Because there’s a weird social juxtaposition when flying 35,000+ feet above ground, I most always utilize the opportunity to share stories with the stranger rationing these four square feet with me. What is “stranger danger” in any other circumstance, conversations often become a meaningful, or otherwise informative experience.
“Why are you going to Phoenix?” “Where are you originally from?” Or my favorite, “Come here often?”
I’ve always been a social butterfly, and have never believed in “stranger danger.” But what I was unable to articulate as a 12-year-old on my first transatlantic flight, was that stories and dialogue with strangers is often an enriching exchange.
The first time I conversed with the passenger next to me was en route home from Paris. The lady next to me initiated, was kind and shared stories of her and her daughter’s adventures touring universities across several EU countries. I proudly showed her the pajama set I bought on the Champs-Élysées. Clearly wasn’t insightful conversation, but we talked on-and-off for 10 hours while the boy behind us kept fantastic rhythm using our seats back as feet drums. Oddly enough, I still remember her face a decade later.
Once I provided a Chicago couple some French phrases for their 10-year anniversary trip to Nice, France. Another flight, a man told me his life story about his devastating divorce. And plenty of times, people sit down and never say hello.
And that’s ok. Then I can sleep more.
However, if I still remember the people I’ve met and our conversations, I know the interactions are meaningful, however inconsequential. People are often open and contemplative on airplanes and not afraid of the “stranger” sharing the ever-coveted arm rest. So if I have ten minutes or ten hours, I test the waters and say hi.