Have you ever been on an airplane and noticed your seat mate is reading a really good book? He seems to be enjoying it and you are as well…over his shoulder. It happens to me more frequently than I care to admit. Gets me thinking, “Damn, I want to be friends with this person.” Then, a whole wonderful thought process takes flight.
I start to ask myself questions I wish I had the courage to ask this person. Maybe it’s not courage I’m lacking, but rather a politeness makes me hesitant to interrupt a person reading until he at least marks his page when he pauses to grab the in-flight pretzels and possibly an adult beverage to make the flight a bit more enjoyable. I start to wonder not just how he is liking the reading material, but also why he chose it in the first place. Was this book recommended to him? Or did the title and cover art catch his eye in the terminal shop when he realized he needed some sort of entertainment on a long flight to his final destination? I always wonder why people are drawn to particular topics. Some people seek educational material while others just want to get lost in a romantic novel with a fully muscled Fabio-type plastered on the front (those always make me chuckle). I never understood the draw to things like that, but to each his own.
I’m known for making new friends wherever I go, but sometimes I’m tentative when flying. I’m not a horrible flyer, but I definitely need a cocktail or three to make me feel better about the turbulence. (Side note: An ex of mine was a pilot and he could sleep through anything when we’d take a trip so that always made me feel a bit better. Now, I’m more than a little jealous that I can’t sleep a wink during all the bumps and sudden shifts while floating along in a small metal tube in the sky.) However, it is my dedication to my own personal flight routine, and what gets me through it, that always makes me keep others in mind.
Aside from the turbulence, I tend to be more relaxed during a trip because there isn’t much to occupy my time. I’m stuck in the sky with little connection to the world and no access to my washer and dryer or kitchen sink. It’s a nice little getaway from the daily hassles of adult life. I realize this is likely why people bring reading material with them ... a flight offers a brief opportunity to pick up some reading material and may be their only time to escape. No kids tugging on shirts asking for attention, no mandatory work meetings that need attending to, and definitely not a damn thing you can do about the laundry that still needs folding that’s sitting on top of, or in my case, in the dryer needing to be “refluffed” (I don’t know how to properly operate an iron and I don't care to learn). Having time to yourself, uninterrupted, is such a beautiful thing.
Recently, I was on vacation and met someone who had accompanied his entire family for a trip. Everyone paired off into couples for separate activities and this poor guy was the odd man out. My friends quickly warmed up to him and we would casually hang out at the pool bar or see one another while wading in the water during our afternoon cool down.
He mentioned something during one of our lazy afternoons that will never leave me. He said his mom always told him never to wake someone while sleeping. He had seen me with my headphones in, eyes closed, slowly breathing the salted air of the Caribbean in and out of my lungs so peacefully that he thought I had dozed off. Later, I just realized I hadn’t noticed him because of all of the other distractions at the time ... and though I would have preferred some one-on-one time with an actual human being rather than overloading myself with other media junk, I respected him for taking his mother’s words to heart and letting me rest. Sometimes, we need it more than we realize.
So here I sit on a flight from Indy to Denver wondering what the guy in 22B is reading because he keeps flipping the page before I can finish it. He seems to be enjoying it. Part of me wants to make a new friend, but the other part is respecting his space and some free time that he may not otherwise get. So, I’ll just be here in 23C drinking my cocktail and keeping these thoughts to myself. Next time, I’ll remember to bring a fucking book.