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10 Things I Hate About You, Travel Edition

flightattendant The flight from Boston to Los Angeles takes six hours, during which there is a kind of caricature of intimacy that develops, at least in Coach.

You might not even know the name of the guy sitting at your elbow, but still: You know his choice of reading material; what he drinks with his meal; the way his face, erased of its wakeful composure, slackens when he nods off after lunch. Every once in a while, your thighs touch, or you get a whiff of his cologne, and it’s all at once completely normal and yet weird: Here we are, two people randomly seated together. We begin the journey as strangers and then, hours later, we part knowing more details about each other than many of our casual acquaintances—even if we haven’t exchanged a single word. We’re not friends, exactly, but we’re something.

Six hours is a long time to maintain a conversation with a stranger. That is, if you are the type who attempts that sort of thing. I’ve been thinking about this lately, because in the flights I’ve taken this winter and spring, I’ve noticed that the world doesn’t come down to, as some psychologists will tell you, Introverts and Extroverts—or Montagues and Capulets, or Sharks and Jets, or Shirts and Skins, or tomayto and tomahto, or whatever.

Instead, the world comes down to exactly two types of people: Those who chit-chat on airplanes, and those who don’t.

In the latter group are those who settle into an airplane seat, buckle up, and immediately pop in earphones and crack open a book. In the former group are those who—as you make your way toward them down the aisle—lock eye contact, smile and nod a silent hello, eagerly stand (“Oh absolutely—here, let me move right out of your way!”) while you contort into your own seat, and then retake their own spot, turn back toward you, beaming, and inquire, “So! Business or pleasure?”

Initially, conversation is easy enough: “In fact I’m headed to Santa Barbara for business… I’m an editor and a writer…. No, you haven’t heard of anything I’ve written… I work online, on the Internet.”

Invariably, someone hears the word “internet” and assumes that means I am a technologist, a techie, a geek: the kind of person who knows how to develop software, write code, and so forth, when really all I can write are the same words they can, just (I like to think) in a different order. “Well actually I don’t really know that much about backing up hard drives,” I explain. “See, I use computers in my work, but my work isn’t in computers.”

Here I’ll reveal that I fall into the No Chat category. It’s not that I’m not friendly—because I am—but it’s just that after the initial hellos, and introductions, and explanations of what you are doing on this flight and where you are going, I run out of things to say. Or, possibly, I lack the ambition to find other things to talk about—to sift through the murkier parts of my brain in hopes of stumbling into something there worthy of conversation, or to struggle to recall the headlines at the airport news kiosk that morning.

Whatever the case, the ensuing silence feels acute, and it carries with it, for me, a heavy mantle of social failure, of being somehow neutered of any conversational skills. And at the same time, I worry about my seatmate: How do they interpret my silence? Do they think I find them boring? Inadequate? Do they think that I am withholding an overture to be friends? And if they interpret it that way, are they insulted by it?

At times, I’ve tried a different path: I’ve tried broadcasting a personality that’s overly friendly and outgoing. But soon enough I realize that that strategy ultimately presents a different problem that’s even more awkward to resolve: Then, the issue becomes identifying where, exactly, lie the limits of the relationship.

I’m not talking about knowing when it’s time to physically separate—of deplaning, of retrieving your luggage, of hailing a cab and letting it shuttle you to wherever you need to be. All that happens more or less on its own. I’m talking about the moment when you make the choice not to share your business card, or your email address, or whatever. The point you reach when you wordlessly recognize that you’ll never likely see each other again, and you both realize that you’re okay with that. You might be chatting along about all kind of things, sharing anecdotes, trading stories, connecting, relating, fully immersed and interested in the discussion. But as much as you might enjoy each other, nonetheless that moment comes when one or both of you seems to decide that you’re not enjoying it that much.

Does this sound weird? Maybe it is, because when I look around an airplane cabin at the end of a flight, I see people going through the motions of saying goodbye. “Well, good luck—it was nice talking to you!” I might hear someone say to their seatmate, and it makes me wonder, How can they do that? How can they not add, “Make sure to drop me a line and let me know how it goes with your biopsy, and how your aunt’s lesions heal, and then we’ll schedule that lunch!”

At times—once or twice, tops—I’ve met someone on an airplane I actually wouldn’t mind having lunch with, some point down the line. But since that’s the exception rather than the rule, you can see why, in the end, I find it easier to avoid the whole business of chatting with seatmates, and why I have adopted a No Chat policy in most other places, too: anywhere, in fact, that I’m likely to encounter strangers or, sometimes, acquaintances. It’s easier not to connect at all, I think, than to struggle with the fundamental questions of friendship every time you open your mouth.

I suppose that struggle is what gives me somewhat of an unforgiving approach on airplanes—what makes me easily riled and annoyed at those seated near me. Put me with a snoring traveler, an antsy baby, even a screeching toddler—a regular pint-sized Maria Callas, as my friend Peter would say—and I don’t mind a whit. But chit-chatters? No, thank you.

Here are 10 more things I hate about my neighbors (the airplane edition):

1. Eating smelly food. I have two words for this one: Fast food. Wait, one more: Cinnabon.

2. Perfume. Because the longer the flight, the worse it gets.

3. Excessive cell phone use just prior to takeoff. Especially when someone finds it necessary to announce the play-by-play of a runway delay. “OK, so the pilot just came on and it seems like there’s a problem with the wing jibbet, so we’ll be here a while, he says maybe 20 minutes or so. So what’s going on…? What are you guys doing now?”

4. Talking too loudly on a cell phone while we are still (or again) on the ground. If people three rows up turn to look at you, that’s a signal that we can hear you crystal-clear, but shouldn’t.

5. Playing an iPod loud enough for others to hear through the headphones. Especially playing an iPod *just* loud enough, so it gives off a persistent, tinny whine, like a mosquito loitering near your ear.

6. Not keeping cell phones on vibrate, particularly when it’s “The Mexican Hat Dance” rendered in ring tone.

7. Hovering over your seat, volleying conversation over the seat-back.

8. Asking the flight attendant to repeat meals options, when they’ve already been relayed once, and when they are also listed inside the in-flight magazine. Are you seriously weighing the options? They all suck.

9. Yes, I do mind if we keep the arm rest up.

10. Chatting. Oh wait… have we covered that yet…?

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96 Responses to 10 Things I Hate About You, Travel Edition

  1. GiGi says:

    Ann,
    Great post and I totally agree with the No Chat policy on airplanes. I think it’s nice to be pleasant, but I don’t want to spend the whole flight chatting. As a busy parent, I relish the time alone to read, think, listen to music, or just relax watching some movie I would never otherwise see in my real life. The worst experience for me was on a trip home from Disney with my family when someone tried to sell me some kind of healing berry juice. Talk about being trapped! Talk about looking for the exits!

