Unless they are blood related, I dislike talking to other people on airplanes. There’s the breath, the akward head turning, and the lame conversation about how fabulous the other person’s life is because they get to ride in an airplane. For me, airplane time is earplugs and reading time. When I used to make travel arrangements for work I would secretly have the travel agent book our seats separately just so that I would not have to talk to my co-worker.
It was pre-dawn when I boarded a plane last week, and it was very dark in the cabin. I was booked on one of those express flights so the small plane had one seat, an aisle, then two seats and only 17 rows. My assigned seat was occupied by a 5 year old, but his grandma politely asked if I would mind sitting in his seat so that he could sit by his mother. “No problem.” Except that it meant I would sit next to his 8 year old sister. “Please let her be shy…”
No such luck. “I’m McKenzie, not M-a-c-k-e-n-z-i-e, it’s Big M-little c-big k- little i-n-z-e-y.”
I was trying to NOT talk as much as possible, but there were too many technical questions that just weren’t answered in her pre-flight orientation. “How does a plane fly? Why is it dark? Where will that mask come from? Why do we need it? What is oxygen? How does the moon shine? Why is there snow on the ground? Where is my house? How does the pilot know where he’s going? What if we go to the wrong place?” I answered each question politely and to the best of my knowledge.
McKinzey’s step mom did ask her nicely not to talk my ear off. But to no avail.
At this point, I actually got my note pad out of my bag to record part of the conversation.
“Don’t ask me why my fingers are purple….” I wasn’t going to. “Okay, if you must know…” (Insert lengthy story about finger painting.
“Don’t you want some light?” She was reaching up to turn on the light.
“No, no…I don’t need light.” I don’t want your step mom or scary looking leathery faced, pierced, tattooed dad to know I was taking notes on everything you say…
“Have you ever seen the Golden Girls?” I can’t believe an 8 year old has, unless it means that she watches an AWFUL lot of TV. “Remember the one with grey hair? She was afraid to fly…”
“Look it.” Referring to some clouds (cumulus nimbus) pink with sunrise. “Do you know how clouds are formed? They fly together (she is knocking her fists together…) and they form and form and form…Do you think I could take some home.” I was starting to feel playful.
“Only if you put some in a jar and screwed on the lid really tight.” This seemed to make her sad, but I didn’t probe. It wasn’t two seconds before she offered the cause.
“I don’t think I could do that by myself. I’ll have to find Andy and have him put the lid on the jar. She’s been in four lives…”
“My mom. There was Andy and Bobby and the guy I can’t remember and my dad.”
“Do you know who the first people on the earth were? (I pontificated briefly on the arrival of Adam and Eve.) Yeah, I think it was them, too. Some people think it was just whoever.”
I knew there would be no reading for me on this flight. So I did what any self respecting private traveler would do… I faked sleep all the way to Houston.