This morning I awoke early at the Marriott Courtyard in Scottsdale. Packing was a quick task as was the check out. My crappy little Mazda rental took me through the desert freeways allowing me a chance to watch the sun rise. The burnt red landscape dotted with the fresh crimson blossom of cactus flower reminded me of the hidden beauty out west.
After dropping off the car and taking the shuttle past road construction congested streets I had plenty of time before my 10:05 flight. There is a small restaurant that serves some of the best breakfast burritos with a giant screen showing ESPN, so I settle in.
With loads of time left I meander through the magazines I will never read, consider books that look stupid, and look over the headlines of the paper for something non-Parisian. “Next I wonder if I should have coffee” and “will it cool in time for my... let’s check the ticket one more time to be sure… 10:05 PM flight??? I hate my new travel agent. She is an idiot. This is the fourth - no fifth time she has pulled this and I have only done a few trips for this company."
Very politely I explain this to the Traci Bingham looking attendant. She knows my frequent flyer status and explains the new rule (they can’t put you on stand-by at the gate anymore, you have to do it at the kiosk) but she will be able to for this flight, but I won’t be in first class. Oh well. Making it home today is better than first class.
I stand several feet away from the counter waiting for her to call my name with a seat assignment and watch the toddler Olympics, which on this day include 100 yard dad race down the jet way, the low jump under line ropes, and the “look how cute I am” competition in front of the elderly.
While this is all going on I notice a woman near the back of the group and with some deep down inside autonomic response say to myself, “I sure would like to sit next to her on this flight.”
They board the children with out adults. They board the first class. They call for the frequent flyers. They call the elderly and those in need of more time. Finally they call everyone else. The line has formed and then they call me. The attendant is very nice and gives me a choice of seats, I take the nearest to the front with a window.
The line is entertaining as I listen to conversations that make no sense (who is Rob and why does his call to Beatrice cause such a problem?) Last minute cell phone conversations wrap up as I have one foot on the plane and take my last fresh breath for the day under the clear azure sky of PHX.
7A is what I am looking for and people are already seated in 7B and 7C. In fact, 7B is that woman. Hello 7B! But is she with 7C? 7C I can tell already is a “special lady” (a little nuts.) But they move, let me in, and I sit down.
7C (the isle) asks 7B (hottie in the middle) if she had seen “Flight 93.” This is a movie about 911 and makes 7B uncomfortable. It seems they are not together. Apparently this is 7C’s opening question to everyone she meets on the plane followed by “where are you from” and “what do you do.” 7B answers very politely, yet hesitantly, “Ithaca New York… well that’s where I live, I am from Calgary” and “veterinary surgeon.”
Before 7C can continue along her up-front and personal expose′on 7B I softly chime in with “I love Calgary in the early summer.” 7B has one of those overt body language moments where she turns away from 7C and focuses her full attention on me, “You’ve been there?”
We talk about travel, Canada, what we both do for a living, “How I Met Your Mother”, snow, siblings, and “Man vs. Wild.” After an hour into the flight 7C has stopped asking every flight attendant to visit the cockpit, and has gone to buy a “snack pack” after carefully considering the in flight guide.
“Last month” I explain to 7B “I was stuck next to a special neighbor on the flight to Baltimore. He couldn’t do much for himself and continually asked me to latch and unlatch his safety belt, then tighten it. I’m a guy, and we just don’t do that for 60 year old men.” We laughed and she thanked me for keeping her special neighbor from entering our conversation.
By the time we started to drop altitude I had learned about as much as you can from another person in four hours on non-stop chatter. I was funny and entertaining. She was open and delightful.
On the taxi to the gate I gave her my business card with email. She got off the plane before me, but waited at the top. We talked more. Her flight wasn’t for another hour. We toured DTW on the tram for a while and talked some more. I walked her to the best place for Internet access and a bite to eat to before saying good-bye. I think it was the right thing to do, say good-bye, because when I looked back she scurried to the ladies room. I went to the men’s room. You can only be polite for so long.
I have hoped for years to meet a really nice and interesting person on a flight. Usually I only see the hairy knuckles of businessmen hold their newspapers. It may be the romantic in me, but that sure is a nice story to tell on how you met someone. Hope she writes.
The moral to the story: when given the choice between chatty special needs neighbors and me in Skyworld, chicks always pick me. “60% it works 100% of the time.”