Galley Gossip: The passenger seated in 11J

“Did you see 11J?” asked Shirley as she walked into the galley in coach and chucked a wadded up bag of fast food into the trash. We were in the process of boarding and I had my eyes on the bins and bags, not 11J, and as usual the bins were filling up fast.

“No, why?” I said, not at all interested because celebrities sit in first class, not business class, and the day before we had Carol Burnett onboard so it was kind of hard to top that.

Shirley smiled ear to ear. “Go look. You’re not going to believe what you see.”

“It’s that bad?” I asked, before making my way up the aisle, closing a couple overhead bins, turning a few bags around so they were in wheels first, squeezing by passengers who were slowly trying to get to their seats.

Yes, it’s true, flight attendants really do talk about you in the galley. When you’re really nice, or do something interesting, or look and act a little strange, or freak out over something that’s not our fault, we talk. A lot. Then we all must go and take a look at what we’ve been talking about. In this case, 11J.

I didn’t want to look too obvious, so I briskly walked through business class without ever glancing over at the passenger seated in 11J, making my way up to the first class cabin, picking up a few empty wine glasses and collecting a fur coat along the way. I tossed the plastic glasses, hung up the coat, and then slowly made my way back to coach, eyeing each passenger and smiling until I came to row eleven. That’s when we locked eyes. Oh my. While I’ve pretty much seen it all in the last fourteen years of flying the unfriendly skies, I’d never seen anything like this before and I doubt I’ll ever see anything like her again!

Petite with dirty blonde hair, she looked at me with her sad brown eyes. I smiled at her, but she did not smile back. Instead she clicked her tongue and smacked her lips several times, and she did this very loudly. Startled, I looked at the gentleman sitting beside her who immediately began to run his fingers through her hair. The clicking (or was it smacking?) continued to get louder and faster.

“Why is she doing that?” I finally asked him, not her, because to be honest, she kind of scared me.

He laughed. “She’s just saying hello.”

Hello? Oh okay. I clicked back. I didn’t want to be rude. “What’s her name?”

“Lisa. She’s 49 years-old.”

I looked at him a little strangely. “Is that old?”

“It is for a monkey.”

That’s right, Lisa was a monkey, and not just any monkey, but a somewhat famous macaw, and she was sitting in a business class seat from Los Angeles to New York on her way to the Today Show. Apparently a couple of her friends, including an alligator, were in the belly of the aircraft while Lisa got to sit inside a large cage that had been strapped to the seat using a seat belt extension. Blue canvas covered the cage. I could see her eyes peeking out from behind the bars through a little window. But just one zip and Lisa was revealed.

“Go ahead and look. She won’t mind,” said the handler.

I peeked inside. “Hi Lisa.” Click, click, click, went her tongue as those sad brown eyes took me in.

The handler said, “She’s one of the oldest monkeys alive.” It turns out that 49 human years is equivalent to 108 in monkey years.

“Looking good, old girl,” I said, and then I click, click, clicked my tongue, which only caused Lisa to smack her lips back. We were becoming fast and furious friends.

Years ago I had Spuds Mackenzie on a flight. Remember him, the Bull Terrier from the Bud Light commercials? Did you know that Spuds was actually a girl, not a boy, and her real name was Honey Tree Evil Eye? Me, neither, at least not until I started writing this post. Spuds, like Lisa, also had her own seat in business class. Recently on a flight from New York to Los Angeles my husband sat near another famous dog, the descendant from the original famous dog, whose real name was Pal, not Lassie. To prove it, here’s the text message my husband sent just minutes before departure….

Don’t forget I arrive about 1-1:30. Lassie is on my flight and sitting in business class ! For real. She is in one seat and the handler in another. There is also a group of (7) 20 somethings sitting in business class. I think they’re in a band. Obnoxious as hell. Flight attendant isn’t going to have this for long.

While celebrity and service animals are allowed to sit in a seat, on a lap, or on the floor, as long as it’s not in an exit row, all other animals, also known as pets, must remain in their closed pet carriers underneath the seat in front of you. Yeah I know it’s not fair, but what I can I say, life ain’t fair, especially on the airplane. But you already knew that.

“Did Lisa wear a diaper?” my husband asked when I told him about my unusual passenger.

I don’t think she did, I told my husband, who could not believe I did not remember something as important as that. What I do remember is Lisa nibbled on a little fruit from the breakfast tray and she was one of the most well behaved passengers I’ve ever seen – as quiet as a mouse – er, monkey!

“Does Lisa stay in the hotel room with you?” I asked the handler. He nodded yes. “Does she sleep in the hotel bed?”

“Sometimes,” The handler laughed. “Most of the time she just sleeps on top of the TV.”

To see Lisa (and her friends) on the Today Show CLICK HERE. You better believe I’ll be writing more about Lisa, as well as traveling with pets, in an upcoming post so make sure to check back!