Usually I would think that a blog about a flight goes under that “too mundane to be bothered with” category. However, this flight was truly…special. I will warn you. This is NOT an exaggeration. I know what you are thinking, “I know Liane. She exaggerates, even when she says she isn’t–she probably is.” But no, this was so far out there, exaggeration is COMPLETELY unnecessary.
Once, while using StumbleUpon (Dear Old People and Technologically Inept, I marvel at the miracle you made it to my blog. StumbleUpon is a website that sends you to random websites it thinks you might like based upon a survey you take about things you like) I read a travel advice blog that suggested always talking to the people you sit next to on a plane. It advocated, smiling and getting to know your neighbor because all people are wonderful and interesting. Because its going to be an awkward flight otherwise, right? It then used a smiley face.
Never trust a blog that uses smiley faces.
Meeting and interacting with strangers goes against my basic instincts. Strangers may have candy. If they do have candy, they are certainly not to be trusted. Thanks Mom.
Last summer on the way back from Europe, I was tired. It was the final stretch of my epic plane, train and automobile ride home. I was inflight from Philadelphia to LA, and I let my guard down. In my exhaustion, that ridiculous blog burrowed its way through my common sense. I engaged the nice woman next to me in conversation.
Turns out, she was insane. I mean laughing-to-crying-in-15 seconds-flat-batshit-crazy. I don’t remember the particulars of our conversation. I do remember she was under some delusion she was going to be a popstar. I’ve never seen a 50-something year old popstar with a red weave that had grown out halfway down her head. Lady, I can see your scalp. In case you were wondering, yes, she DID sing me one of her songs on the plane. How did she sound?
Let’s put it this way, I’d rather hear Kim Zolciak (from Real Housewives of Atlanta) sing Tardy for the Party–live, no lip syncing, without Autotune.
For those who don’t know what that means:
“I’d rather hear someone who sings really bad sing a really bad song without the computer program that makes them sound like they are actually on key.”
Here is a link to a video of said Kim Zolciak performing live on Ellen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnp4FkqQx84
I have no idea why she is singing over the track like its karaoke, oh wait, yes I do…it is because she is terrible and they are hoping to drown out her real voice. They fail.
Back to the story, so this woman is clearly crazy and recovering from some kind of hardcore drug- meth, crack, I dunno, but something is wrong with her. I try to turn back the clock. I pull out my magazine. Surely, she knows this means that the conversation is over. No, she leans over the center seat (which was empty) and reads the magazine over my shoulder.
Crazy: Oh damn girl, those shoes are hot.
Me: Yeah, they are really cute.
Crazy: I used to have a pair of shoes like those. But they were black, and booties, and they had these big roses on the side. Oh damn, I’d wear them all the time. To the clubs, to church, to the movies, to…(she continues on and on and on, like Bubba in Forrest Gump naming all the different ways to cook shrimp)
The flight ends and although I smile and nod and gracious thank her for the lovely conversation, the fates are not so merciful. She wants me to walk her to the baggage claim because she *mumble mumble mumble*. Well of course I had to, what’s the worst that could happen? By the time we reached baggage claim she attempted to get me to go to her church and she’d asked me for my number to give to her ex-convict son. Promising. I politely declined.
So, I now employ a new strategy when traveling anywhere alone. It’s called the “I’m-a-bitch-leave-me-alone” method of avoiding interaction. I designed it myself. I took a class in Interpersonal Communication at UCLA, so what I did was reverse all the means of effective communication strategies. To use this strategy, employ any/all of the following:
- Avoid eye contact. If they can’t see your eyes they are less likely to initiate conversation.
- Put in headphones. If you can’t hear them, they are less likely to talk to you.
- Read something. This helps to avoid eye contact, but is more effective with the headphones.
- Sleep. This combines the “I can’t see you, I can’t hear you” without requiring props of any sort. Very appropriate for those traveling light.
It is important to note that you don’t actually have to do any of these things, sometimes you can get away with just pretending. Who are they to judge you if you take 45 minutes to read Skymall? At least you don’t have to feign interest in their dog’s UTI.
If you do have to interact with those around you (i.e. if nature calls):
- Smile Politely. Dealing with strangers can be tricky, and if that stranger is actually a crazy, you don’t want to set them off.
- Speak really quitely. It makes them exert too much effort to hear you and they are less likely to want to continue talking to you.
- Give one word answers to all questions. They ask, “Is that a good book?” You answer “Yes or No”. It is appropriate to use more than one word if it is noncommital and vague, further exhibiting your lack of desire to discuss. I.e. “Dunno yet.”
- Do not ask open ended question. Stick to things like “May I pass you to use the bathroom?” (Though “Excuse me” is preferred).
Yes, I know how this sounds. But remember, you aren’t really a bitch, you are just acting like one.
