Thursday, November 19, 2015

Strangers On A Plane

Three years ago today ( I know this because of that pesky Time hop app) I boarded a plane in Denver back to California.  I had just spent an exhausting 4 days in Nashville where I rode a roller coaster of emotions, mostly one stemmed in confusion and a little bit of anger.  This post isn't about that trip though.

This post is about a guy I met on a plane.  No we didn't fall in love.  No we never spoke again, but I did learn an important lesson regarding kindness and human decency that flight.

I boarded the plane in Denver in a rush as I almost missed it.  I searched for seats further back but there was a long line of people still waiting to find seats.  I looked to my right and found a center seat... I hate the middle seat.  It was between a man in his 30's and a woman close to my grandmother's age.  Without a thought and with pure anxiety and exhaustion motivating I asked to sit there.  I felt rude, but I knew someone HAD to sit there.  

I settled into my seat praying for the flight to be quick and easy.  As the plane headed down the tarmac, the guy next to me removed his sweatshirt completely elbowing me in face.  It was enough to cause tears to stream down my face.  

I wasn't hurt.  I wasn't angry.  I had just hit the emotional state of "of course this would fucking happen to me" as I held my eye thinking I would have quite the shiner the next day.  He immediately apologized and continued to do so until we were up in the air.  As he continued to apologize, I kept saying, "it's ok, I am just a mess" over and over again.

As the plane ascended into the sky, he looked over at me and said "If we die at least I got to elbow  a pretty girl in the face resulting in her crying and eventually her talking to me."  I believe at that moment in time I just stared at him.  What does a person say to that?  If you're me , you just stare in disbelief instead of laughing hysterically through the tears.

As the plane leveled out so did my emotions and I learned the name of my friends to my right.  Mike from Denver.  He was heading to Southern California on business.  We talked about our jobs, our families and what made me burst into tears other than being elbowed in the face.  As the stewardess rolled by, he thought nothing of buying a beer for me.  What can I say I looked like I really needed a drink.

As the flight when on, so did our conversation.  Mike turned out to be a really nice guy that felt really bad for elbowing me in the face.  I shared the dramas of my trip and he offered words of kindness with some hilarity thrown in for good measure.  He was a decent guy who actually cared.  Cared enough that he was concerned my ride might not be at the airport because I had joked that my mom would probably forget me as that was how my trip had been.

As we got off the plane we never said goodbye to each other, we sort of got pushed this way and that way into the crowds.  As I grabbed my luggage and headed for the double doors I heard my name and looked over to see Mike give me a big smile and a wave. 

In that moment I realized that there are still genuine people in the world.  Ones that would give you the shirt off of their back if you needed it.  I just needed a laugh on that plane ride and Mike did that.  I felt at peace when I got off the plane and that the bad parts of what had happened on my trip didn't matter so much as the fun parts did.  That split second decision to sit next to Mike made all the difference in my night. 

If total strangers can be kind to one another maybe there is hope for our world.