Sunday, June 17, 2018

A story unfolds on a plane



    I don’t know why I am writing about a bizarre experience I witnessed on a plane. Perhaps, you had to have been there to find it amusing. Then again, you might decide that it is an example of rude behavior, and scold me for making light of it. 
     People go about life oblivious to those around them. Take that lesson from my column if it suits you. 
     Here’s how the story unfolded and got put back together. 
     On an overnight flight from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand I was seated next to a young gentleman in his twenties who was spotlessly dressed in a shiny black suit with a thin dark tie and a crisp white shirt. 
     We nodded and went about our own business anticipating dinner, our sleep hours and skipping forward a day passing the International Dateline. He was glued to his iPad.
     In the past while in assorted countries, I have seen men in Economy class similarly dressed wearing a uniformly acceptable style for a midlevel businessperson. 
    Compared to the way other people dress for long flights, this gentleman was on the formal side. Even I felt a little grungy in my comfortable, loose outfit seated next to him. I had been on planes all day getting to the West Coast.  
     After our meal was served, I hopped up from my aisle seat and went to the lavatory to brush my teeth and do what I could to mentally prepare myself for a few hours of shuteye. When I returned back, my seatmate wanted out. He reached into the overhead compartment, opened his suitcase and took out a plastic packing cube. He reverently carried it flat in both arms to the lavatory like a valuable object that couldn’t get harmed. 
     I walked the aisle to stretch my legs and sat in my seat killing time before he returned. Then I could I buckle in, pull up my blanket and close my eyes. He didn’t appear to be the kind of person who would nudge me every hour or so to get up throughout the night. 
     I waited. And waited. I glanced up a head to the lavatory and noticed a line up of people knocking on the door. It was rush hour. Patience was running thin. A flight attendant was called, and she banged on the door. No luck. 
     When the flight attendant passed my row I pointed to the empty seat next to me, and she thanked me. Once in awhile a kid fiddles with the latch and it locks when they leave she told me. Not in this case. 
      Eventually, and I mean eventually, my seatmate came out of the lavatory in a gray short sleeve t-shirt, baggy pajama bottoms with little gold designs and floppy slippers. 
     My rough guesstimate of the time was twenty-five minutes in and out, and I’m not exaggerating.
     He looked at the line-up of restless travelers, but was unaware that he had overextended his stay. In fact, he nodded ever so politely to each one. I felt others were holding back out of courtesy, too. There could have been an international situation here. 
     People are not mindful of the space they share with others.  
     He carefully opened the overhead bin, placed his packing cube into his suitcase and came to his seat. 
     I thought to myself that if that suit stays folded and comes out unscathed, then my seatmate is a testimony for one of the big travel outfits pushing plastic cubes. 
     After eight hours of darkness, light began showing through the cracks in the window slits, and I got up to do my usual morning routine hoping to beat the line. I did. 
     Next up came my seatmate and he performed the entire routine in reverse. The line up of folks waited to take care of nature’s urgent needs was somewhat more restless.
     When he walked back up to our row he was immaculately groomed down to the finest detail including a whiff of aftershave a bit overpowering the area.  He was in his suit and dress shoes once again. 
     He put the cube back into his suitcase and closed the overhead bin.
     He was a neat freak, and I’ll hand him that.
     Honestly, I cracked up laughing under my breath. 
     Perhaps he was dashing off the plane directly into an important meeting that could shape his destiny well into the present century. 
     I can imagine all I want. The scene would fit into a paragraph or two at one point or another in the future. Not like other writers who journal all these threads right at the moment, I remember them in my head.
     I had to share this unfolding story with someone right away. It was too priceless to let go.
     My friend was sitting a couple rows a head of me, and I went up to her and asked if she had witnessed this young man’s actions during the past fifteen hours. She hadn’t seen a thing. She did say with her usual dry wit that she was glad that I found something to be amused over. Her seatmate had snored all night and she wasn’t in the brightest of moods without her rest. I feared that we would be having a long day with many cups of coffee together.
     Social media and technology have made us into a society often insensitive to others in face-to-face situations. We hold up our devices and fail to see the world passing in front of us unless someone gets in our way.