculous and strange. I am as weird as the woman who potentially collected lint and as annoying as the child crying a few rows back. One time, in English class, when my teacher asked me for an example of a simile that would contrast with his example of an epic simile, I responded, “The dog was like… a dog.” In my heart, I knew I could have come up with an actual simile. The dog’s wailing was like the cry of a thousand children listening to dubstep, and the pain of listening to dubstep is like that of a thousand ants slowly eating away at one’s flesh. However, I had failed to do just that. I could talk for days about how idiotic I am, how mundane my life is, and how ridiculous it is that I feel somewhat superior just by getting on a plane. The truth is, The Snob feels superior too. When our delay was announced, he said that he’d rather be on a ship. I wanted to tell him that that he’d never get to Atlanta that way and that, even if there was a body of water to take us there, it would take much, much longer. This would mean nothing coming from someone who once compared a dog to a dog so I placed my finger in my nose and proceeded to pick it, just as mundane and silly as everyone seated around me. ♦