I Was Picked on at School.


  • airline: Cathay Pacific
  • distance traveled: 8,066mi (12,982km)
  • time to destination: 15hrs
  • cruising altitude: 31,998ft (9,753m)
  • outside air temperature: -49 degrees Celsius
  • in-flight dining: terrible
Takeoff over Winthrop, MA

My seat in 36A is next to the window in the wing section. My mom once told me the wingbox is the strongest section of the plane, but I later found out it’s not necessarily the safest. You can die in a plane no matter where you’re sitting. Thinking about Air France Flight 447, I mentally plan out my escape plans for various scenarios: fuselage coming apart in midair (à la Lost), water impact, etc.

36C is occupied by a tall, muscular Caucasian teenager, whom I shall hereafter refer to by his seat number. He’s wearing a black wife-beater and jeans and carrying a McDonald’s take-out bag. His hair’s shaggy, and his body is covered with bruises, some fresh, others at the healing stage when their hue is a tawny yellow. After the pilot announces to us the plane is delayed due to a busy takeoff schedule, 36C turns on his 17in MacBook Pro. 36C begins watching home videos of himself wrestling with, I assume, friends in a yard. Explains the bruises. He then switches to scenes of Tony Jaa, a Thailand martial arts expert and actor, flipping and roundhouse kicking swarms of thugs in Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior. I can tell from the vigorous head nods and smiles that 36C is enjoying himself immensely.

sadly, no Santa
We flew over the Arctic, pretty close to North Pole. I kept my eyes peeled for Santa

My first impression of 36C is that he’s somewhat of a meathead since he had trouble filling his HK arrival card and had to call a family member. The plane is still grounded, and our delay is nearing the hour mark. 36C dials his girlfriend. From hearing his end of the conversation, my deductive skills tell me she had spent the night with him at his folks’ place. She had just woken up and was preparing to leave when 36C called for a second round of goodbyes. Worried about how his family viewed her, she asked him what his parents’ opinions were. 36C assured her his parents and sisters took to her well. At this point, not wanting to disrupt other passengers or have them eavesdrop, like me, on his personal life, he retreats with his ongoing call into one of the cabin bathrooms.

Arrival in HK

After a while, he returns to this seat.

“This is a ridiculously long delay,” I say to him casually.

“Yeah, I know,” he replies back.

I soon learn 36C lives in Scarsdale, New York, attends Oberlin College, and absolutely loves mixed martial arts. Of course, this last thing was rather apparent from an issue of The Ring, an American magazine for boxing enthusiasts, lying on his tray table.

36C’s father is an attorney who represents big firms in litigations against other firms. Explains the Scarsdale. 36C, however, doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. His girlfriend, whom he met at Oberlin, is, coincidentally, an international student from Hong Kong who is currently taking summer classes at the school. I thought it very ironic that he’s going to her home city just when she’s arrived at his. He thought so too. Her family belongs to the HK Jockey Club, a prime example of homophily, for which, according to 36C, she catches a lot of flack from her friends.

“So why the interest in mixed martial arts?” I ask.

“I was picked on at school,” he says matter-of-factly.

“Makes sense.”

“You wanna watch some videos of me and my friends?”