  2. GiGi says:

    Ann,
    Great post and I totally agree with the No Chat policy on airplanes. I think it’s nice to be pleasant, but I don’t want to spend the whole flight chatting. As a busy parent, I relish the time alone to read, think, listen to music, or just relax watching some movie I would never otherwise see in my real life. The worst experience for me was on a trip home from Disney with my family when someone tried to sell me some kind of healing berry juice. Talk about being trapped! Talk about looking for the exits!

  3. Peter Kim says:

    When I began working as a management consultant, a partner on the edge of retirement gave me this advice after decades of travel: tell them you’re a tire salesman and it immediately stops the conversation. Fine for a half-drunk, very large Southern gentleman, but the rest of us must adjust. I sometimes say that I do data entry.

    (Technically, that’s true, right? I mean I just filled out a little box on your blog…)

  4. Peter Kim says:

    When I began working as a management consultant, a partner on the edge of retirement gave me this advice after decades of travel: tell them you’re a tire salesman and it immediately stops the conversation. Fine for a half-drunk, very large Southern gentleman, but the rest of us must adjust. I sometimes say that I do data entry.

    (Technically, that’s true, right? I mean I just filled out a little box on your blog…)

  5. Rona Maynard says:

    Like you I’m not keen on chit-chat with strangers. But once in a while I’ve had an unforgettable, revelatory conversation with a seatmate, both of us knowing that our paths would never cross again. For some people, this knowledge is freeing. Example: a businessman in his 40s who felt moved to tell me he was flying to visit a young adult son whose existence he had recently discovered. In his youth this man had an affair with his English teacher, got her pregnant and, at her insistence, got out of her life. When the son reached his teens, he found a photo of his mom with her young lover–who could have been his double. Until that day he’d never known who his father was.

    The stranger and I had a tender conversation in which he did most of the talking . He was awestruck by what had just happened to him, and I was able to witness his amazement and gratitude. Years later, I think of our connection as a gift.

  6. Rona Maynard says:

    Like you I’m not keen on chit-chat with strangers. But once in a while I’ve had an unforgettable, revelatory conversation with a seatmate, both of us knowing that our paths would never cross again. For some people, this knowledge is freeing. Example: a businessman in his 40s who felt moved to tell me he was flying to visit a young adult son whose existence he had recently discovered. In his youth this man had an affair with his English teacher, got her pregnant and, at her insistence, got out of her life. When the son reached his teens, he found a photo of his mom with her young lover–who could have been his double. Until that day he’d never known who his father was.

    The stranger and I had a tender conversation in which he did most of the talking . He was awestruck by what had just happened to him, and I was able to witness his amazement and gratitude. Years later, I think of our connection as a gift.

  7. Pingback: Topics about Travel » 10 Things I Hate About You, Travel Edition

  8. Like you, I feel regularly torn about whether/how much I should engage. Part of this may be a New England “personal space” thing. Have you noticed that where we have control (let’s say, on Twitter), we’re much more ready to chat? Because there’s a safety zone built in. Though I do find the simplicity of Peter Kim’s approach attractive…

  9. Like you, I feel regularly torn about whether/how much I should engage. Part of this may be a New England “personal space” thing. Have you noticed that where we have control (let’s say, on Twitter), we’re much more ready to chat? Because there’s a safety zone built in. Though I do find the simplicity of Peter Kim’s approach attractive…

  10. Ann Handley says:

    @Gigi — You’ve articulated my worst nightmare…

    @Peter Kim — You’ve inspired me. I’m going to practice this: “I’m on furlough from the women’s penitentiary. Where do you live? How close are your neighbors? Do you have any valuables at home? Do you leave your purse unattended while you go to the restroom?”

    @Rona — A pretty amazing story. Sounds like a great movie script actually.

    @Steve — You might be right about the NE thing… and no, you can’t steal my idea.

  11. Ann Handley says:

    @Gigi — You’ve articulated my worst nightmare…

    @Peter Kim — You’ve inspired me. I’m going to practice this: “I’m on furlough from the women’s penitentiary. Where do you live? How close are your neighbors? Do you have any valuables at home? Do you leave your purse unattended while you go to the restroom?”

    @Rona — A pretty amazing story. Sounds like a great movie script actually.

    @Steve — You might be right about the NE thing… and no, you can’t steal my idea.

  12. Ann,
    Nice job, as usual. Humans. We are so weird, sometimes.

    2 types on an airplane, for sure. I don’t mind chatting a bit, but I really dislike the cold ones.

    The ones who put their headphones on right away, and are making it known that they don’t want to be bothered. For some reason, it is a real turn off for me.

    Anyway, I have not been flying too much lately, but when I do, of course NOW, I’ll think about what yo just wrote about.

    Thanx.
    I think.

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  13. Joel Libava says:

    Ann,
    Nice job, as usual. Humans. We are so weird, sometimes.

    2 types on an airplane, for sure. I don’t mind chatting a bit, but I really dislike the cold ones.

    The ones who put their headphones on right away, and are making it known that they don’t want to be bothered. For some reason, it is a real turn off for me.

    Anyway, I have not been flying too much lately, but when I do, of course NOW, I’ll think about what yo just wrote about.

    Thanx.
    I think.

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  14. Tim Berry says:

    Great title, and it gets better from there. I love the list of 10.

    My problem with chat or not is that I switch, flight to flight, trip to trip, depending on factors as random as battery power remaining on devices, thinking power remaining in head, talking power remaining in head, and so on.

    And you remind me of that awkward moment when, 20 minutes into the flight, I realize I’ve started this out wrong. I should have dived into my book, or laptop, or whatever. And now I have to deliver that cutoff line … explaining why I don’t want to talk anymore.

    Thanks for another really good post.

    Tim

  15. Tim Berry says:

    Great title, and it gets better from there. I love the list of 10.

    My problem with chat or not is that I switch, flight to flight, trip to trip, depending on factors as random as battery power remaining on devices, thinking power remaining in head, talking power remaining in head, and so on.

    And you remind me of that awkward moment when, 20 minutes into the flight, I realize I’ve started this out wrong. I should have dived into my book, or laptop, or whatever. And now I have to deliver that cutoff line … explaining why I don’t want to talk anymore.

    Thanks for another really good post.

    Tim

  16. Leah says:

    Ann, another great post!

    I don’t get to fly much anymore, but when I was involved with a nonprofit in a national leadership position, I flew much more often than normal (which is rarely, to be honest). Like Tim, I tend to switch from flight to flight, even on the same day. It really depends on my seatmate.