When I boarded the plane to DC, I started off great. I sat in my aisle seat, and when a nice, professional-looking red-headed lady came to sit at the window seat I smiled politely and let her through. She sat, turned to me and said “Let’s hope that’s it for the row, right?” Another polite smile, no eye contact, “I know, right?” I replied.
A girl my age approaches. I hear my mom’s voice (she may or may not be my conscience), “Make a friend. Maybe she’s going to school out there. Stop being so shy.” This isn’t shyness, this is caution and self-preservation. I smile politely, and let her through. She offers me gum-what did I say about strangers with candy? Obviously this girl was not to be trusted.
What happened next was the most absurd conversation I may have ever heard.
Within the first 5 minutes, these two had revealed the following about themselves:
- The older (though not old) of the two-let’s call her Red-was 56. She was traveling to DC to meet up with a group of women (her girlfriends) she grew up with in NY. One of them had breast cancer, this one was the second of the group of 5 to have breast cancer. The other was named Kathy. She joyfully said “Kathy kicked cancer.” Then as if a thought crossed her mind, she decided to add “At least for now.” Really uplifting stuff. She works for Hilton and her husband worked in theater but got a studio job in LA, so he works there now.
- The younger-let’s call her DJ- was actually, a DJ. However, she was currently working as a massage therapist. She hated flying and brought a coloring book to take her mind off the flying. She also had two margaritas at the airport bar. She was going to DC to see her girlfriend.*(see below)
- Red comments that she also hates flying, but she doesn’t really drink often. She prefers smoking marijuana.
- DJ also enjoys smoking marijuana, but is curious whether Red prefers a body high or a head high.
- They both decide that body highs are unsettling, and they don’t like when they hit you too late and then suddenly you realize you’ve had too much. (I should note there were children in the row across from us. They learned valuable lessons that day.)
- DJ reveals that she is half-black, half-Japanese and that she was a military baby, born in Japan but moved to the States when she was 4.
- Red thinks this is very romantic.
- DJ parents are no longer together. She has a tattoo of her mom’s name on her head above her ear.
- Red wants to know what they think of her in Japan.
- DJ says they think she is dark. (Rocket scientist, here)
- Red is curious if she has anything in common with Japanese men.
- DJ replies that she has only one thing in common with Japanese men, liking women.
- Red says that she is a loud mouth, but it is because she is from New York and is Jewish.
- DJ says black people are blunt loud mouths too. She repeats that she is going to DC to visit her girlfriend, who is a Scorpio.
- Red wants to know what a good souvenir is to bring back to her office workers.
- DJ thinks, then replies “a statue dildo”.
Clearly, when I think of DC, I think of statue dildos. And what better way to show your office manager you were thinking of him/her than by bringing that back! The conversation continued in such a manner–this was just the first 5 minutes.
I don’t understand why people need to share their life stories with strangers That’s why you have friends, family and therapy. As I was writing that I realized that it was maybe the most hypocritical thing ever written on a public blog. I’m going to own it.
But not only were they on their life stories, but having a full out discussion of their vices-drug use, sexual history, health problems, etc… Give me a break and hand me my headphones.
About 15 minutes before we landed, I did decide to take off the bitch mask for a while. I recommended some restaurants to Red and told her which areas were best for live music and some DC culture. I answered DJ when she asked me what my sign was, “Scorpio, I’m a pain in the ass.” She laughed. She repeated that her girlfriend was a Scorpio, and asked if there was anything I thought she would like for her birthday.
Sure, she told me she wanted a statue dildo at our last Scorpio meeting. No, I bit my tongue, smiled politely and said “I’m sure that she’d probably like something that she said she wanted when she didn’t think you were listening.” Red smiled.
We descended into DC in a thunder/lightning storm. There was no rain as we were landing, but the tarmac was damn from a light drizzle earlier in the evening. The turbulence was bad-not the worst I’ve ever experienced, but bad. Poor DJ ordered a shot of tequila from the flight attendant, put her coloring book away and closed her eyes. When we hit the tarmac, we bounced. The carts in the back of the airplane shook and trays flew down the aisle as the back of the plane swerved side-to-side. It was the worst landing I’ve ever sat through.
But I made it here safe. Took a taxi to GW, hauled my bags up to my room and started settling in.
(see here)*This brings me to a very important point that I’ve wanted to make for a while. When a person of my parents/grandparents generation says they are going to see their girlfriend they mean female friend. When a female of my generation uses the word girlfriend, they mean they are a lesbian. The exception is that a person may say they are going out with their “girlfriends” meaning group of female friends. And this isn’t so strange. Sure, it’s a result of the feminist movement, but let’s explore this a little further:
If I’m met up with Ashley Shirk my grandma might say, “Did you have fun with your girlfriend?” No big deal, right?
If Ralf met up with one of his guy friends my grandma would never say, “Did you have fun with your boyfriend?”
Because the more you drink, the better you think my writing is, I propose a toast, “To strange people in strange lands.”
When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.
~Leonardo Da Vinci