I almost had an empty seat on the way home

Posted on: October 14, 2012

So the flight out of Johannesburg back to Atlanta is about 16 hours. And when you’re stuck in coach, as I always am, any extra room is welcome, especially when it comes from an empty middle seat.

Boarding doors were about to be closed when the flight attendant brought over the missing seatmate. I was annoyed. Not that I wanted him to miss his flight, but just a couple of more seconds and I would’ve been far more comfortable. And let’s face it. I’m all about me most of the time.

He had clearly run for the plane because he was all sweaty and out of breath. And strangely, he was a rather hipster black South African guy. Big green hat, big green glasses, big green jacket. Let’s call him Kermit.

Turned out it was Kermit’s first flight, and he didn’t realize he had to be at the gate on-time. Not an auspicious start to the journey.

In any case, we start chatting and he was heading to Florida to the Scientology center to start his ‘auditing‘. And then it turns out that THEY PAID FOR HIM.  FOR THREE YEARS.

Not only did they pay for his flight, but also his living expenses in FL (though that will just be at their creepy center) and any flights to go home to visit family during that time.

And because I can’t keep my mouth shut, I blurt out: “You know it’s a cult, right?”

And he said that wasn’t the first time he’d heard that.  SO THEN WHY WOULD YOU BE FLYING ACROSS THE WORLD TO CHECK IT OUT?!?!?

Just what the fuck. I’m sorry – and maybe I am super jaded – but I do not believe in the goodness of any religion that willingly pays for flights and housing and upkeep and expects nothing in return. People aren’t like that, especially not ones in cults.

And the thing was, he knew that! He said if anything seemed off, he would just leave. Um… from what I’ve read, I don’t think it works like that, but whatever. So then we chatted a bit and he was actually cracking me up. A few of my favorite quotes:

Kermit: “Do you know TI? He lives in Atlanta.”

Me: “I mean I know who he is, but I don’t know him”

K: “Oh, his wife is really ghetto. Is all of Atlanta like that?”

Me: “Um… well… it can be.” (sort of ashamedly)

Kermit: “Do Americans really think we have lions and shit in the cities in South Africa?”

Me: “Um… well… yes.” (super ashamedly)

Kermit: “You’re really nice. I can’t believe you’re single. I was worried Americans wouldn’t be nice but you’re super nice!”

And then, he says, “It’d be cool if you’d show me around your hood sometimes. Let me meet your girls. I bet their all as nice and pretty as you. How old are you, like 27?”

Me: “Why yes, that’s exactly the right age.”  (I ignored the other request)

And then he told me the funniest thing – he said that they “recruit” a lot in Zimbabwe and pay for the flight over, the visa, everything. But the Zims never show up – the take off from the airport and go into hiding! It’s kind of smart, actually – get everything for free, including a legitimate visa, and then not only not join the “church” but head off into the American sunset and don’t look back.

Good for them.




5 Responses to "I almost had an empty seat on the way home"

I think my general opinion of Zimbabwe just skyrocketed.

Tell me about it! I was super impressed and told him he should do the same thing!

What a random meeting!

– K.

Hahahaha, how bizarre! Part of me feel so bad for him. I would totally tell him to run as well. Good think someone like that hasn’t sat by me. I’m the most tight-lipped seat mate. I make it pretty clear that I don’t want someone’s life story on such a long flight. I know…I’m horrible!

I chat for just a bit – when I first sit down and then at the end… the rest of the time, I put my ear buds in, pull up my hoodie and don’t make eye contact with anyone 😉

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