Thursday, March 17, 2016

                                                            LEFT IN THE AIRWAVES

     I am always fascinated by the people I see and hear on cross-country flights. Flying is not what it used to be years ago. I recall people getting dressed up, carrying clean and classy luggage, speaking in quiet tones to one another and eating their hot meals content in their kitchens in the sky. Yes, times have changed. I don’t have to list the obvious, but I am nonetheless stunned by what I observe in my “insert one end of the strap into the other and pull tight” cell in the sky.

     On one leg of my flight yesterday, I saw a young man sit down next to a grungy-looking baseball-cap-on-backwards guy. Before the young man was able to insert one end of his strap, the Grunge began loudly relating the entire story of his life. He made sure to blast his seat mate with minute details including his opinions of everything from work to women. This kind of narcissistic behavior sends me into orbit. What if the poor guy was exhausted from hours of waiting in the airport, and he just wanted to sleep. During the two-hour flight, Grunge never relented; his mouth kept flapping, pausing only to order his fourth vodka/cran. 

     This begs the question: Do you dare engage in any conversation with a stranger on a plane? 

     I usually prefer reading, sleeping or just thinking rather than learning about someone’s life story or hearing them vent about the latest political circus act. On the way home, however, I had been quiet for a long time, and when a woman sat down next to me, sighing loudly, I made eye contact and smiled. That was all it took, and she began to vent about the rude stewardess who wouldn’t help her get her suitcase into the Polly-Pocket overhead bin. I laughed because my suitcase was bulging too, and I had just jammed it into the available slit above my head wondering how on earth I was ever going to get it out of there while half the plane would be waiting to escape.

     The two of us discovered that we were both from Michigan, had lived in the same town, and that she lived only a short distance from my daughter whom I had just left. We chattered like long lost girlfriends about all kinds of topics, laughing and rolling our eyes.  She was kind enough to dislodge my fat bag, and she disappeared in the back of the plane searching for her own. I wished her happy trails, and we deplaned. I didn’t expect to see her outside the terminal, but there she was again hugging her sister who works at the market where I shop. I smiled at her and went over to meet her sister, and she gave me a huge bear hug. I made a friend.

     Reflecting on these experiences this morning, I thought to myself, we only have a short time with strangers when we travel. How do we want to leave them? Do we want them to think to themselves, “Thank the Lord I got away from that egomaniac!” or “Wow, what a nice person. That was fun!” To me, whether it’s intentional or not, I always want to believe that I have left that stranger in a better place. When this woman briefly mentioned that she was trying to lose weight, and it wasn’t working, I said, “Whenever I’m faced with an unpleasant challenge, I just tell myself to work at it 5 minutes at a time. That way, if I spend only 5 minutes on any given day, then I have surpassed my goal, and I feel I’ve accomplished something. I always seem to double or even triple that time.” I left this woman with a tool that she may or may not use, but maybe she will think about it. I didn’t lecture her; I validated her frustration.

     I’m sure I left her with a thought that will bring a smile to her face because all the while we spoke on the plane, I had a giant piece of blueberry bagel stuck in my front tooth. thit.