Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
21Trip End Mar 25, 2009
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There's always the anticipation, perhaps apprehension of the meeting of your fellow passenger. First there is the underlying hope, especially on a long flight, that the seat next to you will be unoccupied and you'll have a little room to stretch out and sleep. Then there is the prayer to the airline goddess that the body adjacent to yours will not be of the 150 kilo variety, the flesh spilling over on to you like a too-warm quilt, the armrest becoming a stomach rest.
Then there's the fear that the person might snore, smell, or be otherwise unpleasant, perhaps with some nervous twitch or a propensity to kick the seat and rouse you from a few minutes of attempted sleep in the sardine can of your row.
Most times I have been lucky--I always feel a little leery of those who say absolutely nothing, but then again I am always a little cautious of those who never speak. It's just not normal. Then there is the other type, the excitable one, who never shuts the hell up, talking as if only to hear the sound of their own voice. It is nice, I suppose, to like the lilting notes of one's own speech, but perhaps such a person should consider a career in singing, or at least a career far away from me.
Of course, as I have said, I'm generally lucky, and having good seat-neighbors is no exception. Talk, but not too much, be interesting, be polite, and not too loud. Oh, and don't have foetid breath. I'm a tolerant soul, could endure being covered in honey and placed naked on a hill of fire ants, and still come out smiling, but a long flight with an annoying fellow passenger (I can say with my most limited authority) can be worse. . .
It is amazing how much you can learn about a person whom you will never see again: marital problems, children's names and shortcomings, all kinds of trade secrets, sexual details, childhood memories and traumas, and the list goes on and on. Usually the talk starts small, the weather perhaps, or what a long convention that was, but often it moves into the soft and dark underbelly of life. This is no problem so long as it is interesting. Mundanities have no place in plane conversations. I like to open with something outrageous, such as "Have you ever killed a man?" "Ever gone to a prostitute?" or the always shocking "What do you do for a living?"
All joking aside, I must say that I have met a number of interesting people on planes, and a larger number of less interesting ones. Though it is good to hear how people live in all walks of life, and they all deserve the attention of a good ear, it is much more entertaining to sit next to the south african bounty hunter, the drunken divorcee, or the high-end moroccan call girl than the man who lives in the suburbs and commutes to work. Not saying these people are not worthy of a good conversation, they surely are, but I bet the person who sat next to Richard Reid certainly had something to write home about.
But such is the nature of Flight Friends, mine this time was an IT professional with a wife and two children living just outside of London. A perfectly lovely soul, and when I ran into him at the baggage claim for the last time, I wished him good luck and life heartily. And I meant it.