Monday, December 14, 2009

And in conclusion....

(Lest the timestamp on this entry mislead you, I probably won’t get this posted until tomorrow as I won’t be home tonight until too late to want to turn back on my computer.)

First off- Please forgive the personal moment but as is all too easy to do with strangers, I can’t help myself. Every time I leave Boston, I have to say goodbye to my heart for awhile. Such is the nature of long-distance relationships, but it doesn’t make it any easier to do. As I say goodbye and walk back into the terminal after what is always too short of a visit, I consistently have the urge to turn around and run back (slow motion style of course) like in a romantic comedy’s compulsory happy ending. However life is not, much to my chagrin, a movie. Inevitably I give a last glance, set my jaw, and head to the security line to go home, since in the words of Robert Frost, “I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

So here it is, the last airline seat of the weekend. It’s a good one at least, seat 10A, which on a Boeing 757 is both a window, and an aisle seat as it has no one in front of it. So as I stretch my legs out shamelessly, I realize that I can’t get away from writing about a crazy weekend of air travel without the compulsory discussion on “single serving” friends. As anyone who’s seen “Fight Club” knows, this is a quite adept name for pretty much anyone you’ll meet in the air or in an airport. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the movie, here’s the clip. Though his connotation on the phenomenon is more ominous than mine, I think it makes a good point, and a great term.

The term "single-serving friend" is perfect, and I have found myself many times deep in discussion about my life with someone I’ve just met minutes ago while on a flight. There’s something enthralling about talking to a total stranger who you will likely never see again, but with whom for a few hours you have a shared experience. For example, last weekend I met a woman whos husband had taken two very successful footware companies public, and as she put it, spent his life “looking at people’s feet.” Before the end of the flight, she was telling me about how she had given her first son up for adoption when she was 18, and had found him almost 20 years later, then learning that he was gay. Luckily for them both, (after a period of soul-searching) she has taken a “love him no matter who he loved” approach, and have become close, to their mutual benefit. It’s stories like those that make me try to turn to the person next to me and offer an icebreaker, usually a simple, “Going home?”

So far this weekend, due to some empty flights and taking the overnight, I hadn’t made any single-serving friends. However, life saved the best for last. I’m sitting in the same row with a true travel maven (for a definition of "mavens" see the entry below). His wealth of knowledge puts me to shame. Firstly, he is part owner of an airline. That alone should give you an idea of how in depth his knowledge of the subject is. He asks me if I’m going home or to work, and I (sheepishly) tell him that I was going home from a weekend of essentially pointless flying. He however just nods and agrees that the double miles make it completely logical. He then informs me that he each year reaches Platinum Status for American, the “1K” club for Delta, and it’s counterpart on Lufthansa (I feel now that there might be one more I’m missing, but am not about to ask him to repeat it). Mind you, none of these is the airline he has part interest in.

The plane takes off, and I watch as we climb at the rain streaking across the window as it changes to thick snow. I start to know how Rudolph might feel on a particularly stormy night. I settle in, and our conversation shifts and my neighbor asks me a “trivia” question: Which is farther, Sydney to San Francisco, or Sydney to Los Angeles? I do a quick geography sketch in my head and come out with the right answer- Los Angeles (it’s further inland and the flightplan takes you across the Pacific.)

In true single-serving friend form, I learn a few things from him I didn’t know. For starters, that the longest nonstop flight in existence is from Singapore to Canada, and that this is the only flight in the top ten list of longest flights he has yet to take. I tell him that “it’s good to have goals,” and he answers he’s not in any hurry.

His maven nature does not, however, end at airlines and routes. He’s also well-versed in the must-haves for the serious traveler. Upon unpacking his laptop he points to the bottom layer of the plastic, informing me that the entire thing is the battery which will last continuously from Los Angeles to South Africa (he, at this moment has it still turned on sitting on the seat next to him while he works on something else, just to make the point). Further, noticing my Bose headsets, he asks expertly if they are “the new 15s?” I look at them stupidly for a moment, having no idea, and in the end we both decide they aren’t.

He settles in to work on his super-maven computer, and I unpack mine (seeing it’s the same model but mine will not last on a flight across either ocean without being re-charged) and start writing about him shamelessly, using 10pt font (grey for privacy). I’ve gotten used to being the more-traveled of the people I have met lately, and I’m feeling a bit upstaged by my travel companion. To that end, however, I would like to point out two things: 1) He’s about 25 years my senior, and 2) I think he copied my choice of beverage.

Time to kick back for a few hours and decide if I’m just tired enough to watch Will Ferrel in green tights, or if I’d rather watch the first season of Better off Ted over again. This weekend has been an experience to say the least, and I’ve enjoyed writing this as it helps me feel like someone else out there might be following along. Air travel is at once a very solitary experience, and one that gives you the chance to connect with people you might never otherwise know existed, with drastically different life stories than yours. I’ve enjoyed sharing this small one of mine, and have intentions of keeping it up in the future.

Thanks again for reading, and best wishes for wherever you might be on your journey.


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