Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Pardon me, can you turn off the wind?

on August 10, 2011

I’m a frequent air traveler.  And, like most people who travel regularly, I have the airport processes and procedures down to a science.  I also have my personal preferences and travel routines:

  1. I wear slip on, comfortable shoes that make security procedures easier.
  2. I like an aisle seat, as close to the front of the plane as possible.  Being able to stand up immediately after a flight is vital!
  3. I don’t work on planes, unless there is an extenuating circumstance.  I prefer to read a book, listen to music, sleep or watch movies.  Plus, it’s difficult to keep a laptop open in a coach seat.
  4. I rarely make conversation with other passengers, but I am not rude.  I say hello and smile at the beginning of the flight, but then keep to myself.

Point 4 is not set in stone, but it’s one of those things that makes getting through a long flight easier for me.  No small talk.  It’s also the hardest to enforce.  Because my policy of keeping to myself is occasionally in direct contrast with someone else’s policy of chatting up everyone in the immediate area.

I went to Colombia last week.  We flew in on Sunday night, spent a long week booked with back-to-back meetings and flew home on Friday at 11pm to prepare for a long few weeks of proposal-writing, budgeting, planning and reporting.  After a week like that, and with the next few weeks’ agenda in mind, Rule 3 was in full effect.  I planned to watch movies, eat what I could stomach of the airline “breakfast” (served at 12am), and hopefully log a few hours sleep on the way back to Boston.

Sadly, it was not to be.

I sat next to a Colombian woman who may have been anywhere from 55 to 75 (she had had a lot of plastic surgery).  She was sitting in the middle seat when I came up to the row and indicated that I was assigned to the window seat (direct violation of rule 2, must speak to our travel agent about this).  I sat down, said hello and got ready for the flight.  She pulled out an English guide and started reading it.  Shortly before take-off, I sneezed.  She said, “Salud” then asked how to say that in English.  I told her “bless you” and we chatted amiably for a minute about her trip and her new knowledge of English.

Then the flight took off, I put in my headphones and started watching a movie.  And that was when my agenda and hers began to collide.  I had just started the movie and she said something to me.  I didn’t catch it, so I took out my headphones and she said again that she was having trouble making her touch screen work.  I gave her a quick tutuorial (during which, she requested that we set the TV up in English so she could practice) and got back to my movie.  After the next five or six interruptions, I started to wish I had set up the screen in Spanish.  Phrases like, “right up your alley” are difficult for me to translate into Spanish and don’t appear in most Spanish-English phrase books.  And, being of small stature, it became my responsibility to turn her air vent and light on and off at request. It went on like this until I turned off my screen and went to sleep.

Plane sleep isn’t awesome, but sometimes necessary.  I slept fitfully for an hour or two, then I heard the cabin announcement that we would be landing shortly, no electronic devices, blah blah blah.  At this point, my cheerful neighbor woke me up.  Awesome.  I groggily awoke and read for the final minutes of the flight.  Once we landed, my neighbor stayed seated until almost all other passengers had de-planed.  Keeping me hemmed into my window seat for twenty minutes, longing for escape.  Silently resentful, tired and ready to scream.

Ahh, the joys of air travel.

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