9.30.2006

A Plane Encounter

I saw her as she neared gate 32. Amongst all the harried flyers stressed about their delayed flight, she was different. Far from exasperation, her face carried a sense of peace, bemusement, and lightheartedness which I found refreshing. It didn’t hurt that she was cute.

Group after group boarded the plane. I was to sit near the front of the plane, so I was the last group to be called for boarding. My group finally called, I noticed she was just now getting on as well. I board, find my seat, and notice that she had been behind me all this time only to hear her say, “I believe I’m sitting next to you.”

Terrified, I remained quiet for nearly an hour. Even as I age my shyness remains, much the same way it exuded itself in my youth. There are essentially three socially-acceptable opportunities that one has a chance to engage someone on an airplane: takeoff, beverage distribution, and landing. Takeoff had come and gone, and we were nearing the end of snack time. Heart pounding in my chest, my mind raced to think of a stimulating, yet appropriate opening question.

“Are you stopping in Chicago, or going somewhere else?” I ask.

After a slight pause, surprised I have the ability of producing sound with my vocal cords she responds, “Just stopping in Chicago.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I reply. “Do you live there?”

“No, just meeting some friends. I live in Boston and this is the furthest I’ve ever been in the Midwest.”

I saw my opportunity and took it. “Are you kidding me?” I ask incredulously.

From there we entered into a lively discussion about the Midwest, where she asked me what there was to do out here – the implications being obvious.

“Oh probably the same things you do out there. What do you do in Boston?” – “Oh sleep.” -- “Yep, you can definitely do that here. Although normally I line-dance whenever I’m not at the rodeo.”

She looks at me in disbelief, and the conversation takes off with all my southern charm and her New England civility. I realized there was a world of difference between her and me, and I also realized I had never talked to someone so seemingly similar but so very different from myself.

When I traveled to Japan I expected to be different. Even in Europe and Australia I had no expectations of having remarkable similarities between the locals and myself. But talking to her, someone who was fresh out of college and had a very professional job like my own, I expected to relate more. The differences quickly became visible as I realized I was more boisterous than her, while she was more well-mannered. She loved the city and the “pubs”; I liked the countryside and Gatorade. Both of us were highly educated and well-traveled, but I appeared to be someone who was posing as an intellectual and world-traveler. She, on the other hand, made it appear that it was as natural for her to fly to Europe as it was for me to drive to Texas.

The conversation ends and I return to my book, spending the remainder of the flight in silence after a rewarding half-hour conversation.

The plane eventually started its descent and I realized that there probably should be no landing talk. My bravado gone, I waited for the plane to land and turned to her and said “Have a good time in Chicago.”

“Have a nice weekend.”

I never caught her name.

1 comment:

Maddux said...

You should have at least flirted with her a little bit! Planes are always interesting places to meet people. A lot of times you never really learn each other's names, but it doesn't really matter since you will probably never talk to that person again. It just makes you realize how many people are busy going through life just like you are. How does God keep up with them all?