October 12, 2023 | FEATURES | By Anya Jones

It’s fascinating to watch people get truly frustrated. When you watch them try to accomplish something but it’s just not working the way they thought it would. And they start to slip progressively into a state of agitation until it becomes malignant rage.

I watched this happen to a woman as she boarded our plane. 

The woman was in her mid-twenties, with auburn hair and a face perpetually contorted in a way that led me to believe she was holding in a lot of pee. She held a rolling suitcase and on top of it sat her carry-on luggage.

Her carry-on held a dog in a small, soft compartment. The top of the flap was open so it could stick its head out. I thought she must be kidding. The dog had a face identical to that of an Ewok from Star Wars. It looked as if it was rolled over by a tractor and it had the eyes of a stuffed animal, one with no perceivable pupils. I spent a long time staring at it. It stared back at me.  

On the jet bridge, the woman would occasionally put her hand on the dog in an attempt at affection. It made me wonder about the origin story of how this dog came into this woman’s life. I ruminated on several possibilities. The one that seemed most likely I imagine is she purchased an Ewok stuffed animal for her young nephew’s birthday. When she brought it home and began wrapping it, she noticed it was actually alive. Astounded by her magical discovery, she decided to keep it for herself. The way she touched the thing really did not have me convinced that she believed it was a dog. Her hand was timid, and she couldn’t look at it any longer.  

When we made it to the very front of the plane, the woman was faced with the task of removing the carrier from the top of her roller bag.

The carrier was secured on the bag’s handle, which meant she had to lift the carrier up until the flap cleared the top of the handle. She began this motion and immediately encountered resistance. Not from the dog, but from the action itself. I will note that the dog remained eerily peaceful throughout this whole ordeal. The angle at which she was trying to pull the dog’s carrier over the handle was entirely wrong. The flap was caught, the dog’s weight changed the distribution of friction. The woman’s stance was not conducive to lifting something. 

She struggled to inch the carrier up the handle of the roller bag while the flight attendants and all fellow passengers on the jet bridge watched. She released a sound from her mouth that indicated she’d been holding her breath from the exertion.

It was a sharp exhale that also captured a bit of her vocal cords. It wasn’t yet exasperation, but it was the sound you might release seconds before. She paused to reposition herself, then continued to hoist the carrier over the handles. The carrier was still stuck on something. She was tensed and leaning back as far as she could to try to make the carrier progress upward. But it resisted. 

She was starting to mutter to herself. I could make out words like “f**k” and “motherf***er.” She was exhaling more sharply now. The breaths were coming out quicker, accompanied with more grunts of exertion. She was using all her might, pulling up so hard that her roller bag’s wheels were lifting off the floor as though it were a small child believing they could fly. Her face showed every emotion one might feel in a moment such as this.

Everyone had been watching her silently – the jet bridge, the passengers, the flight attendants, that freaking dog. The only thing that cut the silence was the woman’s triumphant victory over the roller bag’s handle, which she celebrated by dropping her dog several feet onto the ground and forcefully placing her hand on its back to keep it from moving, though the dog made no attempt of escape. 

Suddenly, I felt an urge to rush over to the dog-like creature and comfort it, tell it that it did nothing wrong. The circumstances this woman faced were unfortunate. But, in all honesty, the only thing that seemed to have cooperated throughout the ordeal was the dog. It was the last thing deserving of her frustration from the inefficient system of dog carrier–roller bag handle.

All I could hope for was she would apologize to it later, maybe give it an extra scoop of kibble, and return it to its rightful home on Endor.  

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