So I have a question for you -Do you normally talk to your neighbors on airplanes or pretty much just sit down with your headphones on and pretend to go right to sleep? Personally, I usually go with the latter. But, sometimes you meet quality people when you least expect it.
Two weeks ago I was on a midday flight from Denver to JFK to meet up with the group I was vacationing with for our flight to Morocco. Due to the time difference, I had to get out of Denver earlier in the day to be in New York for our 8pm group flight. I was technically working that day so I went in early, worked for a few hours and was still clearing up some last minute items while waiting to board the plane.
When I got to my aisle seat, I had my noise-cancelling headphones on, my laptop accessible and I opened it up and continued to work as soon as we reached altitude.
As many of us do nowadays, I glanced at the two people next to me, smiled and went about my business in my own little bubble. I worked for about an hour and then bought lunch when the flight attendants came around. The older lady in the window seat got my attention and let me know the bag from the sandwich I just purchased was leaking. We swapped it out and thus, she saved me from a soggy lunch.
After I finished, I was reaching for my laptop again when the older gentleman next to me taps me and says “Before you get all set up again, I need to see a man about a horse”. I laughed and got up so he could go to the restroom. When he returned, I pulled my laptop out and started back in on my never-ending email.
A few minutes go by and he starts talking to me. So I took my headphones off and found he was commenting on Outlook and how it looked like “some other guy’s program I was sitting next to”. I showed him a few things and he thought it was terrible people had to deal with “that many emails”. That’s when I realized he had a heavy New York accent and that they must’ve been visiting Colorado. My natural curiosity set in and I asked them about their trip.
Turns out this couple has been married for 50 years, raised three kids and put them through college and now travel to see all the things they missed out on. They are in their early 70s and I was surprised as hell to find out how adventurous they are. She even went zip lining in Costa Rica a few years ago!
They were telling me how they toured around Colorado and how they tried a different ethnic restaurant every night. Their favorite was a Thai restaurant were they apparently made friends with the owner. The lady who would buy restaurants, make them profitable, sell them and then go see the world with the proceeds until it was time to do it all over again. The man was fascinated with her as she had a younger boyfriend and said “Man, she was a tiger!” with a big look in his eyes. Cracked me up.
As we talked, I found out he was Ted and she was Bobbi and that Ted had been in the fashion business and the insurance business and that Bobbi had worked at the New York Public Library in the Children’s section for over 40 years. They told me of life in the Bronx, of raising their kids and how she now wants to move to Manhattan and he hates the city. Typical, right?
Ted gave me a tip to use a car service instead of Uber when I came back (I needed to get from a hotel by JFK to LaGuardia at 4am yesterday and it ended out working perfectly). He wanted to hear about my trip when I came back and asked for my email address. I gave him one of my business cards and Bobbi was going to put in her bag. Ted took it right away and says “No, this is going in my wallet!” He was a riot.
All of this to say, I’m so glad he started talking to me – I would’ve missed out on meeting some great people. Don’t get me wrong – there are times I get on a plane and I don’t even want to look at people, let alone talk to them. But with so many people ignoring each other lately, it becomes easier and easier to just ignore them back. After all, they’re strangers.
Ted was true to his word and emailed me the next day. I sent him a reply yesterday when I got back to work and he sent me one right back. He has questions about my trip and what it was like to be in Morocco and he finished it with “it seems to be a good place to sell fence-post diggers”. And – you guessed it – I cracked up again!