I’ve mentioned this before, but seriously, good Lord I love flying. The whole experience, as a writer, is a microcosm of the whole world. Isn’t that a sub plot of the movie about Tom Hanks as the emigrant who is stranded in a Terminal? That airport terminals are miniature copies of the planet we live on? I love to watch people and I love the hustle and bustle that washes over me. The promise of going somewhere still excites me.
Sure there are bad days, TSA isn’t fun, economy class is shrinking all the time, but still, I love to fly.
As a writer, I see flying as a characters study, but don’t we all? I start out on each flight with the idea that I’m going to take time for myself to read and contemplate my life and all that sort of stuff a girl can do when she has a forced, uninterrupted amount of time to herself. But you see, as the manicurist who did my nails in California a few months ago commented; I have a friendly face and I’m easy to talk to. I have heard this before. So that aspect really isn’t any news. However, thanks to an intense social gene inherited form a grandmother who has never known any strangers, I am a talker. Talk to me, chances are I’m gonna talk back.
I was reminiscing about the last trip I took to California and the people I met in the microcosm that trip.
On the first flight I sat next to Glen who was headed back to Seattle after a ‘raging’ time with his buddies on the powder all over Idaho. He had not bathed since he arrived, of that I was sure. He wore the obligatory ski hat over his near dreads and helped me to further my stance on the fact that Patchouli oil is NOT an alternative to bathing. His voice was reminiscent of Goofy and when he talked he used his hands, but his hands did not match his words, they lagged, trying to catch up to his statements. As he talked of his trip, he announced that the ‘bud was good’ the ‘chicks cool’ and the snow ‘sick’. I just smiled and nodded as he schooled me on the best and worst ski areas in the great Northwest; told me about his GED he recently obtained; and how he was going to really try and work things out with his girlfriend this time around, if the baby was his.
People say you need to be grateful for the gifts you are given; and to the writing gods, I give great resounding thanks for the character study that was Glenn.
Awash in the personality of Glenn, I boarded my second flight. I have the kind of luck where I can sit on an airplane while other passengers are boarding and tell you exactly who is going to sit next to me. The 6’7 guy, built like a football player, 280lbs at least, yeah, he’s gonna sit next to me.
Poor guy had the center seat and his knees scraped when he sat down. He was perfectly nice, and he was itchy. The kind of itchy you get when you are ‘on the verge’ of something. Came to find out, he was built like a football player because he had just tried out for the Seattle Seahawks. He was itchy because he would have to wait two and a half hours to find out if he had indeed made the team. We talked about his family, his girlfriend, his nephew, and how he has spent that last few years playing basketball in Belgium, France and Argentina. He was crossing over into the football world. I asked his name and he told me, Darren Fells. I nodded politely and desperately filed the name away so I could check up on him later to see if he did indeed make the team. We landed and he checked his phone messages, one from his agent who just asked for a return phone call. Darren was off and I gathered my belongings thinking, ‘wait, wait. I’m invested now, did you make it or not?!’ I checked on-line a week later and found out he had been signed onto the Seattle Seahawks. My dad asked me if I got his autograph and I laughed, there was no way either one of us could have moved an inch much less bumbled about for a pen and paper.
My trip put me in the mood for spring as I changed all my Idaho winter clothing for summer clothes that weren’t ready to be worn yet. I indulged in as much Mexican food as I could and soaked up some sun. As trips do, mine came to a quick end and it was time to head back to the bare trees of Boise. We’re still a month or so away from Spring.
This time, I was flying out of Orange County. Plane rides out of Orange County are always filled with tourists dressed in various Mickey Mouse shirts, carrying all kinds of paraphernalia from the Happiest Place On Earth! This trip was no exception. I rode next to a nice family who had the hats, the shirts and the matching hoodies. The woman I talked to was all smiles, early 50s and she turned to me to introduce herself by announcing, ‘today is my birthday.’ I wished her happy birthday and we began the small talk. She lives somewhere in British Colombia, in a very small town. I never caught the name and I’m not sure if it was that I didn’t understand her, or she pronounced it so ‘Canadian’ that I couldn’t catch it. She dropped the ‘eh’ on me in several sentences and I laughed to myself and thought, well, that answers any of those questions about Canadian stereotypes I might ever have. Polite enough to share some of her grapes with me and tell me about their trip, it was an interesting view she had of the world, coming out of her small town into the great wide open. It was something she and her husband tried to do once a year, expose their kids to the world.
With a wave goodbye so I could hustle to my next flight in time to get a coffee, I fell asleep on the last leg of my trip home. I had an empty seat next to me anyway. As we landed I couldn’t help but think of all the people I’ve met over my years of traveling; and how I have never had any problems with anyone. In fact, all the plane rides I’ve taken, it seemed folks have always been visiting with each other and were mostly all smiles when we land. I hope that sometimes the news has it wrong, and that despite all the ‘evil’ they try to sell us, there really are that many flights a day, out of that many cities, where folks visit and are polite and we all realize, even if it’s for an hour, that the world is a small place and we really aren’t so different.