Unplain Plane Story
Years ago I was on an airplane going to Los Angeles. There was a stopover in Dallas where I had to switch planes or whatever. I was sitting on the aisle in a three seat row. The middle seat was empty and there was a very nice looking older woman at the end of my row. She seemed overdressed to fly. All old schooly with like a big hat with a ribbon and nice clothes and stuff. I remember feeling bad that I was all scruffy and jeans and t-shirted. Like I was busting her illusion of the luxury and classiness of flying or something.
I know it can be dangerous to talk to people on planes (or anywhere for that matter) because you might catch a talker and then get snagged in a conversation you might not want to be having-- and have that followed by the weird awkward silence that comes along after you decide to bail out and put on headphones or whatever.
Anyway I give this lady the hello smile and duck my head into my book (this is when I read books. i haven't finished a book in like a year. it's getting disturbing how illiterate I'm getting.) A while goes by and I noticed she's only read the inflight magazine. She seemed to have nothing else to do. I would occasionally give the woman a friendly gesture by passing her her drink or taking her garbage for the stewardess or whatever. She seemed nice but I didn't want to engage in conversation.
Finally after an hour or so I couldn't take it anymore and I broke the ice and asked her if she was heading home or for vacation or whatever. With a nice southern accent she told me how she was going to visit relatives somewhere in California. She was a really nice lady and obviously happy that I was talking to her. And I felt good about me. So we talked about this and that or whatever and after I told her I was from NYC she asked me about my 9/11. And I told her my basic story. How I lived downtown and watched the towers come down from the roof of my building and blah blah. I asked her how she first heard about the attacks on 9/11.
She said, 'Well I was home in my kitchen and
I saw smoke go past my window and...'
I was like, 'Wait... you were in New York City?'
And she said, 'No, at home in Texas.'
I was like, 'And you saw umm... smoke... go ummm... past your window?'
She was like, 'Yes sir.'
I was like, 'From... the umm... towers?'
She was like, 'Yes sir.'
So now some alarm bells go off in my head. She was an older lady but she wasn't all superold confused or something. She was a nutter! She continued to tell me about how people break into her house when she's away and loosen the buttons on her clothing. She also told me she wasn't sure but thought the same people may be leaving little balls of toilet paper on her bathroom floor. (However, the toilet paper ballers apparently might be different perpetrators). And how others may be putting chemicals in her ice. And on... and on... she told me about her issues (so to speak). I listened along and nodded and was sympathetic.
And as we said our goodbyes I remember thinking, 'See that's what you get for talking to people! You never know what you're gonna get! Next time shut up and don't engage! Duh!' But then the smarter wiser me butted in and said, 'Hey stupid! Are you kidding me? How many times are you going to tell people the story of the woman on the plane?? How interesting was that conversation too? It's worth it!' I was right and agreed with that particular him of me.
Even though it's always sad to talk to someone who has gone off the mental rails... as plane conversations go it was the most interesting one I ever had by far. Plus I made her happy.
So talk to people! It's worth the risk! Worse case scenario... just put your headphones on.