Passenger of the day:
At first there wasn't much remarkable about Brown Shirt. Sure, he was fit, that was the first thing to notice about him. That, and his youth. Together, as well as the tight brown tee and snug denim jeans he wore, it was the kind of look that garnered second glances from many of the passengers who had already boarded and settled into their business class seats, but attractive people aren't anything new. I noticed the middle-aged woman in 8F eying him up and down as he made his way to his seat. Our eyes met and she quickly looked down, having been caught checking him out.
Brown Shirt, at first look, seemed to be in his mid to late twenties. After closer inspection, I think he was more likely to be in his mid thirties. He had a full head of light brown, almost blonde hair. His skin was youthful, but was just starting to show signs of the recklessness of youth; too much time in the sun, not enough moisturizer.
It wasn't his strong physique that piqued so much interest in Brown Shirt for me to feature him as Passenger of the Day. It was hard to ignore, with his tight brown shirt with super short sleeves. It showed off his well-developed arms, the kind more akin to a gymnast than a body builder. The tightness of the shirt also showcased a tight pair of pecs. I would imagine that 8F would have liked the rest of the torso, with a six, no possibly an eight pack.
He reached his seat at 6G and before placing his carry-on items away, he removed the things he would need for our 5-hour flight to SFO. A small laptop, a pair of bulky and expensive head phones, a few power adapters with the cords neatly wrapped around, an electronic tablet and an Ipod. This was a guy who's security blanket was technology, but this isn't what stood out, either.
The space above his seat had already been claimed. The man in 6F had arrived just before him and placed his larger item there. He pulled down the overhead bin across the aisle, towards me, and found a spot for his larger item there. When he reached up to put his bag in this space, even the large surly man seated next to me took notice. The arm muscles went taut with the weight of the suit case and the shirt lifted up over the waist band of his jeans exposing a bit of skin. His jeans were low and a decorative band with bright stripes was exposed; flashy and expensive underwear. I guess if I had a body like that, I'd be a little showy as well.
Still in need of space for a smaller back pack, he moved a row back and found space in a bin, but there were a few blankets that someone had placed there. He half picked one out and asked the man in 6F if he needed the blankets. Being told no, he pushed them back to make space and then leaned down to pick up the back pack he'd placed on the ground. While he did this, 6F put his back pack in his space. It made me chuckle as I could see Brown Shirt roll his eyes, 6F clueless to the fact that the space was not arranged for that of a stranger. Without hesitation, Brown Shirt shoved 6F's small bag to the back and placed his back pack in front and then lifted the large bin closed, again exposing the flesh above his colorful underwear waistband. The woman in 8F again taking note, and this time not looking to see that I noticed her.
What I noticed next and what happened for much of the flight is what was so remarkable about the young man with the rock-hard body in 6G, Brown Shirt. It was an activity I've seen before but never with such vigor, and I know my writing abilities will fail to provide a picture that does this story justice.
It couldn't be from stress. Brown Shirt was too young for that much stress, and judging from the head phones and Ipod and the fact that he seemed to be watching shows on his computer, it's not like he was overworked. Although, seeing a young man such as Brown Shirt having a business-class ticket made me wonder just what he did for a living. We were leaving the nation's capital for Silicon Valley. Perhaps he was a big shot with some technology company visiting DC to talk lawmakers into opening up loopholes so his company can further cash in. Or maybe he was just visiting family, a rich fortune 500 member, perhaps, who demanded certain results in the lofty expectations that the rich have on their family.
Maybe it wasn't stress, but simply a nervous tic. Or maybe, just maybe, Brown Shirt had the best tasting fingers of all time! Yes, Brown Shirt spent much of this trip biting his fingernails. But this wasn't your grandfather's fingernail biting. This was a craft honed and perfected by a pro.
Think of a young boy at a picnic. He's not eaten in hours and has been playing rigorously on the playground with other boys his age. He's not worn out yet, but he's got a voracious appetite. Mom calls the boy to the table and hands him a plate of chicken wings. Some of his friends are still playing, so he's in a hurry to eat so he can get back to the jungle gym. He eats one wing in less 15 seconds and moves on to the second. While eating the second he's already eying his plate for which wing will be third. He eats quickly and with passion.
This is the image I had in seeing Brown Shirt attack, not only his finger nails, but cuticles, as well. Placing his finger into his mouth, he'd move the finger this way and that, while his jaw moved the teeth up and down to get at the good part. He'd take it out and regard it briefly for a new plan of attack and then pounce on the victim. Every now and then, he'd free a piece of dead skin and roll it around in his mouth, letting his tongue feel it against the back of his teeth, moving it from one side to the next before ingesting it. Then he'd go at it again.
He moved with quickness. He was a professional. This was a race and he was far, far ahead. There was so much to eat and not one, but TWO hands with five fingers each. One finger, then the next; nail and then cuticle. Right hand and then left, all the while intently watching the images on his laptop and oblivious to anything else going on aboard the plane. Finger in, chew, turn, gnaw, turn, chomp, chew, gnaw, turn, bite, finger out, observe, finger in, chew, gnaw, turn, scrape, scrape, chew, turn, gnaw, turn, chew, scrape, turn, gnaw, finger out, another finger in, chew, scrape, gnaw, turn, gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, turn, chew, bite, enjoy.
Then the airplane door was closed and we pushed back. My seat was rear-facing and in the center of the plane, his was forward-facing, next to the window. I had only to turn my head to look outside and I could see him clearly, going to town. I would eventually lose interest in watching his appetite for fingers as I enjoyed a meal (not finger food) and a movie, followed by a nap. When I awoke, I noticed he was still at it. It made me chuckle. This was some good entertainment, here!
I've never seen anyone chew their fingernails with such vigor. I am certain to never see this again. It wasn't for the tightness of the shirt to show off the hard work in the gym. It wasn't for the youthfulness of being in business class, surrounded by business travelers. For looking like a squirrel going after a meal in the park, you, Brown Shirt, are passenger of the day.