Humor by Greg Schwem

Whenever I fly, I always scan the passengers boarding the plane and wonder if there is an air marshal in my midst. Is it the gray-haired gentleman carrying the briefcase and texting incessantly on his smartphone? Or is it the twentysomething female watching "Eat Pray Love" on her iPad? Maybe it's the teenager bobbing his skull to whatever is emanating from his headphones. I don't know what the age qualifications are to be an air marshal these days.

Once the plane takes off, I lose interest in my personal game of "Who's Packing Heat?," preferring instead to take advantage of Wi-Fi, should the plane offer it. I now can honestly say that an Internet-equipped airplane saved me from a possible encounter with an air marshal.

The incident occurred shortly after I boarded a flight to San Francisco. Somewhere over Iowa, my seat began vibrating. Gently at first and then more violently until I was forced to hold onto my half empty Diet Coke can to keep it from tumbling on to the floor.

I felt the shaking in my back, then my rear end. Finally my whole body seemed to be one giant tremor. During my first visit to Southern California, I had the dubious distinction of experiencing a minor earthquake. The shaking lasted less than five seconds and I quickly dozed back to sleep but not before thinking, "Californians are such wimps. I can't believe they whine about these things."

But seat 21F felt like being stuck in the middle of a magnitude 9.0 catastrophe. Eventually I realized the source; a foot from the passenger behind me. I hadn't seen that much twitching since Herman Cain was asked a foreign policy question. I am a fairly tolerant flier, but this was too much. I raised up slightly, a necessary maneuver when turning around in an airplane seat. Peering over my headrest, I saw a balding man in his early 30s. He was clearly expecting the confrontation and had his response at the ready.

"Sorry dude. I have restless leg syndrome."

And with that, he returned to his Kindle and his happy foot. Meanwhile, it took all my willpower to avoid replying, "That's weird. I have 'Punch a Guy in the Face Syndrome,'" which surely would have gotten an air marshal's attention.

Restless leg syndrome? What is that exactly? With 250 passengers packed like sardines in a tin can for four hours, who isn't restless? Why is this guy the only one demonstrating?

In situations like this, it pays to have Google at your disposal. I quickly typed "restless leg syndrome" into the search box and discovered that, yes, there is such a malady. It has its own website and even a foundation although both sites refer to it as "restless legs syndrome." Plural. Thankfully, this guy seemed to have the singular version.

Reading further, I discover that RLS is a lifelong condition, runs in families, affects women more than men and makes sleeping and traveling difficult.

For whom, exactly?

Realizing there were three more hours to go, I Googled, "What to do when sitting near somebody with restless leg syndrome?" I received 10.7 million hits and was prepared to read all of them if it would make the shaking stop. But I couldn't find any suggestions for me. Instead, all the articles focused on the restless leg's owner.

I donned headphones and began watching a YouTube video, entitled "How To Cope With Restless Leg Syndrome." Maybe there was something I could suggest to him. The narrator said to try, among other things, magnesium supplements, warm baths, knitting and massages.

So much for that idea. I'm happy to talk to strangers on planes, but massages are out of the question. I glanced at my watch again. Only two hours and 57 minutes to go.

I continued watching and was heartened to hear the narrator say the shaking would probably go away. Miraculously it did, just moments later. I glanced back and discovered the passenger had fallen asleep. I was now free to resume my flight in peace, thanks to a little patience and a thirst for knowledge as opposed to confrontation. If he woke up and started twitching again, I vowed not to go ballistic on him, as I now know that RLS is something that cannot be controlled easily.

Besides, who knows? The guy might be an air marshal.

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

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