I don’t really travel for work all that much anymore but I did make a brief two-day jaunt up to New Jersey this week. I won’t bore you with a lot of details but I did have a few observations that might be worth noting.
I tend to think of flying as an opportunity to relax, see something new, maybe read a book or magazine, and just get to the place I’m going without all the uncomfortable-ness of having to chat with people I don’t know. I mean, I figure if I have anything worth saying, you can read it here, and likewise, I won’t be offended if you happen to sit next to me on a plane and offer me a little note saying that you are an interesting person and I should therefore learn about everything you wanted to tell me in your Blog. I will be the first to admit, I am extremely anti-social and only come out of my shell purely in a rare and spontaneous manner, or if induced by multiple adult beverages.
So I was in luck this afternoon on my flight to Newark via Continental Flight 661 from SAT when it turns out that the guy in the middle seat immediately opened his book upon sitting down. We all know this (but some fell to accept it) as the international signal for; I don’t want to talk to you during this flight. I don’t have any interest in what you say and I don’t want to get to know you. I therefore acknowledged my row mates’ signal by presenting my bonfides if you will, a perfect stare downward to my lap and a quick opening of my own book, purchased just for this occasion.
In the art of travel, I was sitting pretty with no arm rest-bending, morbidly obese people (excluding myself) next to me, and no screaming kids. It seemed that everyone in my general vicinity had bathed and a brief scan of the cabin revealed only one possible terrorist looking person, and he was small fellow and a few seats in front of me, so I could keep an eye on him if need be. Yes, this was to be a good flight.
Until the guy in 10C took a seat.
I know that there are some of you who fly a lot who have a standard series of descriptions of what you do, what the purpose of your trip is and a handful of stories about yourself, suitably tailored for the type of person sitting next to you. This no doubt makes it easier to get the five to ten minutes worth of pleasantness over with while you anxiously await the first round of $5.00 drinks. Or am I being a bit cynical?
So when the guy in 10C seemingly unprovoked by the poor guy stuck in 10B started in on what seemed to be a dissertation for review by a panel of scholars about his thoughts on the war, I honestly expected him to pause for a word from his sponsor and perhaps even a test of the emergency broadcast system. I mean, this guy never let the other passenger get in so much as an “Uh Huh”. Oh, and this was all before the plane even pushed off from the gate!
Next up, he started in on how the US Army illegally participated in the Killing of Pablo Escobar, but it was cool because we saved ourselves from a lot of problems with Congress, and oh, don’t get him started on Hillary and Healthcare. Oops, I guess 10B must have sneezed because sure enough, he started in on Hillary and Healthcare. I actually broke my golden rule of never talking to my seatmates unless it involves the need to pee, but I turned to the guy next to me (who I actually know, so it isn’t that bad of a violation) and said, “Geeze, I feel like I’m listening to a radio talk show over here.” My colleague looked at me coolly, gave me condescending look as if to say I’m a rule violator, and then looked back down to his book.
Honestly, I tried to read my book but I found myself reading the same paragraph several times to fully understand what was written, because the guy behind me and to my left just kept yammering on as if he was the official knower of all information. The funny thing is, I even agreed with a lot of the crap he was prattling on about, but quite frankly, if I’m going to immerse myself in a bunch of political propaganda, I’ll tune into NPR or Hannity.
Finally, I think the guy in 10B had figured out that it wasn’t going to stop so he literally shut his eyes and placed his head on the headrest of the seat to his left while 10C was in mid-speech. Undeterred, he then strikes up a conversation with the guy directly behind me in 10D. This time, he had a willing participant. It was almost as if the guy in 10D had just been waiting and waiting to get in on the conversation. Great. And I had just spent $14.00 at Barnes & Noble for The Rum Diary and on a 4 hour flight I couldn’t get beyond page 68, but I now know more about buying a house in the Hill Country, the TAAKS test, Hillary, and the War than I ever wanted to. Have these people never heard of business cards? Seriously, I appreciate that people want to learn more about one another and I accept that people have spent many a lunch hour going to Toastmasters to learn to curtail the fear of speaking in public; but Sweet Sainted Sister of Paris Hilton, I don’t think shouting across the aisle in a plane is what they had in mind. Get the guy’s e-mail address and send him a Christmas Newsletter or start a freakin’ web page.
I’ll bore you with more about my trip later; meanwhile, if you have shared a flight with some interesting people, tell me about it.