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Have You Seen This Old Rich Lady?

Who is this woman and why are her words in my eyes? That’s you. Wondering about me and the letters you’re looking at. I’m Jen Kirkman. I’m a comedian and author by trade. This is my new column, Come into My Head. I’ve decided to devote the first...

Who is this woman and why are her words in my eyes? That’s you. Wondering about me and the letters you’re looking at. I’m Jen Kirkman. Hi. I’m a comedian and author by trade. This is my new column, Come into My Head. I’ve decided to devote the first installment to locating the most fascinating seat neighbor I’ve ever had on a flight. The image above is a picture I drew of her. It’s a pretty accurate rendering, aside from her legs, which were not, in fact, broken. Also, she had hands.


Have you seen her?


Rich Older Lady on Virgin America Flight from Portland to Los Angeles

You were sitting next to me in seat 2A on a Virgin America flight from Portland, Oregon, to Los Angeles, California. You’re the approximately 58-year-old woman with the preprison Martha Stewart bob haircut. You blatantly disobeyed the flight attendant when he asked us to put away our electronic devices and put our seat backs up. You fully reclined, iPod blatantly in your lap. Bill Withers’s “Use Me,” Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” and “Let’s Get It On” spilled out of your ear buds. That small act of quiet rebellion, in my mind, carried with it the anger, frustration, and helplessness that all travelers have felt at the hands of airline stewards and their mile-high attitudes. For that, I would like the chance to thank you.

If you’re reading this, maybe you remember me? I’m the brunette who arrived on the plane after you were already comfortably seated, enjoying an alcoholic spirit with an orange wedge. I was scattered. I snagged an inexpensive paid upgrade at the last minute.

I forgot that there would be room for my luggage above me in the overhead compartment. That’s why I had so many things—magazines, iPad, inhaler, bottle of Klonopin in case of an emergency landing—in my arms. I stepped on you. For that I am sorry, but at least you were wearing sturdy leather ballet flats adorned with Swarovski crystals, which must have lessened the impact of my coach-class-at-heart foot.


I didn’t make eye contact with you because I know the fear that strikes my heart when a stranger sits next to me and wants to make small talk. “Where are you from? Where are you going? Can I have some of your Klonopin? Look at this picture of my ugly kid of indeterminate gender…” I noticed your perfectly manicured nails. I had gotten a manicure that day and my nails were already smudged. I don’t like waiting for things to dry. Sometimes I wear damp jeans. Your iPhone was immaculate. Mine has crumbs stuck between the protective cover and the phone. I don’t know how to properly remove either.

Even though you were probably dehydrated from drinking hard liquor, you still had that dewy soft skin only the wealthy have. The leather skin on your luggage was the same, like a calf was gently massaged to death and then stretched over a frame with wheels.

When I woke up from a nap and you were about to dive into your pasta dinner, I wondered, Why didn’t she wake me to tell me that food was being delivered? I usually sit with nosy seatmates who poke me when the flight attendant walks by with a drink cart. I noticed that you finished a beer and ordered another one. At your country club (you must belong to one, right?) you probably put that much away every hour and nobody cares. Rich people love alcohol. I used to waitress at a country club in Beverly Hills. It was restricted only to white non-Jews until the 1990s. One time I waited on someone who asked, “Are your parents dead? Why do you have to waitress?” Another time, a man who owns a canned-milk company slumped in his seat and whispered to me, “Working with these Mexicans the way you do—I pity you.” I’m sure you don’t say things like that.

Were Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers preparing you for a rendezvous with a lover in Los Angeles? Or were they calming your nerves before you returned to your husband—his polyester collared shirt stinking of cigars and sweat from a golf game? Nothing you did on the flight up to the point of listening to the “sexy music made by black guys playlist” was congruous with who you were the rest of the flight, and I need to know where the duality came from. Perhaps there are even more sides to you, like a postmenopausal Rubik’s cube with complete disregard for authority.

In closing, if you are reading this, please friend me on Facebook and explain yourself. Maybe I can come hang at your country club? I bet you’re a fun broad after that fifth drink.

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Jen's first book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, is a New York Times bestseller. Buy a copy for yourself and all your friends here. She's also on Twitter, follow her @JenKirkman.