Caption: These very civilized lemurs could be invited to my wedding someday.
I’ve had a plan since I was 14. I will meet my husband when we sit next to each other on a plane. We will have effortless, engaging conversation during the flight, meet up in our destination city, and live without fuss, H.E.A. (happily ever after).
The only issue is that I’ve taken many flights since I was 14 and I have not met my husband. Not even once! This troubles me.
In the terminal I survey my fellow passengers with moderate interest. I’m curious to observe who may sit next to me and become my husband, but I make no effort to attract or interact with these men who are merely on my flight. Only if he sits next to me can we fall passionately, but sensibly in love. That’s the plan.
In my window seat I watch passengers file in. I perk up when an attractive man approaches my row. I slump when he passes.
I have yet to meet my husband when he sits next to me on a plane. Instead, here are: The People Who Sit Next to Me on Planes…
1) Elderly Chinese woman who want me to marry their grandsons because I go to Harvard. I say, “is your grandson sitting next to me on a plane? No? Then I’m sorry, but I can’t marry him.”
2) I noticed a nearly obese man in the terminal, which prompted me to wonder at what point they make you buy two seats. That man sat next to me.
3) Most often, no one. The plane will be entirely full save for one empty seat, right next to me. Most people would consider this great fortune. But for me it suggests that I am destined to NEVER meet my husband and die alone (which admittedly is preferable to dying with cats). When no one sits next to me I put Adele on my iPod, look out the window reflectively, and get mopey-tipsy off plane wine.
4) Self-important, dad-looking businessmen who are accustomed to first class, but have been cast to coach by some horrific snafu. They comport themselves like martyrs and try to commiserate with you about the hardships of coach—ignoring or oblivious to the fact that this is all you have ever known.
The flight attendants fawn over these men and give them profuse perks (future upgrades, current alcohol and snacks). The businessmen huff, cross their arms, and begrudgingly accept the material amends. You begrudgingly pay for a “Tapas Snack Box” with hummus that must be squirted out of a cardboard tube onto a cracker.
5) One time I abdicated my window seat so that a darling child could sit next to her mother. Yes, I am that selfless, compassionate, and good-hearted (and did not want to sit next to a supervisionless child for 6 hours). I was relocated to a middle seat between a 25-year-old Indian-American woman and her elderly, Indian-Indian father.
He was sweet and puttering. She was impatient and overtly competent at everything.
They passed food items and napkins and whatchamacallits back and forth as if I did not exist. And yet—they pried on all of my doings as if I did exist.*
(*and I did exist)
We exchanged introductions. I heard about why they were in London. I heard about the (kind of) famous people they saw. I heard about how the father lost his wallet one night.
He shook his head with weary, repentant eyes, “I thought it was in my pocket. I don’t know. It was most bizarre.”
She interjected like an eager tattletale, “He must have left it in the taxi. We traced all of our steps. Went everywhere we had been that day. He must have left it in the taxi.”
“Oh boy,” I contributed. This is a safe response to most things in most situations.
I put in my headphones and covered my eyes with my complimentary American Airlines eyemask.
Moments later an index finger is aggressively poking my left forearm. I raise my eyemask, remove an earbud, and look at her expectantly.
She asks, “Are you sleeping?”
“Yes. I am sleeping.”
“Oh, okay… Well I just wanted to ask you a few questions.”
And then we talk about the graduate school application process.
After a 20 minutes discussion that answers all questions, turns every stone, elucidates all unknowns of the universe, she is satisfied and I am wishing that the plane would enter some vortex that makes me no longer exist. But of course this won’t happen because I never get my way—even though I’m selfless, compassionate, and good-hearted enough to abdicate my window seat to reunite a mother and child.
I begin to read my book, Very Good, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse. If you’re not familiar with this series and author I’ll just refer you to the Wikipedia description. I want to read it before returning to school because my advisor recommended that I read it “for a chuckle.” I’m always scrambling for small talk that will glean his approval, so if he casually suggests that I read a book, I must read that book and contrive the most brilliant, but seemingly spontaneous reflections on it.
I carried it all summer from Israel to Poland to England and just opened it now. But no problem, I had 5 hours (and no personal TV! Don’t get me started on transcontinental flights in 2012 that don’t provide personal TVs! What is this, 1998?!).
Moments later an index finger is meekly, but insistently poking my right forearm.
I look up from my book.
“Is that a P.G. Wodehouse book?”
Twenty minutes ago I would have been sweet and chatty, but we had entered the mind-your-own-business portion of the flight: that 90% of the time when you pretend that you’re not sitting inches away from another human, except when you have to get up to pee.
“We read his tales as school boys in India. Yes, I am very fond of Wodehouse.”
His daughter clarified unnecessarily, “He read those stories when he was in school in India. He is fond of that author.”
Somehow five minutes later he was reading my book instead of me.
I put back on my iPod.
Another poke from the left.
“Are you listening to music?”
“Oh cool. What are you listening to?”
“Just random shuffle.”
“Oh cool. So what’s playing now?”
These are the people I sit next to on planes who are not my husband.