Inflight, I’ve met fabulous people. It’s a funny phenomena. A few years ago, I sat next to a man about my age and, during a long delay, we discovered that we both gave a lot of Powerpoint presentations. We passed the time by opening up random Powerpoint presentations on our laptops and sharing them with each other. How geeky is that? And, who would have guessed that I could have found a seatmate so like-mindedly geeky?
I’ve had four more strikes of good luck recently. First , a young PhD student in environmental engineering traveling home from a college reunion. Next, an undergraduate returning from an invited Microsoft recruitment event. She loved it and was hoping for a job when she graduated. My last flights were particularly lucky. Coming home from North Carolina a few weeks ago, I sat next to a mother of 5 who home schools all her children. We are such different people that we might never cross paths during our regular life but, on board, we found philosophical connections and exchanged parenting advice. I gave her our website and hope she takes a look. On the very next flight segment, I sat next to another PhD student, this time just finishing her degree, and again in Environmental Engineering. We too exchanged Powerpoint presentations. And, again, I learned alot about things I might never discuss or think about in my everyday life – floor dust and indoor airborne bacteria for example. I enjoyed dreaming up all the travel tips for the Seattle area that I could think of for her Pacific Northwest adventure. We’ve exchanged e-mails (and pictures – see above) since our flight and she just might be one of the first seat mates I actually keep in touch with.
Seat mates can make or break your travels with kids too. Well, no one can break your travels with kids but strangers sure can make it better. My first in-flight nursing was terrifying until the man next to me smiled and said ‘Oh, I remember my kids’ first in-flight feedings.” He went back to his newspaper and my anxiety evaporated. Another seat mate gave me his recipe for raising middle school girls that have common sense and still enjoy time with their parents. Other Moms, Dads, Aunts, and Grandparents have also often offered assistance and commentary on our travels. Okay, the commentary isn’t always appreciated at the time but it makes for a good story later. I am now even appreciative of the drunk women on the way home from Las Vegas who, with slurred speech, tried to quiet our sick 18-mo old and offered her whiskey to stop the crying … it’s just so funny now. And, the man in the row in front of me who turned around at the end of our flight and said “You should write a book about taking kids on planes!” There are days I want to strangle that man.
What is it about seat mates that’s so fun? Undistracted time to exchange ideas? A reminder of the bigger universe of neat people that we usually ignore? I’m not alone in enjoying these random encounters. My parents have long regailed me with stories of their seat mates. KLM has initiated a new program called Meet & Seat. And, Malaysia Airlines might not be far behind. Ever met a great seat mate? Ever shared a powerpoint presentation with a stranger on board?