Plane Stories (The Newsy Traveler)


I love traveling. In particular, I love flying. I crave the organized chaos of the airport as people from far and wide gather tidily and are then dispatched onto planes to parts unknown. I love the steady whirr of the engines as the plane miraculously launches itself into the atmosphere filled with humans reading, talking, praying, laughing. But mostly, I love the undeniable people-y part of flying. As I write this, I'm on a flight home from Halifax where I have been for just a day. I've just spent three hours at the airport gathering careful and thoughtful observations of fellow travelers. In other words, I was getting news! It's a favourite pass time of Chris and I. We scan the crowd, share our observations and then scan again. Tonight, I watched a bohemian German couple laugh giddily as they boarded a flight to a land and a family that awaited their return, their signature scarves draped carefully around their necks. I saw two older women rock in big wooden chairs, knitting, chatting, surmising. Finally, I listened to two young Torontonian women have a conversation that could only be accurately described as "good as a concert"! Statements such as "This red wine is like hurting my teeth" and "A guy should always arrive at your house with something, even frozen meatballs " give you some indication of their colourful and frenzied exchange. To their credit, they did ask me if my cheeseburger was tasty and then stated their commitment to vegetarianism. Leaving the German couple, the knitting nannies and the Kardashians behind, I am now on a plane heading home and the stories continue to follow me....or am I following them? I'm sitting next to an older gentleman named Dave. Earlier in the flight, I convinced myself that he was a semi-famous blues singer from the depths of Mississippi. There was something about his slick, tidy gray hair and black leather jacket that allowed me to imagine him in a smoky bar on a Wednesday night, belting out throaty, heart-wrenching tunes. I was wrong. He's a retired welder from Gander who had lived in Cambridge for half a century. He shared his life story in bite size pieces as we traversed the Cabot Strait and ate beet chips. I reciprocated, sharing pieces of my own history. He asked if we had children. When I said we didn't, he held out his left hand, leading me to gasp "You have five children!" to which the poor man responded, "No. I'm showing you my bare ring finger. I never married". He boldly and honestly revealed that he didn't take a wife fearing that she would take his money! We attach so many meanings and purposes and descriptions to the experience of flying but rarely do we point to the value of connecting with other human beings as we doddle along thirty thousand feet in the air. So, the next time you find yourself knee to knee with a stranger, be it on a plane, a train, a boat, or even in the back of a truck, lay aside that trusty companion of ours, Mr. iPhone for three minutes, extend yourself, ask a question, make a connection. You have lots to say. Talk about the foggy Spring, the price of crab, the fact that you can buy panty hose and socks at Lawton's in Placentia. Just connect. You'll be glad you did. And if someone says you're newsy, tell them you're a harvester of stories. That should do it.   


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