Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hawaii epilogue: My airplane neighbors

August 25

I had a smooth flight back to New York from Denver yesterday. A window seat, just a slight delay in our departure, and a polite, tiny young woman in the middle seat who curled up and went to sleep right after takeoff and pretty much stayed that way.
It reminded me that I had one blog entry left to do about my recent trip to Hawaii.
My journey started in Newark, where rain storms delayed the flight enough to put the possibility of my connection in Phoenix very much in doubt. Worse, it gave my neighbor a chance to strike up a conversation with me.
Because people rarely start talking to each other in the air. It's on the ground, during a delay in takeoff, that the camaraderie of perceived mutual misfortune helps people to form a bond that risks keeping them inextricably linked for many hours.
Also, I had a middle seat.
In the window seat was a nurse from California in late middle age who had lived on the East Coast for many years but still thought that California was better in every way. Why she thought she should share that with me, a willing immigrant to New York from the mountain states, I don't know. Why anyone thinks that it's friendly conversation to say that where they're from — geographically, culturally, psychologically — is better than where the person they're talking to is from, or lives, or likes to be, is beyond me.
But she came from the Bay Area in the 1960s and was under the misapprehension that California is a relaxed, mellow, laissez-faire kind of place where people can do whatever they like without judgment from others. I pointed out that her native land currently has a very arch, politically correct culture that does not, in fact, encourage people to do whatever they like, whether it's drink bottled water, eat eggs that don't come from free range chickens or smoke tobacco cigarettes in public.
She had lived in Hawaii, though, and gave me the same advice that many people gave me when I told them I was going to O‘ahu.
“You should go to the Big Island!”
Well, okay, but I was only going to be in Hawaii for a few days and was, in fact, a guest of the island of O‘ahu. And, in fact, since I am a city person who enjoys exploring the cultural culinary diversity that is bred in urban cultures, Honolulu was the place for me.
Still, I thought her advice might be sound until she told me about the kukui nut lei that she bought from a merchant. It was so special to her, she said, because the merchant blessed it. Well, why wouldn’t she bless it? I’d bless it, too, if it meant you’d buy it from me, and I’d send a whole lot of aloha to go with it.
But I didn’t tell her that. Let her enjoy her kukui nut lei. I enjoy mine (not the faux one mentioned earlier, which didn't make it back to the mainland with me, but the hefty one I'd gotten some years before and lurks somewhere in my apartment).
I made my flight from Phoenix to Honolulu with minutes to spare and found myself in a middle seat, which I shared with a tremendously fat woman who had the aisle seat.
In the window was a young man who wore those little ear buds to listen to music. I didn't know they could be turned up so loud that the people around you can hear your music, but, indeed, they can be.
So that was a long flight.
The first half of the return leg was a snap, really, I had a window seat, and in the middle was an extremely limber woman from a German-speaking country. I assume that from her English-German dictionary; we didn't speak.
How did I know she was limber, then? To try to sleep better she simply folded herself in half, at the waist. This seemed to alarm the woman in the aisle seat, who would periodically interrupt her attempted repose whenever a flight attendant came by to see if she wanted anything to drink. But if she did want anything, she would merely unfold herself and ask for it.
We were delayed in Phoenix again, giving entrée for my neighbor in the middle seat (I had the window) to befriend me, which he would have done anyway as he was a very jocular conspiracy theorist of a Jehovah's Witness.
And I have to say, living as I do in a world of food writers, it was actually kind of refreshing to have someone tell me that the devil was the devil instead of high fructose corn syrup.

1 comment:

Gastropoda said...

Not for the first time, I'm thinking you might be wasted in your day job. (Wasted in the good sense, not the trashed sense, of course.)