    Once, I had a fantastic seatmate, but for a very short flight. I was telling him about the work I did with the nonprofit (cancer-related) and all the programs and services they offer, and he was telling me about his experience with the disease. At one point, he stopped and told me I had generated so much positive karma that I’d have to do something seriously bad (I can’t remember what exactly, but it was outlandish and funny given the circumstances) to counteract that. He was a screenwriter, so I like to tell myself that he’s written me as a character in his movie, though we never exchanged names.

    He also apologized for talking so much… but said it was because he was nervous about flying and needed a distraction. I was happy to comply :)

  17. Leah says:

    Ann, another great post!

    I don’t get to fly much anymore, but when I was involved with a nonprofit in a national leadership position, I flew much more often than normal (which is rarely, to be honest). Like Tim, I tend to switch from flight to flight, even on the same day. It really depends on my seatmate.

    Once, I had a fantastic seatmate, but for a very short flight. I was telling him about the work I did with the nonprofit (cancer-related) and all the programs and services they offer, and he was telling me about his experience with the disease. At one point, he stopped and told me I had generated so much positive karma that I’d have to do something seriously bad (I can’t remember what exactly, but it was outlandish and funny given the circumstances) to counteract that. He was a screenwriter, so I like to tell myself that he’s written me as a character in his movie, though we never exchanged names.

    He also apologized for talking so much… but said it was because he was nervous about flying and needed a distraction. I was happy to comply :)

  18. I’m always so glad to see a new post from you!

    I got back about a week ago from 3 days in DC, which for me is a flight across the country, so this is very timely.

    Despite being gregarious in most social settings (and whipping out business cards in case I can connect this new friend to my university somehow, or to bike commuting resources), I find that on really long flights I tend to dive into a book, a reading backlog of professional papers, or my laptop.

    Not only is there the prospect of having a chatty interaction turn into the airline equivalent of a bad blind date, but it’s also one of the few times that I truly, absolutely cannot check email, voice mail, Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, or any other space that requires me to interact and communicate.

    I think it’s a haven of silence, which is rare in our plugged-in, turned-on, webified world. Unless I wind up next to you someday, in which case I will want to pick your brain mercilessly.

    @BarbChamberlain

  19. I’m always so glad to see a new post from you!

    I got back about a week ago from 3 days in DC, which for me is a flight across the country, so this is very timely.

    Despite being gregarious in most social settings (and whipping out business cards in case I can connect this new friend to my university somehow, or to bike commuting resources), I find that on really long flights I tend to dive into a book, a reading backlog of professional papers, or my laptop.

    Not only is there the prospect of having a chatty interaction turn into the airline equivalent of a bad blind date, but it’s also one of the few times that I truly, absolutely cannot check email, voice mail, Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, or any other space that requires me to interact and communicate.

    I think it’s a haven of silence, which is rare in our plugged-in, turned-on, webified world. Unless I wind up next to you someday, in which case I will want to pick your brain mercilessly.

    @BarbChamberlain

  20. warrenss says:

    As a kid, I would eagerly await the delivery of my favorite Sports Illustrated in the mail. It never arrived on the same day due to the vagaries of the USPS, but it delighted me none the same. I now feel the same way about each new issue of Annarchy.

  21. As a kid, I would eagerly await the delivery of my favorite Sports Illustrated in the mail. It never arrived on the same day due to the vagaries of the USPS, but it delighted me none the same. I now feel the same way about each new issue of Annarchy.

  22. Phil Johnson says:

    The occasional knee touching is weird. Glad you mentioned it.

    For better or worse, curiosity gets the best of me, and I can’t resist learning something about my seat mate. On one flight my companion had extreme OCD tendencies, and I started looking for an empty seat. He begged me to stay, and we soon discovered we had the same birthday. We met for dinner with our wives at The Harvest in Cambridge, and have been helpful to each other with business on occasion. Sadly, most of the time, I find myself desperately retreating to my book before take off.

  23. Phil Johnson says:

    The occasional knee touching is weird. Glad you mentioned it.

    For better or worse, curiosity gets the best of me, and I can’t resist learning something about my seat mate. On one flight my companion had extreme OCD tendencies, and I started looking for an empty seat. He begged me to stay, and we soon discovered we had the same birthday. We met for dinner with our wives at The Harvest in Cambridge, and have been helpful to each other with business on occasion. Sadly, most of the time, I find myself desperately retreating to my book before take off.

  24. Paul Chaney says:

    I just escape to the rest room for the entire flight and avoid any conversation whatsoever. Kidding, of course, but it’s tempting.

    My social ineptness shows up less on a plane, however, and much more in unstructured social situations with lots of people all chatting with one another, yet, oddly, none of them with me. At least on a plane, I only have to contend with one or two people. That’s manageable.

  25. Paul Chaney says:

    I just escape to the rest room for the entire flight and avoid any conversation whatsoever. Kidding, of course, but it’s tempting.

    My social ineptness shows up less on a plane, however, and much more in unstructured social situations with lots of people all chatting with one another, yet, oddly, none of them with me. At least on a plane, I only have to contend with one or two people. That’s manageable.

  26. Marta says:

    You are back! Splendiferous! What an inspiring post. Well, here’s me: I take lots of risks. If someone asks, I’ll answer. If they tell, I’ll listen. Because you never know who will blow you away with their story. But usually I can tell right away. You know those people whose idea of conversation is getting that grand piano out the window? Well, no open windows for those, thank you very much. Carry your friggin’ piano down the 12 flights of stairs and out the front door. Then, if you have any air left, come talk to me. But I’ve been lucky. Most of my seat neighbors just like music, miss it, and are grateful at the opportunity to play. And now comes a terrible thing: I like knees touching!

  27. Marta says:

    You are back! Splendiferous! What an inspiring post. Well, here’s me: I take lots of risks. If someone asks, I’ll answer. If they tell, I’ll listen. Because you never know who will blow you away with their story. But usually I can tell right away. You know those people whose idea of conversation is getting that grand piano out the window? Well, no open windows for those, thank you very much. Carry your friggin’ piano down the 12 flights of stairs and out the front door. Then, if you have any air left, come talk to me. But I’ve been lucky. Most of my seat neighbors just like music, miss it, and are grateful at the opportunity to play. And now comes a terrible thing: I like knees touching!

  28. Shelley Ryan says:

    I’m like you, Ann. Read, snooze, watch the in-flight movie. Anything but spark a conversation with a total stranger who might be a complete bore.

    Then I think of my ex-hub. He met wifey #3 on a business flight.

