The hope of having the seat to myself was dashed when the couple boarded just before the flight attendant closed the airplane door. I got up from my usual aisle position to let them in, the man next to the window, woman beside me. I could immediately tell why they were late boarding—they reeked of cigarette smoke. Great, I thought, as I directed my air vent full-force on my face in an effort to divert the odor.

I had noticed the couple while we awaited our flight. The woman fawned over every movement the man made and every word he spoke, while he loudly expressed opinions on a variety of topics as if everyone should benefit from his wisdom. I would have moved to a distant seat except that their voices were so loud it would have been impossible to escape their conversation. It was going to be a long three hours if he talked on the plane like he did at the gate. Fortunately, he soon immersed himself in a movie, his wife slept, and I quietly read my book or dozed.

Midway through the flight, the woman told me they needed to use the restroom and that they would go at the same time so as to only disturb me once. I was pleased and surprised by their thoughtfulness and reminded of the need to not relegate people to my first impression. I sat quietly with my eyes closed while they were gone, waking only to let them back in their seats. That’s when things went downhill.

“My ear buds are gone,” the man said.

“Did you take them to the bathroom?” the woman asked.

“No! I left them attached right here!” His voice was loud as he pulled his video machine from the pocket in front of his seat.

“They’ve been stolen!” he swore. “And there’s only one person who could have done it!”

I kept my eyes closed, but my stomach lurched. Could he be referring to me? I wondered. Even I had to admit I was the most likely suspect. I’ve never stolen anything in my life, I thought. Why would I start now? I think of myself as a sweet little old lady, but maybe I don’t look as innocent as I presume.

The two searched their seats, the floor, their bags. Nothing. The man was furious and cursing heavily.

Lord, please let him find them so he’ll stop yelling!

“Did you see anyone mess with our things?” the woman asked me.

“No, I didn’t,” I said, while wondering if I should help them look. But I was afraid to say or do anything since they seemed to have already decided my guilt. I could have used some chocolate about that time, but I was immobilized by fear and couldn’t get to my purse under the seat in front of me. I expected the man to start screaming in my face any second. Anger takes me back to childhood when I cowered from my dad’s explosive temper and it’s why I go to extremes to not upset people.

God has not given me a spirit of fear, I reminded myself. And then I began to wonder how I was supposed to show the love of Christ to unpleasant people who were making false assumptions. Please tell me, Lord. I am listening.

As the man’s voice grew louder, I became so anxious I nearly threw up. He was using the f-word over and over again, ignoring the small child sitting across from us. Surely he knew she could hear, as could everyone on the aircraft. One of my goals in life is to avoid drawing attention to myself, but at that moment, a couple hundred people couldn’t help but be focused on the passengers in row twenty.

Dear God, please. Help. Should I speak up? Remain quiet? Start searching with them?

Plane rides frighten me enough. I didn’t need the emotions this unruly passenger was creating in me.

“Did you ask her?” he barked at his wife, apparently referring to me.

“Yes,” she said. “She says she didn’t see anything.” She obviously didn’t believe me.

I didn’t move a muscle and continued to keep my eyes closed.

The man leaned forward in his seat then and seemed to be directing his next comment to the father and son sitting in front. “I hope you guys enjoy them! They won’t fit, though, since they’re custom made!”

So now someone else was his scapegoat?

The couple finally grew quiet and I tried to relax, though I was dreading what would happen when we reached Salt Lake City. I had visions of missing my connection while these people had airport security search me for the ear buds. Would I be handcuffed? Taken to some secure area and patted down, my purse dumped?

I jumped slightly when the flight attendant said, “How can I help you?” He stood beside my seat in the aisle, apparently summoned by my neighbor.

“Do you have a lost and found?” my seatmate asked.

“No,” he said. “Have you lost something?”

“Not lost,” she said. “Stolen. Custom-made $450 ear buds. We went to the bathroom and when we came back, they were gone.”

“You think they were stolen?” The flight attendant sounded surprised. “Did you look on the floor?”


“Would you like for me to look?”

“Yes,” she said. As I got up and the flight attendant stepped back to make room for me, he felt something under his foot, reached down and picked up…guess what? A set of ear buds.   They had apparently been snagged by the man’s own clothing and fallen to the floor as he made his way to the restroom.

“Are these yours?” he asked the lady.

“Yes! Praise God!” she said. “I was praying they would show up!”

That’s odd. All I heard were curse words.

I was relieved, but still surprised these people considered me a suspect. As soon as we landed and the Fasten Seat Belt sign was off, I practically ran down the aisle to get away from them. Best to leave this ugliness in the past.

Later, when I shared the incident with my children, they all had the same reaction: I must have taken the ear buds, then thrown them to the floor when it appeared I was about to get caught. And, of course, the fact that I exited the airplane quickly confirmed everyone’s suspicions.

So even my children think I’m guilty?

But they were just kidding. Weren’t they?


  1. Susie
    Nov 4, 2016

    i’m sorry that happened to you. you must have looked suspicious jogging down the aisle to get away, though. off to nab somebody’s neck pillow or confiscate a few bag of peanuts somebody stuffed into their pockets.

    I’m guessing you downed a few chocolates that evening.

    • Karen Curran
      Nov 4, 2016

      Quite a few, Susie:)

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