Captain Crazy Pants and the Flight to Nowhere
Ian Lurie Mar 5 2010
Plot synopsis: Drunk Google engineer, me trapped in window seat, 90 minutes stretches out like years.
That’s the short version. Here’s the long one:
Have to give Rand Fishkin credit for the title ‘Captain Crazy Pants’. Rand was sitting across the aisle and heard some of the goings-on, so you can check with him to verify I’m full of truthiness.
Last night as I boarded my flight home from SMX West, a somewhat twitchy guy sat down next to me. He was pretty big, and all elbows. I hunkered down, ready to play compress-the-body-bubble until we got to Seattle. No big deal.
Note: I’m sitting in an exit row, in the window seat. This will soon be relevant.
This guy, who I WILL NOT NAME, struck up a conversation with me about my Droid. As we chatted he told me he was a Google Adwords Software Engineer. Wow, I thought, a fellow geek. He was getting twitchier by the second, but I can hardly throw stones in that glass house, so I figured he was just fidgety. I actually looked forward to interesting conversation.
The Alaska Airlines flight attendant made the usual announcement asking everyone to turn off their electronic devices, lest the .0000000001 rads of electronic radiation they emit cause us to vanish in a fiery expanding ball of debris. We were all good citizens, except for Twitchy Guy. He left his Nexus One on, music blasted so loud I could hear the lyrics through his ear buds.
I ignored that – I figure, if we’re going down one music player isn’t going to make a difference.
Then, as we’re taking off, he rings his attendant call button. Bing. During takeoff. Flight attendant clambers up the aisle to see what’s wrong, since he doesn’t turn it off when asked via intercom. Twitcherama just looks at him blankly and turns off the call button. Now I start looking more carefully. Any suspicious stuff stuck to his shoes? Any fuses sticking out of his clothes? Nope. He’s just a freak.
Twitchy Guy shut up for a while. I was hopeful he’d fallen asleep. Sure, he’s taking up half my damned seat, pinning me against the exit door like a stuffed animal in my daughter’s toybox, but that’s OK, I’ll survive.
Then, when the drink cart shows up, this guy orders two beers. Two. At once. He drains the first in under 2 minutes and starts talking to me again:
TG: Hey, do you need a ride home?
Me: Uh, no, I’m OK.
TG: You sure?
Me: Yeah, you’re on the east side (he’d already told me that) and I’m up north (no chance I’m revealing more).
a few minutes silence
TG: You sure you don’t need a ride.
Me: Yup, honest, it’s fine.
Then he got up to head to the bathroom. He stumbled up the aisle, whacking at his head with his hands in some kind of weird Lethal-Weapon-Meets-Three-Stooges martial arts move.
When he got back, he opened his second beer. Actually, he jostled it, opened it and sprayed little flecks of beer foam all over me, my laptop, his other neighbor and himself.
Before he could start drinking, though, he had a four minute long sneezing fit so loud that people three rows away said “gesundheit”. It was deafening. And it went on. And on. And on. I switched from self-defense readiness to wondering if I should stick a towel in his mouth – it seemed like he was having seizure.
But no, the elephantine sneezing fit came to an end. Beer number 2 disappeared down Twitchy Guy’s gullet in about 3 minutes, after which he uttered a belch that shook the whole plane.
At this point, TG started slurring words. A lot. He also started asking the same questions over and over again:
TG: Shay, do you needz a ridesh homesh?
Me: No, thanks.
TG: Shay, do you needs a ridesh homesh?
Me: Uh, really no.
TG: Hey, thatsh a cool desktop wallpapersh.
TG then put his snotty beer-infested paw on my laptop screen in a greasy endorsement of my wallpaper.
TG: Itsh like another planet. When I see other planetsh I want to cry.
I started eyeing the exit door next to me and pictured headlines: Marketer and software engineer sucked out of plane at 33000 feet. Drunk engineer survives.
Reminder: This man is one of the people who handles the safety and security of our Adwords data.
At this point, he orders a vodka tonic. I figure the flight attendant will say ‘no’. Wrong. The flight attendant handed over a bottle of Finlandia and a tonic. He slurped it back and started over again.
TG: Finlandia. Whatsh that?
TG: Yeah, Vodka.
TG: You needsh ridesh homesh?
Me: No, and you shouldn’t drive yourself home either.
TG: Why not?
Me: Because you’re drunk off your ass.
TG: I’m pretty washted huh?
Me: Yes. Yes you are.
A few more minutes went by. He was quiet. Occasionally he’d slap his hands together, or raise or lower his tray table. Then he pointed at his book and said, “This book is really awful. But it has knights in it.” or something like that. He also started babbling away about how knights were really just thugs. I tried to balance between ignoring him and inserting an occasional comment to keep him distracted.
Then TG officially transformed into Captain Crazy Pants (CCP). He poked me three times with his stubby finger, punctuating each poke with a successively louder you, YOU YOU.
I’m pretty much a wuss, so my first inclination was to ignore him. Except he stank of booze, had already ruined the whole flight, had kept me from finishing my work, and did I mention we were sitting in an exit row?!! I started weighing whether a laptop to the face would keep this moron from killing us all when he got a yen for a breath of fresh air.
Me: I think you should put that finger away.
CCP: What the f–k dude?
CCP (punching me in the arm in a friendly, we’re-buds way): I’m pretty washted huh?
Me: Yes. Yes, you are.
CCP: You want a ride home?
Me: No, you’re going to kill yourself and I’d rather not be in the passenger’s seat.
CCP: Me? I’m not… (he started muttering incomprehensibly)
Then he rang the call button. Again. Flight attendant came over and asked “Is anything wrong sir?”
He just stared. Flight attendant left.
Then we reached detente, because CCP passed out. He slept through the landing, and was still unconscious when people started deplaning. Just when I was going to climb over him, he woke up, stumbled off the plane and skipped (SKIPPED) up the jetway. He lurched into a bathroom, never to be seen again.
Epilogue: Just who is Captain Crazy Pants, anyway?
I really hope this guy didn’t drive home. I’m honestly not sure he could’ve found his car, but regardless. I considered getting the police but what would I tell them? A 250 pound Google engineer with a low alcohol tolerance might accidentally find his own car (assuming he really had one)? I finally left, tired and grumpy as hell.
CCP had given me his name, as he wanted to keep in touch to relive this wonderful experience. It matched his boarding pass, too. But I still don’t believe he was really a Google software guy – impossible. I have a few theories as to who he really was:
- A Bing plant, put there to embarrass Google.
- A practical joke by @toddmintz because of how late I am getting my SEMPDX Searchfest presentation together.
- A revival of Candid Camera.
But no, in the final analysis he’s gotta be the real deal.
I am not a believer in the whole people-act-different-when-drunk thing. Mel Gibson is a raving anti-Semite. People who beat people when drunk are always assholes. And Captain Crazy Pants is a discourteous, bad-smelling, freaking lunatic with no sense of personal space. Next time Adwords mysteriously dumps your quality score, bow towards Google and thank Captain Crazy Pants.
That is all.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More