    Maybe I need to rethink my travel policy. ;]

  29. Shelley Ryan says:

    I’m like you, Ann. Read, snooze, watch the in-flight movie. Anything but spark a conversation with a total stranger who might be a complete bore.

    Then I think of my ex-hub. He met wifey #3 on a business flight.

    Maybe I need to rethink my travel policy. ;]

  30. Christian Gulliksen says:

    I got spoiled during my years as an auto writer, lots of long-haul transatlantic flights in business/first where everyone has their own pod and no one wants to chat. They might nod at you or say hello when everyone’s getting settled, but that’s it. Pure bliss.

    What’s not so great — and this is worse in the close quarters of coach, where I travel when I’m on my own dime — is when people fall asleep and start farting. God, I hate that.

  31. Christian Gulliksen says:

    I got spoiled during my years as an auto writer, lots of long-haul transatlantic flights in business/first where everyone has their own pod and no one wants to chat. They might nod at you or say hello when everyone’s getting settled, but that’s it. Pure bliss.

    What’s not so great — and this is worse in the close quarters of coach, where I travel when I’m on my own dime — is when people fall asleep and start farting. God, I hate that.

  32. Interesting post. I play it by the ear, on a good day I may choose to connect and chat, but on other days I may just clam up. Either way, I always have some level of curiositymabout the next guy: “Do they really find their iPod THAT interesting?”
    Great post, Ann.

  33. Interesting post. I play it by the ear, on a good day I may choose to connect and chat, but on other days I may just clam up. Either way, I always have some level of curiositymabout the next guy: “Do they really find their iPod THAT interesting?”
    Great post, Ann.

  34. Just remember to hide anything confidential. A person with a DSLR and a decent low light lens can easily shoot your laptop screen in a heartbeat and if they’re a row or two back on the opposite aisle, you’ll never really pay attention to it. Same is true for cell phone usage – a portable digital recorder fits in a shirt pocket and has HOURS of storage and battery.

    Oh, and if you want to shut people up? “I work at a student loan company. You’re not behind on your payments, are you?”

  35. Just remember to hide anything confidential. A person with a DSLR and a decent low light lens can easily shoot your laptop screen in a heartbeat and if they’re a row or two back on the opposite aisle, you’ll never really pay attention to it. Same is true for cell phone usage – a portable digital recorder fits in a shirt pocket and has HOURS of storage and battery.

    Oh, and if you want to shut people up? “I work at a student loan company. You’re not behind on your payments, are you?”

  36. Tabitha Dunn says:

    So well done! I am a non-chatter. I absolutely love to read and as a busy, working mom, the chance to descend into some music and a good book – uninterrupted – is a dream come true.

    In my last job, I traveled about 50% of the time. One of my last flights was quite memorable – the gentlemen across the aisle from me reached across and tapped me. I look up, puzzled and distracted, taking out my headphones. He introduces himself and notes out loud that I must love to read. At this point, I am even more puzzled. I am reading and I imagine that I looked like I enjoyed it. Why interrupt me?

    He asks me if I would be so kind as to read the first chapter of the novel (his first) that he is writing and give him my opinion. Wow… I never saw that coming and have no idea what to say or do. In the end, I agree to read it. He was clearly passionate and struggling to learn how to put that passion into words. But how on earth do you give a critique of any kind to a complete stranger with whom you are about to spend the next four hours in a small space? For my case, I attempted to be gracious and supportive and then dive back into my book. Brave fellow though – asking a total stranger to read his heart poured into words. Have to admire that!

  37. Tabitha Dunn says:

    So well done! I am a non-chatter. I absolutely love to read and as a busy, working mom, the chance to descend into some music and a good book – uninterrupted – is a dream come true.

    In my last job, I traveled about 50% of the time. One of my last flights was quite memorable – the gentlemen across the aisle from me reached across and tapped me. I look up, puzzled and distracted, taking out my headphones. He introduces himself and notes out loud that I must love to read. At this point, I am even more puzzled. I am reading and I imagine that I looked like I enjoyed it. Why interrupt me?

    He asks me if I would be so kind as to read the first chapter of the novel (his first) that he is writing and give him my opinion. Wow… I never saw that coming and have no idea what to say or do. In the end, I agree to read it. He was clearly passionate and struggling to learn how to put that passion into words. But how on earth do you give a critique of any kind to a complete stranger with whom you are about to spend the next four hours in a small space? For my case, I attempted to be gracious and supportive and then dive back into my book. Brave fellow though – asking a total stranger to read his heart poured into words. Have to admire that!

  38. Dana Ironside says:

    Hey Ann,
    Great post as always. I will forever think of you when I get on my next flight (I have a few coming up).

    Me, I’m the chit chatter! I think you would have guessed that about me though. I do however size up the person next to me and I’m more than fine and respect the personal space if I immediately note the person next to me is not. Book/ipod and so on have given it away to me as well. Having grown up with a sister who is probably a lot like you Ann (shy and private), I am keen to respect people who are like that as well.

    Having said that, what I love is that if people do want to talk… I’m amazed at the stories that come out (ie: the above post about going to see a son he never new he had etc). I do think for some of us, telling a complete stranger something personal, can be very freeing. It can be like therapy without having to pay or get all emotional cuz that person isn’t going to question your motives or judge you. They don’t know enough about you.

    To the guy who said something about being a tire salesman. For the record, my husband works for the largest independent tire retailer and before he was one of their AVP’s running the Nevada region – he was a tire salesman in a store. It actually creates a ton of conversation and people want to always know if they got a good deal on their set of 4 or what they should be putting on their cars etc. It definitely doesn’t shut people up.

    I think the two categories do come down to – are you an introvert or an extrovert and that will probably define who you are on the plane. Me, I love people. I love learning about them. I love connecting with them anywhere – anytime. it actually fills my soul. The key is to have us extroverts/chit chatters be respectful of those who don’t.

    Keep the posts coming Ann!
    Dana

  39. Dana Ironside says:

    Hey Ann,
    Great post as always. I will forever think of you when I get on my next flight (I have a few coming up).

    Me, I’m the chit chatter! I think you would have guessed that about me though. I do however size up the person next to me and I’m more than fine and respect the personal space if I immediately note the person next to me is not. Book/ipod and so on have given it away to me as well. Having grown up with a sister who is probably a lot like you Ann (shy and private), I am keen to respect people who are like that as well.

    Having said that, what I love is that if people do want to talk… I’m amazed at the stories that come out (ie: the above post about going to see a son he never new he had etc). I do think for some of us, telling a complete stranger something personal, can be very freeing. It can be like therapy without having to pay or get all emotional cuz that person isn’t going to question your motives or judge you. They don’t know enough about you.

