Have you ever flown somewhere, and wondered about the other people on the plane? What were their stories, and the circumstances that brought them together to share a (tiny) space with you for a few hours?

Well, if you happen to know a guy with a drinking problem who flew from Washington to Atlanta last week, you might want to forward this article to him. He might have a panic attack when he reads it, although some might say he deserves it.

Okay, lots of people might say he deserves it.

Our story begins aboard Delta Flight 151 last Thursday, and involves three passengers in Row 15. They weren't traveling together, and in fact didn't know one another.

  • In the middle seat: Joan Kirchner Carr, the chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. (Also, her husband, Chris Carr, is the state's attorney general.)
  • In the aisle seat: the Drunk Guy.
  • In the window seat: a good Samaritan, Scott Holcomb, who happens to be an Army veteran and a Georgia state representative. (This article is based mainly on the accounts of Carr and Holcomb.)

Again, none of them knew each other, but according to Carr, Drunk Guy was--well, drunk. Before the flight took off, he was loud and obnoxious, singing loudly as soon as he sat down. She could smell the alcohol on his breath, she told me. Then he started acting way too overly friendly toward her.

"Don't touch me!"

"How long have you two been together?" Drunk Guy asked Carr, gesturing at Holcomb, who was sitting asleep on Carr's other side. Carr had never met him, and said so.

"You could have fooled me!" Drunk Guy said in reply. Then he allegedly put his arm around Carr and tried to pull her towards him. She shoved it back toward him. (In summarizing later what happened, both she and Holcomb called this an "inappropriate touching.")

"Don't touch me again!" she yelled, as firmly and loudly as she could.

Drunk Guy recoiled and apologized. The noise woke Holcomb, who glared at Drunk Guy, and took out his laptop--to indicate he was keeping tabs on Drunk Guy, he later said, and wouldn't go back to sleep.

The drinks cart came by. Drunk Guy jumped out of his seat, and walked toward the back of the plane. Holcomb and Carr talked; he offered to switch seats with her, and said he'd stay awake to back her up if anything else happened.

Then, Drunk Guy came back to Row 15--now carrying a hot cup of coffee and two small bottles of vodka that Carr assumed he'd stolen. He downed the vodka quickly, and wouldn't leave Carr alone, nudging her and trying to get her to give him a fist bump.

"Stop talking to me!" she called out. A flight attendant saw what was going on.

"Do you want to press charges?"

Drunk Guy had been bothering other people too, Carr said--banging the seat in front of him, generally being loud, drunk, and obnoxious. But now, he closed his eyes and either passed out or pretended he was out cold.

The flight attendant moved Carr back to Row 28. Holcomb picked up the story. Disclosure: Holcomb and I are both Army JAG Corps veterans and Facebook friends. He told me (via Facebook Messenger):

After she left, he felt really awkward. He leaned over to fist bump, and I shook my head no in disapproval. This made him upset and I said, "I'm not going to fist bump you." ... Then, here's the even weirder thing. He grabbed me on the arm and then later on the hand, again trying to connect. Each time I pushed him off. Finally, he slapped my book.

I gave him a look (I have the ability to transmit I've had enough without saying it) and he could tell I was about to become uncivil. He immediately apologized.

Drunk Guy calmed down. The plane reached Atlanta, and the flight attendants asked Carr if she wanted to press charges against Drunk Guy. She declined, but asked for the airline's assistance in making sure he wouldn't follow her off the plane.

She never saw him again. Holcomb told me he saw Drunk Guy being interviewed by a security guard or plainclothes police officer, and heard him trying to "underplay what happened and say it just a misunderstanding. ... He is super, super lucky if he wasn't arrested."

Comity at 30,000 feet

As far as we know, Drunk Guy wasn't arrested. (I asked Delta for more details; they declined to comment. To be clear, both Carr and Holcomb said they thought Delta handled everything as well as possible.)

If Drunk Guy wasn't arrested, however, he truly is "super lucky," for he almost certainly had no idea who Carr was. Besides being the chief of staff to a powerful U.S. senator, she's also married to the top law enforcement official in Georgia. Nobody should have to deal with this kind of thing obviously, but I like to imagine Drunk Guy's reaction if he learned that the husband of the woman he was drunkenly harassing actually puts people in jail for a living.

Moreover, a few good things came out of all this. While Holcomb and Carr talked on the plane, they never actually met or told each other their names. Later, Holcomb posted on Facebook about his experience and his disgust with Drunk Guy, and it turned out he's friends with Carr's sister-in-law. Having heard the same story from two totally unrelated people, she put them together.

Carr works for a Republican senator and is married to the Republican attorney general, Holcomb is a Democrat. Regardless of their political opposition, now Carr and her husband, and Holcomb and his wife, are getting dinner together. All because of a Drunk Guy who acted like an idiot on a plane.