Illustration by Asa Mease.
When you fly on a plane, do you prefer the window or aisle seat? Once in my life I totally preferred the aisle. My preference was based on practicality –– when you sit in the aisle seat, you don’t have to ask anyone to move when you want to go to the bathroom. Besides, I always feel uncomfortable engaging with strangers. I like to avoid talking to my seatmates as much as possible.
But sometimes… it becomes inevitable.
FLASHBACK. It happened on a casual afternoon. I had finally made it onto my flight and I was worn OUT. I was ready to turn off, you know what I mean? I had my earbuds in, I had my movie picked out –– but life had other plans. As I walked down the aisle towards my seat (not making eye contact with anyone), I noticed this older lady sitting in the seat next to mine. There was something immediately dreadful about this woman –– I could tell. There was a big friendly smile on her face, and I got the impression she would try to make casual conversation with me. I hate casual conversation. Lo and behold, the second I sat down she started talking to me.
“What are you listening to?” she asked. I begrudgingly pulled out my earbuds.
“You probably haven’t heard of him.”
“Oh come on, I’m curious dammit!” Once the words left her mouth, I knew I was in for it. And I was right! She talked to me the entire flight. She told me all about her job as a nurse at an old folks home. It changed her whole life. Because of her proximity to death, she now sees every moment as precious and important. It totally opened her eyes to life.
“I’m so glad I got the window seat!” she told me. “I fucking love staring out the window. Don’t you just fucking love flying through the goddamn air? Jesus Christ!” She swore all the time. She was just excited about everything.
She was pretty crazy, though. She talked about all sorts of things.
“I’m really looking forward to the revolution!” she told me about how humans will eventually realize we aren’t really living at all and just going through the motions of life without ever engaging with anything, perfectly content to live in our comfortable separate silences.
“Always alone in a crowd,” she said.
At one point, without breaking eye contact she burped right in my face and laughed about it. Her high-pitched cackling still rings in my ears sometimes. That’s why nowadays, whenever I fly, I always choose the window seat.
– Jack Swain is a licensed mystery solver. If you have any mysteries you need him to solve, please contact [email protected] Serious mysteries only, please.