I recently flew out to the Northwest from Baltimore with my 6 month old alone. That was interesting. Crazy is what it was, no wonder people give up and stay home. That being said I would rather go crazy traveling then go crazy sitting at home.
Flying, you know the drill, check in through your phone, use your phone to navigate to the airport, check the time on your phone, update your status about going somewhere with a picture of yourself and your suitcase and feet together, get through security, check the time again, grab a coffee or sit at a bar scrolling through your phone not paying attention to anyone around you, but if you did they would all be doing the same thing.
Oh wait there is more- stand in line to board the plane with phone in hand looking at it every 5 seconds trying to find something to do until you get on the plane and up in the air until the flight attendants say you can use your electronics again. And at that point you plug into your music, movie, or work like you aren’t going to waste any time flying-you are going to stay connected…or as some people call it “plugged in”.
Well I had full intention of doing just that if my child magically fell asleep and I somehow managed to pull my computer out of my giant carry on with one hand. Thankfully I didn’t have to. While everyone was avoiding sitting next to me in fear my child was going to scream the whole time, I worried about the last person who got on the (stuffed to the gills) plane who would have to sit by us. I was pleasantly surprised when a man sat next to us and said “Ill sit next to the baby, I have 2 kids and I’m not scared!” Thank god.
Right away he started talking. The conversation started off about recent unfortunate events in Baltimore. It got deep (for a stranger on a plane conversation) going into the topic of racism, violence, equal opportunity, and rights. He had dark skin and was from New York. He grew up in the projects and once he had kids he took a second and third job and moved to Florida. He didn’t want his kids to grow up in the city and projects like he did. We talked about marriage, how it was hard work and after kids how it gets rough and you start to forget about each other and ways you can bring it back. We shared a few secrets that we both had not told anyone. I told him he was a stranger so what the hell. This went on, constant conversation for 5 hours. I felt rejuvenated. I can honestly say I haven’t talked like that in years. Of course I have had conversations, meaningful ones at that, but not like this. It was raw and honest. It was a fully present, no distractions, no worry about somewhere else to be or what time it was or even what other people thought about us. We were talking on a quiet, packed plane with everyone around us on their devices with headphones in. Im sure people heard us but when we were talking those people faded away and I didn’t even notice them.
When we landed he told me thank you for talking to him. He apologized and said he hoped he didn’t talk to much or share too much of his life story. I felt nothing but gratitude towards him for choosing to sit next to me and engage in real conversation. I told him I missed that about airplanes and how I use to do that often until the iPhone came out. I thanked him.
I started to remember all the people I have met on planes and other public transportation. Wonderful, strange,boring, funny, drunk, smart, ambitious, giving.. are all words to describe different people I specifically remember. It has been way too long since I have really engaged with any of these people and to think that they are always all around me makes me sad.
From now on, I will engage. I will open myself up and create the opportunity to talk to people and get to know them as they are in that moment in time we are together.
Thank you man on the plane from NY who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL. I appreciate you.