Your Mid-Flight Snack: A Little Psychological Warfare

Joanna Lesher

Publisher’s note: In this post, Joanna Lesher describes the inspiration behind “Diversion,” her hilarious contribution to our anthology The Female Complaint. The story takes place in the cramped quarters of a turboprop plane, where the narrator overhears the boasts of a misogynist male passenger and decides to take a subtle revenge. You’ll never think of flight turbulence the same way again.

Like most of the stories I write, “Diversion” is a combination of truth and wishful thinking.

In 2011, I was living in Hiroshima and working as a teacher at a private English conversation school.

Though English is a compulsory subject for every Japanese student, the lessons focus primarily on reading and writing. As a result, many Japanese English learners have trouble with speaking and listening comprehension. Hence the market for conversation schools.

And hence the tendency of some male foreigners to make lewd comments in English about Japanese women, secure in the assumption that these women wouldn’t understand what was being said about them.

One evening, during a commuter flight between Tokyo and Hiroshima, I overheard two American men having a particularly offensive conversation about a female flight attendant. The woman seemed to sense that she was being criticized but didn’t understand the specifics.

The anger I felt on her behalf was all-consuming. The protagonist’s response in “Diversion” represents the one I wish I’d given, the only appropriate reaction to knuckle-dragging sexism: open ridicule.

And maybe a little psychological warfare.

Joanna Lesher, a freelance writer from suburban Detroit, spent a year in Hiroshima after college and speaks passable Japanese. Visit her blog at for musings about cemeteries, books, and unauthorized candy.