At the risk of sounding like a total jerk, I don’t like talking to my neighbors on flights. In fact, besides “club soda, lime,” I don’t really like to say anything while flying. I know intrepid travelers who are religiously opposed to this seemingly closed-minded position. Hear me out though. My feelings really are not born out of a spirit of assholery.
At the risk of also sounding like a weirdo, I actually enjoy flying. Always have, even long hauls. I like that far away from earth—about six miles—you can find distance from terrestrial problems. I’ve made decisions to leave exes, quit jobs, and initiate life-changing conversations while suspended in the air. I just think about things more clearly. Hell, it’s where I'm writing this article right now.
What I always find comforting about flights is that they’re an opportunity, for an uninterrupted period of time, to do something for yourself that you might not have the space for in the hustle of everyday life. I’ve meditated to find a semblance of inner peace. I’ve found some of my best sleeps. And, yes, I’ve recently binged an entire season of Mr. Robot but I find that sort of behavior cathartic. (I posit a why-we-cry-in-the-sky theory: We better connect to storytelling because there are less distractions in the sky.) All of these things help me arrive to a new destination feeling refreshed rather than miserably irritable.
Might you get caught up in a deep talk with a local to your destination, one who opens doors to new experiences? Absolutely. Or a new business partner? That’s a possibility, sure. You may also discover an unhinged Swiss man with bad breath who doesn’t respect personal boundaries. Or a pushy suitor who doesn't take the "wearing headphones" cues. Or a religious zealot who is truly hell bent on converting you to a neat cult. To be clear, all of these people have been my seatmate , so understand where I’m coming from. If you subscribe to a different philosophy, by all means, do you; this is my truth.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for meeting interesting new people (more proof here). I meet them often, on dates, for instance. But I get a drink instead of dinner upon first encounter, because I know if things go south, I can gracefully excuse myself without waiting for two more courses. I don’t seek out conversation in the air because there is literally no definite escape besides a mortal one.
So, no, airlines, I’m not interested in selecting a seat based on the Facebook of my fellow passengers. I would not like to buy the stranger in seat 5C another Tanqueray & tonic. In fact, I’d pay a little extra for the promise I can fly completely undisturbed. I just want to arrive in one piece, of sound mind.
To borrow a popular phrase from reality television, I’m not here to make friends.
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