Some people need to physically touch the outside of the airplane before boarding. Others won’t travel unless the flight number has one or a combination of certain digits. Through the years I have witnessed many flight superstitions but never quite as interesting as a passenger named Nick.
Nick was a middle-aged man, but had always been afraid to fly. His job required him to do some extensive travelling, so he devised a plan. He did some extensive research and concluded that out of all the seats on the airplane, and out of all the air disasters where some passengers survived, seat 34C was the safest.
Through the years that was his seat, or nothing. He accrued so many frequent flyer points that he could be upgraded to first class every time. He wouldn’t have any of it. It was 34C or nothing. He even refused to fly once when they blocked off his seat because it was broken. He took the flight the following day. It was his superstition, and it worked for him.
He became quite a regular on my route, and I always looked forward to having him on my flights. He was the interesting type that I looked for in all passengers. Plenty of stories to tell, funny jokes, but we always ended up talking about this seat superstition. He told me that along with the statistics, he was 34 when he met his wife, his house address is 34, and his wife’s bra size is, get this, 34C. So in his mind, fate for him is sitting in 34C. There was no arguing with that logic, I guess.
One day I was walking towards my flight when I heard an argument going on at the check-in desk. “I don’t want an upgrade, I want to sit at 34C!”
I looked closer, and there he was having problems with an agent who wanted to upgrade a VIP of the frequent flyer program. “Hello, Nick,” I waved. He smiled and waved back but was obviously tired of getting hassled about turning down upgrades.
In the end, he got his way and was assigned his famed seat. Although this flight was not a great one for him. The light and movie audio was broken, only at that seat. A baby was sick on his shoes. A flight attendant spilled hot coffee in his lap, condensation dripped on his head, and the man in 34B had the worst case of body odor ever. He remained persistent that it was still his lucky seat. I made a point of looking after him the rest of the flight.
It was an especially hard landing, but only one overhead bin had opened. Can you guess which one? 34C. It shot open and a large suitcase landed directly on top of Nick. He was taken away by paramedics, with a broken collarbone and a bruised spine.
Several months later, I walked through first class and was shocked to see Nick.
“What are you doing up here?” I asked suspiciously.
He smiled at me, sipped his champagne, and replied, “I have modified my position on seats. 2B is my new choice. All that fate crap is for the birds.”
Some superstitions are very much alive among many flight crews today. I remember the story about a flight attendant who was extremely superstitious and adamant about following a strict routine of numerology. She would seldom trade her trips, wary about altering fate, and never went against her readings.
The beauty of the flight attendant job is its flexibility and the ease of one’s schedule. You can work 10 days on and then have 20 days off. You just have to be open to change; she wasn’t. On December 18th she got a phone call from a fellow flight attendant about trading a certain trip so she could see her family in New York on the layover.
Even though it would benefit the superstitious flight attendant’s Christmas schedule, she declined, citing her numbers reading. It was her last flight as that trip was the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 103 that crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Was that her fate? Most probably, but why inconvenience your life worrying about consequences that you have no control over? Knock on wood.
Have you witnessed or have any out of the ordinary traveling superstitions? I want to hear about them. Email me and share them with everyone.