There are two things that I look forward to when it comes to flying: light turbulence and the Biscoff shortbread cookies.
Actually, it’s light chop, a subcategory of light turbulence that I hope for. Light chop is the kind of turbulence consisting of a subtle, rhythmic bumpiness that causes you to just slightly bounce in your seat. Every few seconds of bumpiness is followed by a smooth ascent that feels like riding on a newly paved patch of highway.
Tiny dips follow the ascent as those stretches of smooth sky asphalt end. The intermittent periods of gentle shaking make you feel like you’re in the coziest vibrating baby bassinet.
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If you’re like me, light chop can lull you to sleep before the in-flight service even begins.
But as pleasant as this description sounds, don’t let it cause you to mistake me for one of those “people who loves to fly”. I hate flying. Any type of turbulence that differs from the one I’ve described and I’m a mess.
I was once on a flight from Quito to Miami with turbulence so bad, the wings of the plane took turns plunging from side to side. The aircraft swung back and forth through the sky like one of those toy model planes on strings.
Huge drops in altitude left my stomach in my throat and my orange juice bounced out of its plastic up and onto my lap. I squeezed my eyes shut and white-knuckled my armrests while I made right with the world for everything from underage drinking to lying to my kindergarten class about needing hearing aids when I was five.
So to me, the only thing besides nap-inducing turbulence that makes flying tolerable are the in-flight Biscoff cookies.
Ah, those cookies. Buttery, crumbly shortbread heaven.
I haven’t always been aware of my love for the cookies. It’s actually a pretty recent realization. A few years ago, I was flying from Minneapolis to Newark when I bit into one and really tasted it for the first time. I breathed deeply and took the cookie in. Suddenly I appreciated it for everything that it was. Like starting to fall in love with your best friend of years, there was no explanation for the timing. It…just happened.
My seatmate picked up on the moment I was having.
“Do you want my cookies?” he asked, “I don’t really like them.”
Of course I want your goddamn cookies.
“Really? I mean, I guess. Sure, thanks.”
When I told my older sister, Aliya, this story, she informed me that the older I got, the more packs of cookies I could ask for directly from the flight attendant. That is, with each additional 2–3 years of age, another pack of in-flight shortbread cookies could not just be asked for, but expected. And, she added as if she were letting me in on a little-known secret, grown-ass Black woman me would be entitled to all of the Biscoff cookies that I wanted.
It was a thought that intoxicated me.
Based on her theory though, I had at least two years to wait before I could ask for more packs of cookies. Until then, I would be limited to one — maybe two — if my neighbor was feeling generous.
Last year, I boarded another flight from Minneapolis to Newark for the New Year. This time around I was older and wiser. As the plane headed east, my sister’s words played in my mind.
It was time to claim that second pack of cookies.
As the in-flight service began, I rubbed my palms together and waited for my snack from the back of the plane. Every couple of minutes, I craned my neck to see how many rows remained between me and that first buttery bite. When the flight attendant got close enough for me to hear the rattle of her cart, I put my seat in the upright position to prepare for my ask.
She was only a couple of rows away when I realized it.
The little bags that she had been doling out were not filled with delicious Biscoff shortbread cookies. No. Instead, she delivered handfuls of…mini pretzels.
Those damn pretzel packs. I was quite familiar with them. Each bag contained about four pretzels — equivalent of the number of grains of salt on each one.
I had to think fast.
I turned my head to look at my seatmate.
Leave. that man alone.
I leaned a tad closer.
“Looks like pretzels this time.” I said like an old man predicting an oncoming rainstorm. “I really had my heart set on those cookies.”
He turned to look at me. “I’m sure she has some stashed down there somewhere.” He looked back at his laptop.
My seatmate was right. She did have cookies stashed away somewhere in that rolly cart. She had to. But I was going to have to switch up my strategy to get them. Now, instead of using my skills to procure an extra pack of cookies, I would have to convince this woman to give me one pack instead of pretzels. And I’d better get it right on the first try.
Our flight attendance’s voice drew nearer. Every time she asked a passenger if they wanted pretzels, the second syllable of the word dragged out and floated throughout the plane.
I carefully prepared my ask in my head.
She arrived at our row and made eye contact with me first.
“Doyouhavenanyofthecookies!” I cut her off without breathing.
It was not the delivery that I had hoped for.
“PRETZELS.” She spit the word out at me, shifted her weight to one side and waited.
My chin moved away from her toward the window. I took a breath and turned back to show her a small involuntary snarl. I took my pretzels.
Once she had finished serving our row, I glanced again at my seatmate.
If you don’t leave this man alone and eat your damn pretzels…
“She saw me comin’, huh?” I opened my snack.
“I guess so.”
For a moment, I allowed myself to imagine what would happen if I were to take matters into my own hands. Perhaps I’d unbuckle my safety belt so that I could stand on top of my seat. I’d demand to the rest of the passengers that I couldn’t be the only one who expected Biscoff cookies today, and they’d start to slowly nod and perk up. An older woman a few rows ahead of me would raise her hand and admit that she too was looking forward to enjoying some cookies on this flight. A child near the front of the plane would then share their story of cookie-less disappointment and some folks would grunt in agreement. I’d ask the woman who had first spoken up, “You ma’am! How much did you pay for this flight?” She’d respond with a figure somewhere between 450 and 600 dollars. “And you, grade school-aged child! How much was your ticket!” They’d just cock their head and shrug because they don’t yet buy their own airline tickets. Then I’d pause for dramatic effect before insisting: “I know there’s cookies on this plane!”
Back on earth, I sat in my seat and munched my delightfully-semi-salty-and-crispy-not-cookies pretzels and plotted. My ascent to grown-ass blackwomandom was going to be trickier than I anticipated.