bird flying at sunset

Flying With The Others

You know how I said my flight back from Miami last weekend passed without incident?

Well, it mostly did. I mean, there was no turbulence, no lost luggage, and the flight didn’t crash, which is really the most I expect from the nightmare that is flying.

There were Others on board, though. Lots of them. And their behaviour, as ever, completely confused and amazed me, once again proving that just when you think you have The Others all figured out, they’ll come up with some new and horrifying way to surprise you all over again.

As a bit of background to this story, you have to understand two things:

01. I have a phobia about feet: specifically, the sight of feet being rubbed together. It completely freaks me out, always has. It’s bad enough when the feet in question are bare, but it’s even worse when the feet are clad in dingy white socks. Which brings me to my second point:

02. I have a “thing” about white socks. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as a “phobia”, and I don’t object to them when they’re inside shoes, but you know when people walk around in nothing but white socks, and the soles are filthy, bearing the clear imprint (in dirt) of the wearer’s feet? Yeah, that makes me want to gag. Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

Naturally, then, The Others always go out of their way to present me with the sight of their white-socked feet (complete with filthy soles), being rubbed together over and over again. They mostly do this on flights: presumably because it’s a small, enclosed space which I can’t escape from, and because it’s not like flying is bad enough already, is it? Oh no, wait…

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that literally every time I get onto a flight and sit in the aisle seat, the person opposite me will instantly remove their shoes, revealing white socked feet, which they will then thrust into my eye-line and proceed to rub together for the next 9 hours. So it was on Saturday.

The Other in question was a woman, who I will call White Sock Woman. The second she got into her seat, she whipped off her sneakers and stretched her feet into the aisle, right in my line of sight. This would’ve been typical, but bearable, but the other thing you have to understand about this flight is that the aisle in question was FILTHY. More so than usual, I mean. They started serving the meal around 30 minutes after take-off, and one of the stewards managed to drop a meal in the aisle, right in front of my seat. For some reason or other, they decided not to bother cleaning this up, so I sat there and ate my own meal with a plate of salad strewn over the carpet before me.

Other things I hate: the sight of food sitting on top of a filthy carpet. Because, yuck.

By the time I was done, this has started to bother me so much (My various neuroses are at their height when I’m flying…) that I’d decided that if no one from the airline was going to clean it up (And they obviously weren’t), why, I would have to do it myself. I didn’t have to, though, because as soon as her tray was removed, White Sock Woman got up, and had herself a nice walk up and down the aisle. Right over the food. In the white socks. The white socks which were now decorated with food. So, that solved the “there is food all over the aisle” problem at least, but…


Then she went to the toilet.

The toilet on an aircraft.

The FILTHY toilet on an aircraft.

The filthy PUBLIC toilet on an aircraft.

In the white, food-scattered socks.


I thought this was pretty gross, to be honest. I mean, would YOU walk into a public bathroom in your socks? Or am I just being weird about this? I mean, I wouldn’t really have described myself as a germaphobe, to be honest. Sure, I started to get that way after repeated exposure to Miami’s generally unpleasant public bathrooms, but in general I take reasonable measures to be hygienic, but I don’t OBSESS over it, you know?

I would not, however, in my wildest dreams, walk into a public toilet in my stockinged soles.

Want to know what else I wouldn’t do?

I wouldn’t walk into a public toilet in my stockinged soles, then, upon returning to my seat, stand directly in front of the person opposite me, raise each of my feet in turn until they were level with that person’s tray table, then use my bare hands to brush the accumulated food, debris, and let’s-not-even-think-about-what-was-on-the-toilet-floor off the soles off my feet, before sitting down and resuming eating a bag of crisps with the same hands I had just used to brush other people’s pee off my filthy, no-longer white socks.

That’s what White Sock Woman did, though.


I thought this was as bad as it was going to get, I really did. Upon turning my head to try to get WSW out of my line of sight, however, my attention was grabbed by the man sitting directly behind her. I’ll call him Bare Feet Man. I’ll let you work out why.

Bare Feet Man was also occupying himself throughout the flight by thrusting his (BARE) feet as close to me as possible and rubbing them together. What really troubled me, though, is that when he got bored with this, he ALSO started wandering around the cabin and visiting the filthy toilet… IN HIS BARE FEET.

Bare feet. In a public toilet.

