Choose the Upright Position 

Mit saves the world, one derelict passenger at a time.

click to enlarge JOHN KILBOURN

My old missionary companion Mit Romney is a bit of a fussbudget, so none of his close friends were surprised by the recent airplane incident, which I witnessed.

In case you missed the news, here’s what happened: Just before takeoff, a passenger sitting in the row in front of Mit (he was sitting on the aisle, his wife was in the middle seat, and I was by the window) hadn’t obeyed the instructions of the flight attendant to return his seat to the upright position. Mit is very particular about folks following orders, so I knew he was getting pretty steamed about the man not immediately returning his seat to the upright position.

From previous experience, I recognized the tell-tale signs that Mit was about to blow: His face was getting red, he was clenching his fingers, and most ominous of all, he was grinding his teeth so violently that his jaw muscles looked like they were going to pop right through the skin.

My heart sank as Mit leaned forward, tapped the passenger on the shoulder and said, “Hey, buddy, time to put your seat in the upright position.” Next thing I knew, the reclining passenger whirled around, jumped out of his seat (he hadn’t even fastened his seat belt, as per instructions from the flight attendant!), and let fly with a roundhouse left hook that Mit deftly avoided by leaning right.

Two flight attendants who were in the process of securing the cabin for takeoff quickly joined the fray and subdued the disobedient passenger by throwing a blue blanket over his head and handcuffing him with those plastic fasteners they carry in their aprons. The plane came to a screeching halt and the troublemaker was removed from the plane by camo-clad security officers.

I glanced over at Mit, who, as usual in these situations, looked mighty pleased with himself. He had once again prevailed in his quest to bring order into a messy world. His insistence on flying coach instead of first class had paid off. (Mit has decided, as part of the same downsizing plan that led to him removing the extraneous second “t” from his first name, to fly coach, at least on short flights.)

Mit’s triumph over the disobedient flier sparked a trip down memory lane, and I recalled with a certain amount of fondness the many occasions when my former missionary companion exercised his consummate fussbudgetry. A lot of folks get irritated with all the idiots who fail to return their seats to the upright position, or who get in the express line when they have a month’s supply of grocery items, or who chatter in movies, or who engage in high-decibel, intimate conversations on their cell phones in a public venue. The admirable thing about Mit is that he is driven to do something about such idiotic and oblivious behavior.

On our mission in Paris, France, for instance, many was the time when Elder Mit would march up to some snooty Frenchman and tell him to douse his smelly Gauloises cigarette. Usually, they would just blow smoke into his face and tell him that he should va te faire foutre. (Mit and I made sure that when we lit up a couple of Gauloises after a strenuous day of knocking on doors, we always did it in private.)

There were times when Mit’s zealous fussbudgetry led to situations in which I feared for his life. He had a lot of punches thrown at him in the Jardin des Tuileries, where the dog-loving French people would let their poodles plop petite merdes right in the flower gardens. And then they wouldn’t clean up!

What really got Mit worked up, however, was at the spa just outside Wiesbaden where we would spend weekends with Gudrun and Ursula, the German girls who were investigating the Gospel. There were explicit rules—the Germans are very anal with regard to their Freikorperkultur— about always using your towel to sit on, instead of your bare derriere. Mit was always on the lookout for bathing Germans who were derelict in the towel department. I think Ursula thought Mit was more interested in being a towel cop than teaching her the principles of the Gospel.

Speaking of Ursula, rumors are now going around that she may be the mother of Mit’s son, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

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