    To the guy who said something about being a tire salesman. For the record, my husband works for the largest independent tire retailer and before he was one of their AVP’s running the Nevada region – he was a tire salesman in a store. It actually creates a ton of conversation and people want to always know if they got a good deal on their set of 4 or what they should be putting on their cars etc. It definitely doesn’t shut people up.

    I think the two categories do come down to – are you an introvert or an extrovert and that will probably define who you are on the plane. Me, I love people. I love learning about them. I love connecting with them anywhere – anytime. it actually fills my soul. The key is to have us extroverts/chit chatters be respectful of those who don’t.

    Keep the posts coming Ann!
    Dana

  40. Mack Collier says:

    Ok love this post and have to share a recent airplane story. Personally, I am introverted by nature, so if the only words I ever uttered on a flight were ‘No thank you!’ to the attendant when she asked if I wanted a free bag of peanuts, I’d usually be fine.

    Well on a recent flight I’m sitting on the isle seat of a three-seat row, a woman is sitting next to the window. We are told by the pilot that the flight will be delayed, she groans and makes some comment, then we exchange the ‘where are you going?’ chit-chat, then I assume we are about to return to radio silence.

    Then she notices the book I have, and remarks ‘Oh! You’re reading Groundswell, how do you like it?’ Now I am interested because she’s actually heard of Groundswell, and she begins telling me that she is flying to NYC on business, she creates videos for organizations. I immediately am reminded of my friend Thomas Clifford (Director Tom), and now want to learn more about what she’s doing, when….

    The Interruptor arrives.

    The Interruptor announces his presence, and informs us that he’s in the middle seat. Now normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, at worst, The Interruptor would sit down between us, the woman would politely finish her thought about her work, and that would be the end of our exchange.

    But it seems that The Interruptor has smuggled a secret passenger onto this flight, his Massive Body Odor. Nothing kills semi-idle chit-chat with a stranger like the arrival of another stranger, who stinks. So The Interruptor sits down, and finally, he makes the obligatory call to a friend to give them the play-by-play of the plane’s being delayed, where he is, and how he won’t make it home tonight in time for….whatever. I can’t remember what it was all about, but as you said Ann, a 3-row radius heard all about it.

    This is another reason why I want to invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.

  41. Mack Collier says:

    Ok love this post and have to share a recent airplane story. Personally, I am introverted by nature, so if the only words I ever uttered on a flight were ‘No thank you!’ to the attendant when she asked if I wanted a free bag of peanuts, I’d usually be fine.

    Well on a recent flight I’m sitting on the isle seat of a three-seat row, a woman is sitting next to the window. We are told by the pilot that the flight will be delayed, she groans and makes some comment, then we exchange the ‘where are you going?’ chit-chat, then I assume we are about to return to radio silence.

    Then she notices the book I have, and remarks ‘Oh! You’re reading Groundswell, how do you like it?’ Now I am interested because she’s actually heard of Groundswell, and she begins telling me that she is flying to NYC on business, she creates videos for organizations. I immediately am reminded of my friend Thomas Clifford (Director Tom), and now want to learn more about what she’s doing, when….

    The Interruptor arrives.

    The Interruptor announces his presence, and informs us that he’s in the middle seat. Now normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, at worst, The Interruptor would sit down between us, the woman would politely finish her thought about her work, and that would be the end of our exchange.

    But it seems that The Interruptor has smuggled a secret passenger onto this flight, his Massive Body Odor. Nothing kills semi-idle chit-chat with a stranger like the arrival of another stranger, who stinks. So The Interruptor sits down, and finally, he makes the obligatory call to a friend to give them the play-by-play of the plane’s being delayed, where he is, and how he won’t make it home tonight in time for….whatever. I can’t remember what it was all about, but as you said Ann, a 3-row radius heard all about it.

    This is another reason why I want to invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.

  42. An Bui says:

    Hi Ann,

    This post (and Mack’s comment) made me laugh… and think.

    I’m a chatter. I’m also a reader, a sleeper, a worker on a plane.

    I’ve learned a lot talking with people on planes – sometimes I just get lucky. If my flight mate is a non-chatter, exchanging pleasantries is the furthest it goes. Makes the slight knee touch a bit less awkward, while still respecting personal space/boundaries.

    to Dana.

  43. An Bui says:

    Hi Ann,

    This post (and Mack’s comment) made me laugh… and think.

    I’m a chatter. I’m also a reader, a sleeper, a worker on a plane.

    I’ve learned a lot talking with people on planes – sometimes I just get lucky. If my flight mate is a non-chatter, exchanging pleasantries is the furthest it goes. Makes the slight knee touch a bit less awkward, while still respecting personal space/boundaries.

    to Dana.

  44. Katrina Hollmann says:

    Hi Ann -

    Looks like Mack’s wit rivals yours. If you two ever posted together I’d never get anything done! (Mack I loved the comment about the smuggled secret passenger – too true!) :)

    I also am very introverted and have trouble making small talk. I have a hard time going back to my own book or music once a conversation has started as I always worry about hurting the other person’s feelings, regardless of how into the conversation I am. In order to avoid all discomfort I simply tune everything out as soon as possible. Books, newspapers and my ipod are my refuge on a plane.

    I’ve also discovered that I must have a secret switch in my rear that’s triggered by airplane seats and the passenger seat in a car. I simply cannot stay awake! So even if I was inclined to chat it would be a matter of time before I was nodding off mid-conversation – which would give me a whole other reason to feel bad.

  45. Katrina Hollmann says:

    Hi Ann -

    Looks like Mack’s wit rivals yours. If you two ever posted together I’d never get anything done! (Mack I loved the comment about the smuggled secret passenger – too true!) :)

    I also am very introverted and have trouble making small talk. I have a hard time going back to my own book or music once a conversation has started as I always worry about hurting the other person’s feelings, regardless of how into the conversation I am. In order to avoid all discomfort I simply tune everything out as soon as possible. Books, newspapers and my ipod are my refuge on a plane.

    I’ve also discovered that I must have a secret switch in my rear that’s triggered by airplane seats and the passenger seat in a car. I simply cannot stay awake! So even if I was inclined to chat it would be a matter of time before I was nodding off mid-conversation – which would give me a whole other reason to feel bad.

  46. Richard Nogging says:

    I love all of the posts, very interesting. I used to travel a ton and hoped for one thing only. I wanted to be siiting next to a hottie. If I was then I would talk away and see if I could seal the deal. If it was a hepfher or a dude I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

  47. Richard Nogging says:

    I love all of the posts, very interesting. I used to travel a ton and hoped for one thing only. I wanted to be siiting next to a hottie. If I was then I would talk away and see if I could seal the deal. If it was a hepfher or a dude I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

  48. Rain says:

    If only they made SMELL-cancelling headphones (nose-phones?!)

