Captain Crazy Pants and the Flight to Nowhere

Ian Lurie

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?
Me: Vodka.
TG: Yeah, Vodka.
Me: Er.
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?
Me: Glare
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.

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action


  1. Ian – Rand told me a bit about your experience (as he witnessed from his own seat across the aisle). I immediately requested he contact you and insist that you blog about it for MY site, but he forgot to do so, and you, being as selfish as you are, blogged about it on your own site. Damn you. You KNOW how I love free labor.
    That being said, your account of events is really funny (or would be, if it wasn’t so damn scary). Rand also said that the guy was trying to open the emergency exit. Pls. confirm or deny.

  2. Thanks for making my night! I am seriously laughing out loud and the way you told the story made me feel like I was in the row behind CCP or something. Great post.

  3. @everywhereist Damn I passed up a link opportunity! Regardless, CCP did NOT try to open any exits. If he had I would have bludgeoned him to death with my laptop. I was, however, concerned he might try, simply because he was acting very claustrophobic and basically freaked out.

  4. How long before we start hearing search geeks using the phrase “Sheesh, the quality score for this has plummeted. Looks like Ad Group, if not the whole campaign has been CCP’d”
    You had me laughing at breakfast time with this post, thanks!

  5. Holy. Crap. That is one of the more disturbing travel stories I’ve seen in a while. Did you search for his name to see if he was indeed the real deal? Preferably on Bing?

  6. @jane it was the name on his boarding pass, as well as the name he managed to tell me before succumbing. He’d clearly been drinking BEFORE he boarded the plane.

  7. Even better than the raccoon story!
    On another note, nice to have met you at SMX. My flights back were somewhat less eventful, thankfully!

  8. I nearly spewed my coffee at Starbucks… thank you for this. LOL! It should win some kind of award! I can’t believe nothing was done about this guy… wow.

  9. I sat on a crowded train next to a woman who was talking to herself and apparently about to throw up via a series of odd hiccups once. The trip was only from London into Surrey–about 20 minutes–but it may as well have been 20 years.
    I can be very pleased she didn’t talk to me 😀 Glad you made it out unscathed!

  10. OMG I saw the tweets whilst this was happening. I’m so glad I followed up for the in depth analysis. If I ever meet up with you, I will ask if you need a ride home, in my best drunk impersonation! Glad you survived. I’m disappointed you didn’t snap a photo of the jet way skipping. Great imagery.

  11. Ian, Thanks for one of the best laughs I had in a while. Great post. We have all been there (well not to this extent) at one time or another. Good to know you made it home safe.

Comments are closed.

Close search overlay