I file onto Alitalia flight 649 -- a direct flight from Rome, Italy to Caracas, Venezuela -- groggy from the Wednesday morning dawn, irritable from the usual array of micro-inconveniences that comprise modern day air travel. My seat is 14L, a window. I get to my row and a short, pudgy Italian man in 14K pops up to allow me in. He's all smiles -- one of those "morning people" I suppose.
He has a beach-ball belly, probably mid-60's, ear-length hair parted down the middle, with 70's-style, slightly tinted thick-rimmed glasses on. He looked like a Serpico-era Al Pacino that grew grey and rotund and forgot to change his clothes for the last three decades.
I sit. He retakes his seat next to me. He lunges over the armrest to begin talking to me, clearly breaching the invisible, unspoken demarcation of personal space between two airplane seats. He corners me with his small talk: Hello, where are you from? Oh you speak Spanish? Beautiful morning, isn't it? Are you on vacation? What do you do? Are you staying in Caracas? Oh how nice, I'm an actor.
Each word launches torpedoes of halitosis-laden air toward …
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