A Cosmopolitan and a Nap
By Lindsey Y.
Oof! I plopped into an itchy polyester chair, the aisle seat of the other three. Looking at my ticket my seat letter was C. Quickly I scooted over to the middle itchy polyester seat glancing my rump on a metal seatbelt buckle. While trying to discreetly rub the pain away I wondered why an airplane line would letter its seats A, B, D, C, E. My hypothesis: they enjoyed laughing at the unlucky person who got seat C and had to scoot from aisle to middle causing her to hit her derričre on the seat buckle. At least that conjecture fit these stewardesses. Catching one smirking at me I threw her a glare. It wasn’t my fault if the airline company didn’t know its alphabet.
By now you may have noticed that I am not a frequent flyer and normally you’d be right. But, in the past five days I had flown five times. I was actually on a cultural tour with my ballet company of Beaufort and Gullah Island, South Carolina, and Houma, Louisiana. Ironically, this tour was about understanding others and learning about people before you judged them. For me, five plane rides plus security checks every 10 feet plus a sore butt equaled the end of my patience. Hearing laughter I sighed. Somehow my friends all managed to sit together, but two empty seats on either side of me were my only companions.
As the flow of people boarding began to taper off, a supermodel-esque black lady with knock-off Gucci sunglasses looked from her ticket to my previous aisle seat, and, connecting the two, alighted on the diamond-checkered fabric. Almost immediately, the man behind her struck up a conversation. I inwardly snorted. Just as I found a less itchy position, the missing person in our seat trio boarded. Trying to hide my displeasure at being forced to move, I followed Supermodel into the aisle almost tripping over my bag. Without even a ‘sorry for making you move’, the bald, young black man clambered into seat E. Finally I flopped into my prickly seat, banging my left hand in the process, but neither person looked concerned, or looked up. Great parents we have here, was my thought. Without any attempt at conversation with someone who was in pain from hitting her hand on her armrest Supermodel pulled out Cosmopolitan magazine, an R&B CD and headphones, pushed play, and began reading. Turning my head to see if seat E had anything interesting to talk about, I saw him absorbed in the scenery outside the plane. Thinking about how boring this flight was going to be I settled down… not completely minding my own business.
Bing! Bing! Glowing red, the light-up man fastened his seatbelt all over the plane. It was like my old English teacher catching me daydreaming during a punctuation lecture. Slyly (I had thought) I was stealing glances at my co-plane mates: Seat E and Don’t-Talk-to-Me-I’m-Absorbed-In-My-Cosmopolitan-and-Music Girl. Not that I’m saying they were rude, it’s just that after five plane rides in five days I got offended a little easier. Though I tried that guaranteed social strategy of a shy, ‘welcoming’ smile, which probably came across as a hungry tiger … no go.
After about five minutes on the runway, the fountain of conversation to the right of me dropped off to sleep. Out of pure curiosity and for lack of anything better to do, I took notice of him. Snores had his head tilted on a window sleeping soundly. Obviously he had flown before.
His left hand was draped over my armrest like an unwanted accessory. Naturally I stole a glance at his ring finger and there was the gold band. Wondering if his wife was the socially ungracious, twenty-something woman next to me I looked at the hand propping up her chin. Apparently we were all strangers.
While I was pretending to read my book, the lady on my left became a subject of the corner of my eye, shall we say. I found she was amazingly gifted. Not only did she ignore her only conscious, fellow passenger (hum!) she read Cosmopolitan magazine and listened to R & B while singing along with it. Despite her abrasive first impression, her voice was surprisingly smooth and soothing. Two points for Cosmo lady; Zero for Snores. While still pretending to read my book, I tried to check out July’s issue of Cosmopolitan. No go because at that moment the pilot flashed on the seatbelt sign and the woman looked up.
Now the plane gradually aimed for a touch down. Cosmopolitan magazine was gently folded, replaced, and the R & B rapper was suddenly silent. Calmly the woman clicked her seatbelt as I struggled with my bag.
Seconds before the wheels hit pavement, the guy on my right woke up and lazily straightened his shirt. The landing rattled our heads and made Cosmo lady’s bazillion earrings clink together. While I was watching the scenery flash by and we slowed to a stop, I felt the urge to laugh at my impressions of my plane mates. Trying to suppress it I turned away.
Then it happened. I smiled right at the Cosmopolitan lady. Amazingly she smiled back and helped me with my dance bag still stuck under the seat in front of me. As we left the flight she commented to me about all the flying she had been doing in the past few days. Realizing that I had something in common with a woman I thought my complete opposite, I began a conversation about how much flying I had been doing. By the time the rest of our company exited the plane I had learned that Cosmo lady’s real name was Karen, and she was on her way to visit family in New Orleans. After we had parted I realized that in that one meeting I had gained a new view on the whole point of our tour. I had learned an important lesson: before you judge people talk to them. You never know what could happen.