Recently I was on a plane flight and realized, within a few minutes of taking my seat, that I wasn’t going to be able to relax in view of the passenger sitting next to me. The “nut signs” — that is, the indicators that my fellow seatmate was just a bit off — were obvious.
In this instance, the guy was doing some creepy, slow motion kung fu moves with his hands, like he was Jackie Chan underwater. At first I thought he was just stretching, but then I realized, from his hand placement and arms movements that were invading my seat space, that he was evidently practicing some form of martial arts, just without the kicks and the hai ya! shouts. No normal person would be performing weirdly intrusive karate poses in the close quarters of a plane flight. Since I didn’t want him to suddenly start using the kung fu moves on me, I decided the best option was to keep a close eye on him and skip the normal in-flight doze.
Any frequent traveler has learned to pick up on nut signs. Once I boarded a Southwest flight and started to move into an open seat at the front of the plane, when a stern-looking older woman sitting in the next seat over warned me that she had already stashed her stuff in the area beneath the seat in front of the open seat. What? Who in the world would do that? The stewardess heard her and came over to instruct the woman that she couldn’t take that inventive approach to ensuring her own leg room, but since it was a Southwest flight I had the option to sit somewhere else, and I took it. Anybody who reasoned that they could freely take the storage space allocated to the next seat is obviously a nut, and if they’re capable of doing that, who knows what other off-kilter conclusions they might reach about appropriate plane behavior?
It’s just a risk you take on any plane flight, where you’ll be seated next to some random person you’ve never seen before and you’ll never see again. Fidgeters, weepers, people wearing those flu masks when it’s not flu season, people grimly muttering to themselves — you never know what might constitute a nut sign. One seemingly normal guy asked the stewardess to give him four cups of water, without ice, when the service cart rolled around, and then pulled out multiple plastic jars of powdery stuff from his bag and mixed a bunch of concoctions that he then drank in precise order. Was he a ‘roid ranger? Probably — but I wasn’t going to ask him to see whether he showed the quick rage that is a telltale sign of steroid use.