    I avoid talking to the person next to me on the plane at all costs. I try to not even get started, so that it won’t go any further and they won’t try to engage me.

    My mother, on the other hand, is terrified of flying, and will engage the person next to her in conversation, whether they are willing or not. She doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

  49. Rain says:

    If only they made SMELL-cancelling headphones (nose-phones?!)

    I avoid talking to the person next to me on the plane at all costs. I try to not even get started, so that it won’t go any further and they won’t try to engage me.

    My mother, on the other hand, is terrified of flying, and will engage the person next to her in conversation, whether they are willing or not. She doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

  50. Part of the problem with airplanes is the our seatmates are in our personal space, especially in today’s cramped airplanes, so there’s no escape. And while I understand the concept of it being freeing to share intimacy with total strangers, it’s not something that appeals to me.

    Thus, I find myself falling into the non-chat category. Let’s be pleasant and acknowledge each other but let’s otherwise sit together, because we must, and non-chat.

    Your #5 item makes my list too!

  51. Part of the problem with airplanes is the our seatmates are in our personal space, especially in today’s cramped airplanes, so there’s no escape. And while I understand the concept of it being freeing to share intimacy with total strangers, it’s not something that appeals to me.

    Thus, I find myself falling into the non-chat category. Let’s be pleasant and acknowledge each other but let’s otherwise sit together, because we must, and non-chat.

    Your #5 item makes my list too!

  52. Annie Binns says:

    Let me add to your list: “People who travel with a serious illness and do not bring (a) tissue (b) cough drops (c) anything else that might protect me from whatever is flying out of your head.”

    I have been hacked and horked on so many times it’s a wonder I’ve lived to tell about it.

  53. Annie Binns says:

    Let me add to your list: “People who travel with a serious illness and do not bring (a) tissue (b) cough drops (c) anything else that might protect me from whatever is flying out of your head.”

    I have been hacked and horked on so many times it’s a wonder I’ve lived to tell about it.

  54. John says:

    If you don’t want to chat tell them you sell life insurance. Shuts ‘em up every time ;-)

  55. John says:

    If you don’t want to chat tell them you sell life insurance. Shuts ‘em up every time ;-)

  56. Mike says:

    Great post as always Ann…. I completely agree with everything you hate about your airplane neighbors. If I could add one thing to that list it would be the person sitting behind you who insists on grabbing the back of your seat every time they stand up. Drives me crazy!

    @bostonmike

  57. Mike says:

    Great post as always Ann…. I completely agree with everything you hate about your airplane neighbors. If I could add one thing to that list it would be the person sitting behind you who insists on grabbing the back of your seat every time they stand up. Drives me crazy!

    @bostonmike

  58. You could write for Seinfeld! Or Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    Me, I am definitely not a talker. I love plane travel for one reason: I can read uninterrupted.

    But there was one time I flew to Europe and talked for HOURS to a woman roughly 60 years my senior and loved every second of it. One of the best conversations I’ve ever head.

    Jeff

  59. You could write for Seinfeld! Or Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    Me, I am definitely not a talker. I love plane travel for one reason: I can read uninterrupted.

    But there was one time I flew to Europe and talked for HOURS to a woman roughly 60 years my senior and loved every second of it. One of the best conversations I’ve ever head.

    Jeff

  60. Jo Tyler says:

    What a great post, Ann…I can totally relate! I’m silent nodder & smiler, myself.

    The only time I talk to other passengers is when I ask them to put their seat back up and out of my lap because I’m “claustrophobic.”

    hey…whatever works!

    Love the photo, too..where ever did you find it?

    Well, here’s to personal space…
    Jo

  61. Jo Tyler says:

    What a great post, Ann…I can totally relate! I’m silent nodder & smiler, myself.

    The only time I talk to other passengers is when I ask them to put their seat back up and out of my lap because I’m “claustrophobic.”

    hey…whatever works!

    Love the photo, too..where ever did you find it?

    Well, here’s to personal space…
    Jo

  62. paul merrill says:

    I remember when I was single – crying babies always drove me crazy.

    I’m older & wiser now – we traveled all the way from the Africa to the US (two 8+ hour flights) with a 1-year-old. The first leg was one of the worst nights of my life. But I’m much more tolerant of parents with babies than I used to be!

  63. paul merrill says:

    I remember when I was single – crying babies always drove me crazy.

    I’m older & wiser now – we traveled all the way from the Africa to the US (two 8+ hour flights) with a 1-year-old. The first leg was one of the worst nights of my life. But I’m much more tolerant of parents with babies than I used to be!

  64. Bdot says:

    Ann, Another Great post.
    I rarely go out of my 3 mile radius, but when I do, and have to fly, I take somewhat of a different approach.
    Instead of just being grumpy with everyone that is crowding me, I usually pick out one person waiting at the gate and point him out to whomever I’m with.
    (or who ever tries to strike up a conversation with me)
    “I hate that guy” is the usual response, then give him the old Bdot Hairy eyeball. (Ann, you might call it the Handley Glare)
    It makes for a much more pleasant flight for the rest of the mob. (which I also hate, but they don’t know it).
    All In all it makes for a much better flight for me.

    @ Mack: I think you found him…….”I hate that guy”

  65. Bdot says:

    Ann, Another Great post.
    I rarely go out of my 3 mile radius, but when I do, and have to fly, I take somewhat of a different approach.
    Instead of just being grumpy with everyone that is crowding me, I usually pick out one person waiting at the gate and point him out to whomever I’m with.
    (or who ever tries to strike up a conversation with me)
    “I hate that guy” is the usual response, then give him the old Bdot Hairy eyeball. (Ann, you might call it the Handley Glare)
    It makes for a much more pleasant flight for the rest of the mob. (which I also hate, but they don’t know it).
    All In all it makes for a much better flight for me.

    @ Mack: I think you found him…….”I hate that guy”

  66. Krista Parry says:

    You put together a great list but I do believe there is one thing you left off, “The Dog Smuggler”. I had the wonderful opportunity of sitting next to one of these on my recent flight back from SXSW.

    As she made her way into our aisle she kindled informed me that she had a dog but that he would not be a problem. I’m not sure if she meant the constant barking for our 2.5 hour flight or the fact that as our flight attendant was doing the safety announcement she became very upset when “The Dog Smuggler” waited for her to ask “is there a dog on here” 5 times before finally admitting to it.

    I do love dogs just not yapping at me on a plane!

  67. Krista Parry says:

    You put together a great list but I do believe there is one thing you left off, “The Dog Smuggler”. I had the wonderful opportunity of sitting next to one of these on my recent flight back from SXSW.

