Wednesday, January 9, 2013
As I was boarding my flight to Hawaii to this morning, a disheveled older man with a scraggly beard who was standing a few people ahead of me in the queue to get on the plane, began rifling through a trash can that was sitting right next to the line of people getting on the plane. He plunged shoulder deep into the trash emerging seconds later with a triumphant look on his face and a discarded coffee cup. He swigged back whatever liquid remained before tossing the cup back into the trash from whence it had come.
I watched the scene unfold with only one (obvious) thought echoing through my mind: please don’t let this man be seated next to me on the plane! I changed the phrase to myself like a mantra, as if I could somehow ward him off and change reality if in fact the man was holding a ticket for seat 30B (the seat next to mine). Please don’t let him be sitting next to me. Please don’t let him be sitting next to me. I silently pleaded as I hand my ticket to the flight attendant at the gate and made my way down the ramp to the plane.
The closer I got to my seat, 30A, the smaller the buffer of people there was between myself and the crazy dirty coffee man, until, around row 25, I was directly behind him. I held my breath, partially in anticipation and partly because the man smelled exactly like what you would think a man who drinks back washed coffee out of a trash can would smell like. My internal chanting became more desperate and specific: God, please don’t let this man be in seat 30B! Please, oh please, don’t let me spend the next 7 hours of my life elbow to elbow with a man who has such little regard for social conformity that he shamelessly - proudly even – fishes through trash cans and guzzles the dregs of other peoples discarded coffee in front of an audience of dozens of people who will soon be sharing a plane with him.
I continued to follow behind the man, passing row 26, row 27, 28, 29 and then to my great relief, he walked passed row thirty. Continuing deeper into the bowels of the plane where he would be someone else’s problem. I jubilantly crammed by carry-on bag into the overhead big above my seat and shoved my laptop case under the seat in front of mine.
There was only one seat between my window seat and the aisle of the plane, and for a long while, that seat remained empty. I began to visualize myself luxuriously sprawled across the seats in the lap of luxury on my flight to tropical island vacation, but fate did not deal me that particular hand. As it happened, shortly before they closed the doors from the plane, a tall, attractive young man wearing Stanford University volleyball team sweats eased himself into the seat next to me.
My new seat partner immediately offered to switch and let me have the aisle seat if I preferred. “No thanks. I don’t like the aisle, I take it you prefer the window seat as well?”
“Yeah, it’s easier to sleep when you can lean against it. I thought I’d booked the window. Oh well” He replied
“yeah. I like that too.” I said dismissively.
Even though he’d been looking out for his own interests, I started to feel bad about not offering to switch seats with him when he chivalrously got up a minute later to help a hapless old lady with her bag. She had been trying to get help from the flight attendants in finding a space for her rolling carry-on bag, but after several minutes the flight attendants more or less gave up and told her she would have to pay to check it. Upon hearing this, the guy got up and sprung to action, saying “ I think I see a way to make this work.”
He began re arranging bags in the overhead compartments, transferring them from one compartment to the other and fitting them perfectly into place (as if he were masterfully playing a real life game of Tetris). What made the feat all the more impressive was the way he would grab a piece of luggage from one compartment, then look instantly at the appropriate person and ask “is this your bag – can I move it?” each time having correctly identified the bags owner, he would receive polite consent. When he had finished moving the bags that had already been in the overhead bins, he reached over and took the old woman’s bag easing it into the perfectly sized space he’d created in one of the bins. The woman gratefully offered to buy my seatmate a drink when we arrived in Maui. He just flashed a winning smile at her, as he shrugged, saying “it was no big problem”.
After he was done heroically aiding the elderly lady, he slid into the seat next to me and eased himself into conversation with me as nimbly as he’d eased the bags into place. After discussing the vacations we were each embarking on, he told me about how he had worked for a while as PE teacher in Hawaii, then switched his career up, becoming an investment banker in New York, but found that to be ultimately un-fulfilling so was back in school again getting a masters in creative writing with the hopes of becoming a writing teacher after completing his degree and publishing a book.
I was even happier at that point to be sitting next to that kind, interesting young man than I would have been if I had had the whole row to myself. I seem to keep running into people lately living lives that embody different aspects of things that I want to do. I tried to glean as much information about writing and the possible benefit in obtaining a masters in creative writing as I could from my new acquaintance. The main thing I got out of our conversation was that it is impossible to be a writing teacher without publishing a book, and it is greatly helpful to publish a book if you take a lot of “writing workshop” classes and gain connections with fellow students and professors in a writing class. I however, feel that when it comes time for me to think about final edits and publishing, I can probably find a less formal group to “workshop” my writing. Still, it was good to get his perspective.
I did however lose some respect and admiration for the kid when, about half an hour before we landed, he turned to me and said, “hey check out this little Haiku I really like.” And then showed me a little book he had of Haikus and pointed to one about wearing sandals in the summer and spring or something. There is something about guys being into poetry that I just don’t approve of. I always feel suspicious that they are just pretending to like poetry to seem more appealing to women, but then if they actually are into poetry, I feel like they are less masculine than most men. I know it’s judgmental of me, but it’s just an immediate reaction that I can’t quiet in myself. Since this particular guy had already mentioned he was an aspiring writer and had already proven his chivalry, when we parted ways, I was left with an overall positive impression of him.
As I sat in the airport after my encounter with this stranger, I began to reflect on the chance meetings I’ve had lately. I am not a fatalist, but Career-wise, the “things happen for a reason” person would probably tell me that, the world is cheering me on and encouraging me in the direction I’m moving. Running into Anosh on New Years, who works in marketing, and this guy on the airplane, who works in writing, has given me insight into two aspects that I would like to weave into a career. Plus my company’s encouragement of me in taking over the Shamrock Facebook page is another good sign. I am not sure if writing for advertisements is ultimately where I will end up, but at least it’s a good direction to point myself while I continue to search for what’s write and build up an appealing skill set to put on my resume.
On the other hand a “things happen for a reason person” might tell me that the seemingly ceaseless challenges I’ve been facing due to cohabitation lately and think that the world was telling me that I need to just live by myself. (First having to find an immediate living situation for myself, then finding a permanent one, then having to find tenants for Tony’s and my home when he decided to move out and now having to find more roommates for my new home since two out of three of my current roommates have decided to take up residence elsewhere… it’s exhausting).
My career and living situation are both challenging aspects of my life that require more thought and attention than I’d like right now, but I am still confident that I will end up in the right place on both fronts… and hopefully I’ll meet more attractive intelligent young men to offer me more guidance along the way too.