Talking on Airplanes

In airplane, squashed in like a full body mammogram. Sitting next to two completely unresponsive seat mates. I must have a sign on my forehead saying, “I adore chatting on airplanes” which I don’t. I guess I’m Old School. I believe that a smile and a nod and 10 words of perfunctory chatter are fine prior to saying “excuse me” and putting on your sleep mask and noise-canceling headphones. Maybe not. Every small gesture on my part is ignored and the woman next to me glares at me after the following exchange with the flight attendant:

“Do you have tea?”

“I’ll take care of that in a minute.” (Apparently the skill it takes to pass the plastic tray of nuts and crackers requires complete attention on her part. Answering me—like I’m actually a paying guest on this plane–is not happening now. Didn’t you get the schedule? That’s the next part of her job and I have interrupted the scheduled cattle feed as she tries to kill us all using salt and carbs.

She helps the people next to me and then gives me the “you’re up” look. I wind up my courage and ask, “Do you have any herbal tea?”

“No, we just have regular tea.”

“Ok then. No tea for me.”

I put my headphones back on and close my eyes. A minute later I’m aware of a cup of hot water being brandished in my face.

“Oh thanks. Do you by any chance have any lemon?, I ask her.

“No,” she replies, making a mental note that the chick in 4A is trouble, “…we don’t have lemon.”

I notice that during each exchange with the flight attendant, her face is smiling at me but not really smiling. It’s one of those pageant smiles, the kind that arrays your teeth and mouth in a certain formation without involving any real feeling. It’s a little creepy and makes me feel like I’m a 3 year-old asking “why, why, why…” and she is a patient adult.

So as I settle back into my seat, appropriately chastised for such a ridiculous request, I say to no one in particular, “I know this isn’t the Four Seasons. I just thought they might have it for drinks.”

That’s when my seat mate glares at me. Maybe it wasn’t exactly a glare but it had a little glare to it, mixed with have you ever been on a freakin plane before?

That’s when I notice she smells likes she was on a bender the night before. Coming through her pores. Lovely, but I take pity on her. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. (Sorry.)

It’s like the time and I went to dinner with a good friend in downtown Minneapolis. The restaurant was getting good reviews and was kind of the “it” restaurant in certain circles. I had been there several times because of its convenience to The Orpheum and loved the Cali-style food. When the waiter arrived at our table he asked if we had been there before. I said, “Yes, I have. Several times.” I wasn’t bragging, just being factually responsive.

His reply was, “Well then maybe you’d like to tell us the specials?” I just looked at my friend and didn’t know what to say. He left to get our drink order and when he returned he apologized for his remark and said he didn’t know what came over him. We all laughed and said No worries. Then he asked if we were ready to order and I said:

“I need a few more minutes. Lately I’ve been dining at restaurants where they have a photo of the food on the menu.”

I thought it was hilarious and true. Insightful actually. But the waiter never smiled. When he left, I commented on this and my friend said, “Well, I’m used to you and I understand your sense of humor.” That stuck with me. Have I become socially handicapped? A person that has to “grow on you” to understand them? When did that happen?

I had a friend years ago who called it as she saw it, day-in, day-out. No one was safe. Bosses, family members, friends and enemies alike all received the same acid wash of her opinion. One day she was complaining about a mutual acquaintance. I was somewhat friendlier with this person than she was and said to her, “You need to let her grow on you.” And her reply, which makes sense to me now, was “Why would I want to?”

Someone has farted on the plane making me feel like a prisoner in a sealed up bathroom. I suspect it came from 3A given its trajectory. Between the close quarters and the heat of the plane, it’s like being in a gas chamber. So humiliating to every passenger that has to suffer this indignity along with the robotic flight attendants and their condesencion. I want to jump up and scream “No smoking and NO FARTING on the plane!!! I may do this since I’m already pegged as the nut in 4A.

We finally land and everywhere I go post-flight, I stumble into my seat mate. We’ll call her Banana Girl since that’s all she grabbed from the plastic tray. (I wish they had served her vegetable lasagna on this flight so I could refer to her as “vegetable lasagna over there” like the Seinfeld episode where Elaine and David Putty break up and get back together during the course of the flight, but no such luck.) After the third time bumping into her post-flight, I say to her, “You just can’t get away from me.”

Finally she smiled.

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