    As she made her way into our aisle she kindled informed me that she had a dog but that he would not be a problem. I’m not sure if she meant the constant barking for our 2.5 hour flight or the fact that as our flight attendant was doing the safety announcement she became very upset when “The Dog Smuggler” waited for her to ask “is there a dog on here” 5 times before finally admitting to it.

    I do love dogs just not yapping at me on a plane!

  68. rich says:

    the smelly food kills me…

  69. rich says:

    the smelly food kills me…

  70. Jim Smith says:

    I am writing a book titled “Business Travel by Pros”. It is about how to travel easily, safely, and with as little stress as possible. It is not how to travel cheaply. If I see a knowledge traveler, I give him/her a business card describing what I am doing with my e-mail address. I ask for helpful hints. For example 1) Don’t put you suitcase on the floor in a hotel room, 2) Don’t put your clothes in a draw, it is dirty from others dirty laundry, 3) locate a gas station as you leave the car rental place at the airport.
    If anyone wants to add to my book please send me ideas. If you want I will put your name and city next to the idea. Thanks, JIM

  71. Jim Smith says:

    I am writing a book titled “Business Travel by Pros”. It is about how to travel easily, safely, and with as little stress as possible. It is not how to travel cheaply. If I see a knowledge traveler, I give him/her a business card describing what I am doing with my e-mail address. I ask for helpful hints. For example 1) Don’t put you suitcase on the floor in a hotel room, 2) Don’t put your clothes in a draw, it is dirty from others dirty laundry, 3) locate a gas station as you leave the car rental place at the airport.
    If anyone wants to add to my book please send me ideas. If you want I will put your name and city next to the idea. Thanks, JIM

  72. Jim Smith says:

    I am writing a book titled “Business Travel by Pros”. It is about how to travel easily, safely, and with as little stress as possible. It is not how to travel cheaply. If I see a knowledge traveler, I give him/her a business card describing what I am doing with my e-mail address. I ask for helpful hints. For example 1) Don’t put you suitcase on the floor in a hotel room, 2) Don’t put your clothes in a draw, it is dirty from others dirty laundry, 3) locate a gas station as you leave the car rental place at the airport.
    If anyone wants to add to my book please send me ideas. If you want I will put your name and city next to the idea. Thanks, JIM
    My e-mail address is travelbook@cinci.rr.com

  73. Jim Smith says:

    I am writing a book titled “Business Travel by Pros”. It is about how to travel easily, safely, and with as little stress as possible. It is not how to travel cheaply. If I see a knowledge traveler, I give him/her a business card describing what I am doing with my e-mail address. I ask for helpful hints. For example 1) Don’t put you suitcase on the floor in a hotel room, 2) Don’t put your clothes in a draw, it is dirty from others dirty laundry, 3) locate a gas station as you leave the car rental place at the airport.
    If anyone wants to add to my book please send me ideas. If you want I will put your name and city next to the idea. Thanks, JIM
    My e-mail address is travelbook@cinci.rr.com

  74. Twitter Comment


    Testing chat catcher functionality

  75. Twitter Comment


    Testing chat catcher functionality

  76. Michael says:

    I’m the opposite, not that I seek out conversation, that’s just rude. I prefer to let my seat mate set the tone for our relationship. That may explain why I’m so comfortable with social media. As a marketer I need to be able to understand many different types of people, interests, industries, etc. Flights, or train rides are a perfect place for me to do research. I’ve learned all kinds of fascinating things during travel that have helped me be better at what I do. I even found I liked a co-worker, but not from a co-worker standpoint.

  77. Michael says:

    I’m the opposite, not that I seek out conversation, that’s just rude. I prefer to let my seat mate set the tone for our relationship. That may explain why I’m so comfortable with social media. As a marketer I need to be able to understand many different types of people, interests, industries, etc. Flights, or train rides are a perfect place for me to do research. I’ve learned all kinds of fascinating things during travel that have helped me be better at what I do. I even found I liked a co-worker, but not from a co-worker standpoint.

  78. Michelle Farnum says:

    I loved your article Ann, especially the legs touching and the uncomfortable silence when the talking stops. I tend to chat a bit, but never initiate it. Just sort of speak when spoken to. One thing I do like about these plane chats is the randomness of the information you get. Once I sat next to the top guy in charge of passenger safety at the FCC. I pumped him for tips and found out all different ways I can save my life. That time I didn’t shut up the whole trip. Another time it turned out I was sitting next to a producer happened to be working with a close friend of a very good friend of mine. She told me that my friend (who was secretly married at the time) got a speeding ticket out in the Hamptons with another woman. She described the scene in court when the judge asked if he was married and all his playboy friends gasped when he said yes. I was one of the few people who knew about the marriage, but hadn’t heard this hot-off-the-press news.
    I was getting NY scoop from a total stranger on a plane from LA!

  79. Michelle Farnum says:

    I loved your article Ann, especially the legs touching and the uncomfortable silence when the talking stops. I tend to chat a bit, but never initiate it. Just sort of speak when spoken to. One thing I do like about these plane chats is the randomness of the information you get. Once I sat next to the top guy in charge of passenger safety at the FCC. I pumped him for tips and found out all different ways I can save my life. That time I didn’t shut up the whole trip. Another time it turned out I was sitting next to a producer happened to be working with a close friend of a very good friend of mine. She told me that my friend (who was secretly married at the time) got a speeding ticket out in the Hamptons with another woman. She described the scene in court when the judge asked if he was married and all his playboy friends gasped when he said yes. I was one of the few people who knew about the marriage, but hadn’t heard this hot-off-the-press news.
    I was getting NY scoop from a total stranger on a plane from LA!

  80. Gavin Heaton says:

    Ok … well I am a chatterer. Sort of. You see, anywhere I travel is going to be a long distance – probably over night. So I am going to need to be able to move around, ask questions etc of the person next to me. And the easiest way of doing this is to establish a quick relationship with the person next to you.

    But I also gauge the level if interest of the other person. If we hit it off, then we can chat for hours. Otherwise it’s over to the book, the inflight movie or the trusty iPod.

  81. Gavin Heaton says:

    Ok … well I am a chatterer. Sort of. You see, anywhere I travel is going to be a long distance – probably over night. So I am going to need to be able to move around, ask questions etc of the person next to me. And the easiest way of doing this is to establish a quick relationship with the person next to you.

    But I also gauge the level if interest of the other person. If we hit it off, then we can chat for hours. Otherwise it’s over to the book, the inflight movie or the trusty iPod.

