Flyin solo

My job requires 90-100% travel, which can be awesome! I totally acknowledge that I’m fortunate for the travel opportunities I’ve had. I’ve accumulated an insane amount of hotel and airline points and can go anywhere I want across the country pretty much any weekend, free of cost. For those who don’t travel for work, it can seem glamorous, but I assure you, it’s usually not πŸ™‚ It’s basically just like working from your home office except you’re in a different city, more than likely with people you don’t know that well and probably don’t want to hang out with outside of work, and you’re likely too tired most of the time to do anything after work anyway. Am I selling you on this work travel yet?! πŸ˜‰

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Not only is work travel stressful, it can be really frightening as a single woman at times. I am one of the most independent people I know and genuinely love doing things on my own, but definitely feel like I have to watch my back more than a guy would while traveling.

Everything from sketchy cab drivers, arriving at a foreign city late at night and having to figure out how to get to your destination alone, creepy coworkers at the same hotel as you,Β  dealing with drunk men on airplanes, or just flying through bad turbulence alone. and being scared (Side note: I’m aware dudes can deal with some of these issues too). These are all common and, sadly, semi-normal occurrences for me every week.

One of the most frightening travel experiences I’ve had while traveling solo was actually not for work: In July of 2016 I was meeting my best friend in Munich for a week-long getaway. She was already there, and I was on a flight to London to catch my connection to Munich. The flight left home around 5:30pm and flew through the night. I was seated at the window, with one seat next to me, then an aisle.

Shortly after I sat, a bigger, middle aged man sat down next to me. I immediately knew he was strange (or drunk/high) by the way he began chatting my ear off when I clearly wasn’t in a talking mood (I try to set that precedent immediately on flights that I am not interested in talking). He wouldn’t let up and just kept going on about really random, bizarre topics.

When the drink service came by, he ordered a glass of wine, slammed it, asked (and got) a refill before the flight attendant had moved on, slammed that one, and immediately got a refill on that one too. I’m not sure what the policy for drink serving is on United flights, but I strongly believe there should be a limit on how many drinks ordered, and i’m surprised the flight attendant complied with his requests for more.

This, mixed with whatever he had taken prior to the flight, did not mix well. The weird chattiness only continued despite the fact I wasn’t speaking back, had my headphones in, and was watching a movie. Later on, somewhere over the Atlantic, in the middle of the night, I had finally fallen asleep and woke up to something being dropped on me. I woke up startled an the man had somehow(??) dropped his laptop on to my lap. I immediately told him to let me out of my seat so I could go tell the flight attendants. He refused to let me up and started touching my thigh and leaning very, very close into me, almost like he was going to kiss me.

REMINDER: it’s completely dark in the plane, everyone is asleep, and the map shows we are somewhere over the open sea. And I’m being practically assaulted by a creepy, intoxicated man. I was f***ing terrified.

I finally jumped over him to get out of my seat and ran back to the flight attendants. I was shaking uncontrollably and tearing up (trying to stay calm) telling them what happened. They said they would talk to him, but literally had no empty seat to put me in on the entire aircraft. When they told me there was no where I could move was when I really started having a mild panic attack. I did not want to go sit down next to this man for the next few hours.

Alas, there was no other choice. I headed back to my seat and the flight attendant “talked” to him and told him to “leave me alone” or else…long story short (kinda) he kept touching me, touching the flight attendants legs when they walked by, and touching the woman next to him who eventually yelled “STOP TOUCHING ME!!!” and woke the whole area of the plane up. The captain came back 3x and “warned” him to behave.

Thank god, this sweet man sitting behind me had heard me get up and talk to the flight attendants. He offered to switch seats with me which I gratefully accepted.

The man continued being a disturbance to everyone around him the remainder of the flight. He was briefly detained upon arrival and questioned, but I later saw him checking the gate tv looking for his connection.

If I didn’t have a quick flight to catch, I’d like to think I’d have demanded further action from United. But, being a 26 year old woman traveling alone, I didn’t do anything. It angers me to this day I didn’t stand up for myself more during that time and chew the man out as it was happening, or demand United take some type of action (I didn’t even get any type of apology or reimbursement for this. I know it wasn’t the airlines fault, per say, but as I stated above, this man should not have been given any alcohol as he was clearly intoxicated upon boarding). Here’s hoping others don’t get stuck in similar situations, or if they do, they stand up for themselves better than I did.

-A

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