The Man in 19F

I didn’t think twice about the man that sat next to me. Mid-twenties, Indian, red and white striped polo shirt.

The Air Asia flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was mostly empty, so right before takeoff I switched seats and got my own set of 3 seats across the aisle. And thought of him even less, absorbed as I was in a new book.

Until he screamed.

It was about an hour into the flight. More of a really loud wail, actually, the kind you’d expect a man to make upon waking suddenly and seeing his leg chewed off by a giant undulating larvae. The kind of loud wail that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and your eyes widen like saucers.

Everyone on the plane heard it. Heads snapped around, people looked back over their seats, passengers stood up to investigate.

Then the man went into seizure. Legs and arms flailing, his bare feet sticking out into the aisle and spastically jerking every which way. Quite dramatic, really.

Folks rushed over from various parts of the plane. The poor doll-like Malaysian stewardesses looked horror-stricken, although still rather pleasant-looking in their tight red miniskirts.

One man, also in his twenties, seemed to recognize the symptoms and jumped on the guy. Apparently there was concern he might choke on his own tongue. Preventing this while a guy is completely out of control and jerking limbs all over the place is an interesting task.

The man fell to the floor, his feet still flopping around in the aisle. Then he’d calm a bit. Then start up again, feet kicking wildly.

They tried to get him to sit up. This took a while, during which time my former seatmate barfed all over my former seat. Nice touch. The smell of vomit wafted through the enclosed cabin.

One of the stewardesses ran up with what looked like a fire extinguisher. WTF?! And then I saw the tube and mask contraption attached, and realized it was to provide oxygen. While several people held him they fiddled with the valve, sniffing into the mask to see if anything was coming out. I was secretly hoping it might be laughing gas.

This seemed to do the trick. The man stabilized, then passed out in a sitting position, apparently over his episode.

Within minutes, the stewardesses resumed food service, the smell of cooked food competing with other odors. All in a day’s work, apparently.

And I continued my book.

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