  82. Nicely written and I totally agree!

    Since I usually am flying with my 4 year old (who was recently an infant/toddler) I do make eye contact with passengers around us, and let them know – my child is my responsibility and if a seat is kicked please let me know if I miss it. But then with my son seated at the window, my back is usually the outer “wall” of our private cube on the plane.

    I’ve noticed most “talkers” are not frequent fliers and talk out of excitement, fear, or uncertainty.

    Noise canceling headphones are fabulous -for passengers of all ages – for many reasons!

    And one more food to add? Tuna.

    Mutual respect on planes goes a long way….

  83. Nicely written and I totally agree!

    Since I usually am flying with my 4 year old (who was recently an infant/toddler) I do make eye contact with passengers around us, and let them know – my child is my responsibility and if a seat is kicked please let me know if I miss it. But then with my son seated at the window, my back is usually the outer “wall” of our private cube on the plane.

    I’ve noticed most “talkers” are not frequent fliers and talk out of excitement, fear, or uncertainty.

    Noise canceling headphones are fabulous -for passengers of all ages – for many reasons!

    And one more food to add? Tuna.

    Mutual respect on planes goes a long way….

  84. Keith says:

    Great article! I’m not the chatting type but I met one of my dearest friends on a flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. She sat next to me and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. From there, the conversation just took off and we talked almost non-stop on that 11 hour flight (via Melbourne). We wrote to each other very frequently thereafter and we’ve visited each other several times. I visited her in Australia last year and we had a fantastic time together.
    Think it’ll be hard to have a repeat experience nowadays (though…you never know) as I usually have my noise-cancelling headphones on! Great invention, by the way.

  85. Keith says:

    Great article! I’m not the chatting type but I met one of my dearest friends on a flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. She sat next to me and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. From there, the conversation just took off and we talked almost non-stop on that 11 hour flight (via Melbourne). We wrote to each other very frequently thereafter and we’ve visited each other several times. I visited her in Australia last year and we had a fantastic time together.
    Think it’ll be hard to have a repeat experience nowadays (though…you never know) as I usually have my noise-cancelling headphones on! Great invention, by the way.

  86. Jess Sanders says:

    Oh my! #6 is most definitely my mother, who as we speak has The Mexican Hat Dance on her phone. Yes mom, you’re so very hip ;)

    I agree – I would rather forgo a potential acquaintance than risk awkward conversation. But maybe that’s the issue? Could we all put ourselves out there “in real life” more, invest a bit more in people we meet face to face? Probably.

  87. Jess Sanders says:

    Oh my! #6 is most definitely my mother, who as we speak has The Mexican Hat Dance on her phone. Yes mom, you’re so very hip ;)

    I agree – I would rather forgo a potential acquaintance than risk awkward conversation. But maybe that’s the issue? Could we all put ourselves out there “in real life” more, invest a bit more in people we meet face to face? Probably.

  88. Scott says:

    I’m very unusual, in that I prefer chatting with strangers! Since strangers don’t know me, I don’t have to worry about hurting my reputation or my relationships!

    In high school, I discovered I had a natural talent for public speaking–I won several awards, was selected as an “Outstanding Senior” in speech, and was even elected (by juniors and seniors) to speak at Graduation! There was no public-speaking program in college, but I discovered Toastmasters International–and have won one award after another in it!

    And I prefer speaking to a group of strangers (no matter how large), over conversing with a known acquaintance, friend, or relative! Even the women to whom I’m most attracted are strangers!

  89. Scott says:

    I’m very unusual, in that I prefer chatting with strangers! Since strangers don’t know me, I don’t have to worry about hurting my reputation or my relationships!

    In high school, I discovered I had a natural talent for public speaking–I won several awards, was selected as an “Outstanding Senior” in speech, and was even elected (by juniors and seniors) to speak at Graduation! There was no public-speaking program in college, but I discovered Toastmasters International–and have won one award after another in it!

    And I prefer speaking to a group of strangers (no matter how large), over conversing with a known acquaintance, friend, or relative! Even the women to whom I’m most attracted are strangers!

  90. Michelle says:

    You reached inside my head and wrote down all of the things I think when I’m flying. So funny and too true!

    I’ve had both good and uncomfortable flight-mate experiences, but the uncomfortable ones are the funniest.

    Like the case of sitting next to the silver-haired Oregon hippie who spent 15 minutes fiddling in his bag on my seat while I waited to sit down, and then told me the pathetically boring story of his slacker life. Fortunately, I only was doomed to spend half of a 6-hour flight listening because then he turned to the man on his left who had been (presumably) muttering prayers using roughly hewn prayer beads and what looked like playing cards depicting scenes of human torture while sweating profusely and giving us the shifty eye. They somehow connected on slacker lifestyles and I could retreat to my book while the guy across the aisle from me gave me a sympathetic eyeroll and convulsed in fits of silent laughter.

    I also sat next to enthusiastic young consultant from McKinsey who insisted on telling me every detail of his current consulting gig, despite the fact that 5 minutes into his monologue I realized — and told him — that he was consulting for a direct competitor of mine and really should not tell me any more. Didn’t slow him down a bit.

    But perhaps the most heart-sinking line to hear from the smartly dressed woman who has just plopped down next to you as you are settling in for a 3 hour flight is, “So, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

    People are fascinating.

  91. Michelle says:

    You reached inside my head and wrote down all of the things I think when I’m flying. So funny and too true!

    I’ve had both good and uncomfortable flight-mate experiences, but the uncomfortable ones are the funniest.

    Like the case of sitting next to the silver-haired Oregon hippie who spent 15 minutes fiddling in his bag on my seat while I waited to sit down, and then told me the pathetically boring story of his slacker life. Fortunately, I only was doomed to spend half of a 6-hour flight listening because then he turned to the man on his left who had been (presumably) muttering prayers using roughly hewn prayer beads and what looked like playing cards depicting scenes of human torture while sweating profusely and giving us the shifty eye. They somehow connected on slacker lifestyles and I could retreat to my book while the guy across the aisle from me gave me a sympathetic eyeroll and convulsed in fits of silent laughter.

    I also sat next to enthusiastic young consultant from McKinsey who insisted on telling me every detail of his current consulting gig, despite the fact that 5 minutes into his monologue I realized — and told him — that he was consulting for a direct competitor of mine and really should not tell me any more. Didn’t slow him down a bit.

    But perhaps the most heart-sinking line to hear from the smartly dressed woman who has just plopped down next to you as you are settling in for a 3 hour flight is, “So, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

    People are fascinating.

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  93. I feel the same way anne, I mean from a silent type of guy's point of view. Id rather listen to my ipod or the like. Well it really depends on the person and his/her aura. =)

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