And with that, a new low was reached, and my phobia about feet and socks reached an all-time high. I was glad when they switched off the cabin lights after that, although not really, because when they plunged the cabin into pitch darkness (OMG I AM TRAPPED INSIDE A TIN CAN IN THE DARK AND THERE IS NOTHING BUT BLACKEST NIGHT AND DARKEST OCEAN OUTSIDE THE WINDOW! HALP!), it was revealed that the reading lights weren’t working (OMG THE ELECTRICS HAVE FAILED, WHAT ELSE MIGHT HAVE FAILED? PROBABLY THE ENGINES?), so the pitch darkness was to be unrelieved for the next five hours or so. Now, as a nervous flier, I rely on reading to distract me from The Fear, which always intensifies during the “let’s make the cabin darker than the crypt” portion of night-time flights. I can’t sleep on planes (As I mentioned last week, this is because it’s totally up to me to keep the plane in the air. If I have even a momentary lapse in concentration, sorry, but we’re all doomed…), and I find it hard to concentrate on TV, movies etc when I’m flying, so any time I fly, I make sure I have a couple of good books on hand, to keep myself distracted.

On this flight, however, the darkness was so complete that I couldn’t read at all. In the end, I had to get out the iPad and use the feeble light from its screen to illuminate the darkness JUST enough to allow me to decipher the text in front of me. And I had to hold it up in front of me like that for five hours. At least I couldn’t see the Feet People while this was going on, though. You have to be grateful for small mercies, don’t you?

It’s not much fun flying with The Others. But to be completely honest, I don’t think it’s all that much fun for them flying with ME, either…

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books by Amber Eve
  • Dear Amber,

    While for Others and Other’s feet (OMG I even don’t go with bare feet in my OWN toilets…which are definitively not public) I unfortunately cannot do much for you, I however can do something on dark/no light cabin on flights/train/whatever…a mini lamp clip on. Who will wide-spread just a tinny light, small enough to keep your line sight away from white socks. And feet. And Others. A tin can…

    July 19, 2013
  • I feel you, I hate when the Others do something gross (like chewing really loudly and exposing their chewing-gum/meal to the world, like really? Do you really think the world needs to be graced by the suave sight of your chewed, saliva-filled gum/lunch? ) and having to be stuck with them and without any possibility of escape (that is why I hate public transport)… My personal method of defense is putting earphones on and listen to music, and if there’s a really gross view I will close my eyes and feign sleep, or watch the opposite direction, even if it gets me a crick in the neck…

    July 19, 2013
  • So once there was a woman sitting next to me on a flight back to Atlanta. And she had a baby. A six months old, tiny, cutesy baby with the lungs of an Olympic diver. And that baby cried. And cried. And cried. And since there was very little I could do about it, I popped my earbuds in and attempted to drown it out with rock music. Which failed. And then the baby somehow cried harder, which meant it needed to be fed. So the woman gave it its bottle, which it took a very long time to drink (but hey, at least it wasn’t crying).

    Pity it took so long, the mother kinda nodded off while loosely holding the clearly loosely closed bottle. Unfortunately, at this point I was reading, relishing the first few moments without screaming. So I didn’t see when the loosely held bottle with its loosely closed lid rolled off her fingers. Bounced off my book. And spilt. RIGHT. ON TOP. OF MY SKIRT.

    P.S. The woman didn’t apologise. Because of course she didn’t.

    July 19, 2013
  • What a nightmare. I too hate other people’s germs/feet/open chewing mouths, you name it. I can’t stand my own germs let alone anyone else’s.

    That made me cringe when she rubbed off the feces/garbage and then went back to eating chips.
    I think I’d need therapy after that.


    July 19, 2013
  • I can say I actually had a barefoot incident on a plane once before. A man behind me and my son put his barefoot between the seats onto our armrest! My boy thought it was hilarious and was trying to find ways to tickle his foot, but I thought it was just disgusting. So glad it was a short flight.

    July 19, 2013
  • Kindle app for iPad, dude. Even of it’s not your preferred method of reading, it’s great for ’emergencies’ such as this! Two birds, one stone.

    July 19, 2013
  • Dear Amber
    Fly first class and all of the others will be safely imprisoned is a low oxygen cabin behind you. 🙂

    July 19, 2013
  • I can’t even. I just ugh. This makes me feel very sick and I don’t know how you survived it. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever be bare foot in public ever or in socks. If you must remove your shoes, then you need to be wearing at the very least hard soled slippers and that’s only if you’re going to stay in your seat the whole time! Which of course you are because you should not use the bathroom on a plane ever.

    Fashion and Happy Things

    July 19, 2013
  • Brian


    You made lol, a real laugh. Thank you!

    July 19, 2013
  • I can’t with feet being rubbed together. My dad, as much as I love him, does this. It drives me insane. We’ll be sitting and watching tv, and I’ll hear this rubbing noise. I’ll finally track it down to him rubbing his feet together. It’s worse when the feet are bare, but even with socks on, it’s unbearable! It’s like cricket legs being rubbed together to make music! I mean, I already have a thing about feet anyway (they’re gross), but when they start making noise?! Nope, can’t deal.

