Plane Strangers: A First Class Experience

Anyone seen this episode?

I travel a lot but not for work. I travel to get away from work. Well, this is anonymous so I guess I can be honest: I travel to look like I got some place other than work to be…friends and family to see. In reality, they’re strangers now. I moved to another state a few years back but, to be fair, I have been trying to see them as often as I can so that I don’t drift any farther away.

As you can probably already tell I’m a lonely person. Maybe laziness is my problem. I don’t want to take the time to meet new people? That’s besides the point though. I’m a lonely person. Airports and airplanes are the loneliest of places to me. You look around and everyone is with their friends and family with some place to be. And if they’re alone, they’re probably traveling for business, right?

Being that those places are so much lonelier, they often push me past my armrest and the fake sleep, impel me to make conversation with strangers. Over the years I have had some interesting talks. I won’t bore you with all the stories but a recent one struck me in a sentimental way. I was heading to my hometown and decided to upgrade to first class to see if it was worth anything. My finding: maybe.

A lot of connected people tend to sit up there. If you are looking for a job or a business deal you would probably do well to upgrade. The affluent type tends to be pretty outspoken and confident too. They’re ripe to give you advice if you need that. Or, it might be worth it if you’re just lonely. They’ll talk to you.

I sat next to the retired owner of a pretty major construction company. He was probably about 60 but pretty savvy for his age judging by the iPad and AirPods he put in the front pocket. He was definitely surprised to see a younger face being that the front of the cabin is normally occupied by older folks who recognize the business value of first class; or, the retired folks who just want that frivolous extra foot for $70. I found it strange myself that he didn’t stick his feet out any more than he would have in the back of the cab. He was retired too so he didn’t have any need for business in seat 2A.

We made some small talk at first. I saw he was reading a book on his iPad and asked him about it. Some shitty book about the Republican era of Rome but we hit it off talking about all the old emperors. He told me I ought to visit Rome if I ever got the chance. I told him I had already been. From there, he asked me why I was going home. I spoke in cliches, albeit truthful ones,

“A good friend passed away. There isn’t a better reminder to try and make well by the people back home. Ya know, you never know.”

That’s the funny thing about cliches too. You hate to hear advice from a friend or father in the form of cliches, as if they’re just brushing you off with quick answers but, damn, they’re cliches for a reason.

It certainly touched Jim’s heart. He was on his way to see his estranged son. He must have told me two or three times to treat my folks to dinner. I only found out his name when we finished taxiing to park by the way. You know how when you have a conversation with a stranger and you’re unsure if they want to know your name, if it would be strange to ask theirs even though you won’t meet them again? Yeah, I figured I should make sure to get Jim’s name.

That’s the story of why airports and airplanes are the loneliest places. And, I suppose, the story of why first class might be worth it: as if an episode of the Twilight Zone, you may see a ghost, an older version of yourself sent to affirm your departure…from the airport, that is.

Dedicated to my friend, Kyle, who will be writing part two of this series

2 thoughts on “Plane Strangers: A First Class Experience

    1. Thanks Toni! My friend is going to be putting up a story here set on a plane as well. I’m interested to hear his take.



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