You’re at a dinner party. You look over a sea of faces and you realize you don’t know a soul. As you hear snippets of conversations, you realize some of these people are from different parts of the country—even the world. You see young people dressed casually and others dressed in business garb. Some are sipping drinks while others are absent-mindedly crunching on ice. There’s a young African-American man with the most intriguing dreadlocks you’ve ever seen sitting on one side of you. To the other side is a businessman from Chicago making it known that he has no use for children—in fact, he views them as the enemy. Startling, rich, wacky and diverse, all these conversations are happening. If you’d just jump in, think about the opportunities there to touch base with people you may not necessarily meet on your average day.
For me, this would be an incredible dinner party, but, alas, it wasn’t. Instead, it was a commercial air flight. And instead of opportunities, my focus turned to how long I’d have service on my phone before I needed to put it on airplane mode. Instead of doing my best to take advantage of the situation, here are a few of the areas that held my attention:
- The seats in First Class get to the destination the same as Economy.
- Bathrooms are incredibly small yet space age.
- It’s hard to sit on the aisle and not covet a view from the window.
- It’s entertaining to watch the time change as you cross time zones.
- Are people focusing on their electronics or in-flight movies, or are they trying to look involved so nobody speaks to them?
- Personal space is defined differently.
- Flight attendants need to be praised for their work.
- Cows shoots have nothing over boarding gates.
- Chewing gum needs to be offered along with diet soda and pretzels.
- The blue mesh curtain that separates first class and coach is as prominent as the separation between The Losties and The Others in The Lord of the Flies.
- Am I the only person who thinks this could be the flight that falls out of the sky?
- I will take my seatbelt off before the sign signals that I’m allowed … and it will be my moment of independence.
I realize if I treated my time on a plane as I do at a dinner party, I’d probably be escorted off the plane. But my observation … of my observations … was still a good one. Lots of people can be in a tight space but never take the opportunity to get to know one another. We have different expectations these days. We’ve lost sight of what’s really important.
People are important. We mustn’t forget that.
So if someone tries to strike up a conversation with you during your next flight, don’t let it annoy you. Realize that you strike them as an individual rich with experiences they want to hear about. Remember, you may never see them again. Share a bit of yourself if they ask. And they may want to share a bit, too. Think how rich the world would be if we all just asked—and then listened.