    And really, who thinks it’s ok to go barefoot in a public place? An airplane is not your own private house! The last time I flew, I was fascinated by the number of people that walked in the airport barefoot. Sitting in the waiting area, no shoes! Walking around? No shoes! Gross people!

    July 20, 2013
      • Ari


        I do take off my shoes sometimes, but I definitely do not even think of walking on the plane like that, and going to the toilet in bare feet is just beyond my imagination!

        October 17, 2013
  • Oh, Amber! I always love your stories about The Others. You are a funny lady, I read this yesterday on my break at work and after a terrible terrible morning, it really made me LOLOLOL. Yes, I used the world LOL.

    Going barefoot to a public toilet is GROSS. I dread to think the of what particles are lurking on those floors. Just no. Shoes. Wear shoes.

    Corinne x

    July 20, 2013
  • I get your whole “phobia” if you will although I really just think people should keep their shoes on if they’re in a public place that isn’t a beach or swimming pool. What I’m not understanding is WHY the feet must be rubbed together? Are they their legs crossed at the ankle and the feet touching? I’m having trouble envisioning any scenario where the feet need to be rubbing together. Bizarre!

    July 20, 2013
  • Hilarious Amber, I’m a fellow ‘other’ hater, I’m told my most used line is ‘I hate people’. I don’t hate all people just ‘other people’. WSW is disgusting, seriously disgusting!

    July 20, 2013
  • Hey Amber, I have very similar feelings as you as to flying. mu full post just got deleted by my browser, so in shortcut – they bring CRYING KIDS or kids hat kick on my seat. or make noise that wont let me sleep. I usually travel alone so i choose the aisle seat to not have to apologise everytime i go to the toilet. I dont care fro the view from airplane windows. Had eough of it in my teens, did not impress. Clouds, sky, random images of country were landing in. my main pint – goin through two ppl to go to bathroom when needed. Hence aisle seat. The Others, Amber, I feel you. Whenever I fly, its full of the Others. Like the guy who took aisle seat and i took the middle, he turned out to be some sort of a drug addict and i had to hit him hard to wake him up to make him let me pass to toilet. Same on return. Hate window seat too. Im sun sensitive.Very. If you dont sit with family ppl want u to open the window blind to “see whats going on” And its just either boring clouds with UV skin-kiling blinding sun or boring fields from a distance, and most often – nothing really, just a hope like dog for a bone. If its family u can tell them to f-off, if its strangers u have to be polite. YUCK. Plus my nerves AND migraine gets a hold of me BIG TIME when I fly. I want first class or private jet. Anyway – I understand You, Amber. And aside from flights – I love your blog and pages, only my condition prevents me from reviewing as I’d like to.

    July 20, 2013
  • To be honest, at the beginning of your post I really thought you were exaggerating a bit – but then you got to the point of describing these sock-wearing feet walking over food towards a public bathroom and those bare feet walking into a public bathroom … Urgh. Seriously, I totally agree. That’s just gross. I’ve had nightmares of forgetting to wear shoes and then having to walk around in socks several times, you know. Brr.

    July 21, 2013
  • I actually have had nightmares about being in a public place and having to go bare foot to the bathroom. In the horrible dream it’s that I have somehow lost my shoes (which would be bad enough) and then I am left to wander the streets barefoot and then it ends with having to use the rest room.

    Worst dream ever!

    I can never understand people who walk around public places without shoes.

    To be honest, if it is a long flight, I do take my shoes off but discretely so that no one notices and if I have to use the restroom, which I DREAD for other reasons (public restrooms scare me, I ALWAYS put my shoes back on.

    July 22, 2013
  • I once had to go through an entire conference with someone sniffling right behind me the WHOLE time. I didn’t have any tissues to offer, and tried to forget about it thinking the person didn’t want to be rude by going to the toilet or something. Then we had a break, and said person didn’t even go out. He was just talking to everyone and sniffling the entire time. No one else seemed to care, I just wanted to yell at him to blow his nose. It drove me mad. Then the break was over and we had another lovely hour of disgusting sniffling. I mean, seriously, blow your nose if you have a cold. It’s plain disgusting.

    July 23, 2013
  • To agree with the first poster – I don’t even have bare feet in my own bathroom either! I hate feet and toenails and having my feet on anything but carpet, so I can just imagine (and share) your disgust. My pet hate is folk putting their seats right back on planes though – I know it’s a given right to be able to recline your seat but my brother and I are pretty tall so if the folk in front of us do it we’re trapped the whole flight! (although I did retaliate once by sitting with my knees up on the reclined seat in front of me the entire flight – got me a few dirty looks but the revenge was sweet ;))

    July 23, 2013
  • Lee


    It sounds like what should of been a straight forward flight turned in to your worst case scinarios with your phobias. There is only one good thing about flying and that is it gets you somewhere quick apart from that it is a chore that has to be done.Lee

    July 24, 2013