With Worldcon coming up, I've got travel on the brain these days. One of the most annoying ways to travel (aside maybe from extended trips on a pogo stick - not speaking from experience here, just supposing) is without a doubt aboard commercial airliners. Cramped conditions, lousy service, food that doesn't actually qualify as food, and alleged safety restrictions and procedures that are less than effective and degrading to law-abiding taxpayers - but I digress. Put all of those technical factors aside and you've still got one big problem: enduring the quirks of the other passengers. Sure, I've met some nice folks aboard planes and had the odd pleasant conversation, but those are the rarities. The most resonable hope is for is a quiet, uneventful flight surrounded by quiet, un-noticeable people. This is generally not the case. Take your pick of screaming kids, snoring sleepers, incessant complainers, seat hogs pushing into your personal space, chatty cathies who really have nothing worth-while to say, and those who are clouded by various and sundry foul odors. Your inflight neighbours can be the toughest part of the journey to deal with. As hard as it is to imagine, it could be worse. Look through the worlds of SF and you'll find a legion of individuals that would put you off air travel for the rest of your life if you had to endure their company. To that end, I've assembled a list of the Top 5 SF Characters You Wouldn't Want to Sit Next to on a Plane:
5) John Valentine - Twilight Zone: The Movie (segment #4)
To address the nitpickers first: Yes, I know The Shat played this character back when the story was done on the original Twilight Zone on TV back in the late '50s, but John Lithgow's performance in '83 was infinitely better. Now, on to the reason for this selection: You've boarded the plane, you've got your bottle of water, a snack and a book or whatever and you're settling in to endure the flight when this guy gets on and sits down next to you. Sure, he's a little edgy, but you don't think too much of it. The plane lifts off, and over the next several hours he has a complete meltdown. The twitching, the constant slamming of the window blind up and down, the gasps and shrieks - and that's all before he finds a gun and blows the glass out. That would be bad enough, but what if, during the commotion, you looked out the window and actually saw the gremlin too?
4) Vogon Captain Jeltz - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
This guy is a problem for all kinds of reasons. First, there's his size. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not coming down on heavy folks here (I'm a trifle portly myself), but a Vogon is a whole lot bigger - it's guaranteed there'd be some spillage into your seating area. In fact, given the Vogon lack of manners, he'd probably be one of those passengers who would automatically move the seat arm up and out of the way before he sat down, just to make it easier to crowd into your seat. Then there's the bureaucratic obsession... it's likely he'd quibble about every instruction given by the air crew, make unreasonable delays when they ask him to put up his tray table, and would probably run them ragged with his own petty demands. As odd as it sounds, given his species' lack of manners, he'd probably find some way to try to score both the aisle seat and the window seat. Last, there's the poetry. After having endured unresonably high ticket prices, long lineups at the terminal and everything else associated with flying, you'd then be subjected to the agony of the worst "verse" in the 'Verse until it finally made your brain collapse.
3) Jar Jar Binks - the Star Wars prequels
I don't think I have to prove this point, do I? The only question is, why is Lucas' folly only in third place? Because the worst is yet to come...
2) Rorschach - Watchmen
He stinks, he mumbles incessantly (varying between field notes and ultra-right-wing bullshit), and then there's his obsession with justice and punishment: snore while you're napping - he's probably going to punch you in the throat; let your foot accidentally drift over into his footrest area - he might snap your ankle. You wouldn't even want to know what he'd be likely to do if he went into the washroom after you'd been sitting in there for a bit.
1) Pizza the Hut - Spaceballs
Okay, he's got his own space limo, so why would he be riding coach with you? Who knows? Who cares? Point is, you wouldn't want him to. Strange as it may sound, I'd argue that he's the worst of the lot on this list. First off, he's a cougher. You'd never get any peace and quiet and you'd probably catch some awful space bug that would demand an insanely expensive antibiotic that wasn't covered by your employer-provided health insurance in order to cure it. He's also a gangster, so there'd probably be some threats rather than a polite request if he wanted to switch seats with you, and extortion if you asked to slip past him on the way to the washroom. He's also pretty huge, so there's definitely going to be some issues with him spilling into your seat, and given that he's half man, half pizza, he would actually be spilling. Which would lead to pizza burn, which is never fun. And if you had the guts/stupidity to complain about it? It goes back to the gangster thing again: he'd flip open his phone, and then you'd be faced with the grim realization that "Pizza is gonna send out for you."
So which SF characters would you really not want to have to sit beside on a plane?