Yesterday, as I was a passenger on a plane from Dallas to Baton Rouge, I sat staring out the window at nothing. My mind was consumed with thoughts- a new one every few seconds. I usually take on the preference of aloofness and self-absorption when I am on a plane rather than the agonizing small talk and purging my personal information to someone I don’t know.
A man stuffed his bag in the overhead and took his seat next to me. He stuffed his black briefcase under the seat in front of him. As people continued boarding the plane, he called out to somebody he knew. He had to call out twice, unheard the first time. When that person reached him, he held a brief friendly good-to-see-you-how’ve-you-been conversation in the time it took for the man move past our row.
Still self-consumed, I reached in my bag and took out my Writers magazine, my index cards, and a pen and highlighter. I saw how dry and cracked my hands looked and took out my Vaseline jar and massaged dabs of it on my hands. I saw my watch of 4 weeks in a side pocket and decided that being hostage in my seat, this would be the perfect time to fix it. It had been sporting the wrong time ever since daylights savings time.
I stuck my nose in the 4 x 5 booklet while I held the watch in the other hand, and the other junk in my lap.
“New toy?” he asked.
“Well, relatively speaking – yeah,” I responded, surprised at how quickly I turned sociable.
“Always nice” he said.
I didn’t have a response that wouldn’t sound forced, so the conversation ended there. We sat silent until American Airlines made their usual announcement that the plane would be delayed for a few minutes due to the excuse for the day – they had to switch pilots. He looked at his watch. That was a moment I could repay his polite gesture by commenting on the announcement.
Several minutes later, he asked in jest if I was still working on setting my watch. It was taking me awhile, because I was missing a page in the booklet. He asked to see it, and began reading from it aloud, then he took his cellphone and searched for the company. He found the exact booklet and the exact page I was missing online. I eventually got the information I needed with him having to turn his phone in different directions back and forth – at least seven times (for some reason only part of the page would load).
We talked a bit about Baton Rouge and how it has grown and where it could be headed. I noticed he was quite a positive -minded individual. I didn’t get my watch set up because the darned thing just didn’t follow the rules of the booklet. He suggested I call the company and say in jest, “I just can’t get this thing set, can you help me?” In such a way as not blaming the company, but essentially offering up oneself as sort of a klutz (all the while knowing the watch or the booklet are at fault). He says it works! [to do it that way].
The 1 hour plane ride was quiet while he read his ipad and I sifted through my junk I usually carry on trips.
Toward the end I asked if he had been on business. He told he had gone to visit his father who had become unexpectedly ill and required surgery. I could tell he was close to his parents. He was 55 years old. I was amazed at his upbeat mannerisms and pleasant mood in the face of why he was even on the plane. It left a lasting impression on me. It left me feeling uplifted from any woe I may have brought forth from my ever existing bank of worries.
I want to be like that. I want to leave a positive feeling in the people I interact with. And who cares if he’s not always like that. He seemed genuine with me. Who is ever ALWAYS a good individual. What matter is what he left behind – a pleasant feeling in a perfect stranger. I am still thoroughly impressed.
Written on a whim and unedited,