The Silent Treatment

For my recent trip to my daughter’s for Christmas, I had to take 4 planes, making connections in Philadelphia, going and coming home. For 3 of those flights, I had a seatmate, but not one word was spoken between us. I always reserve a window seat, so I don’t have the awkward situation of sitting in an aisle seat and then have my seatmate appear and then stand there staring at me and wondering why I don’t get up to let him in. I don’t stand up, because I can’t see him, and it is completely unrealistic to expect him to say something like, “Excuse me. I need to get into this row.” No, we don’t talk to strangers on airplanes. You might be trapped in an annoying conversation, especially when your seatmate is an older woman. She is bound to ask you where you are going and then whip out pictures of her grandchildren. Then she will talk the whole way about those grandchildren and about her aches and pains. Best to exhibit your ear pods with extravagance or immediately put your nose in a book. Pardon my sarcasm. Well maybe you’ve had this experience, but it never happens to me. People are so paranoid about it that they don’t even say hello as they take their seat 5 inches away from me. I think it’s only polite to acknowledge one another, since we’re going to be breathing the same air and possibly touching elbows as we vie for the armrest, but far be it from me to put terror into the hearts of fellow passengers.

On the first leg, I think someone sat Next to me, but since I was given the silent treatment, I held up my end of the silence and never knew whether this passenger was male or female, young or old, going home or going to visit a daughter like me. Not that I needed to know, but it just seems awkward to pretend that the other person doesn’t exist, as if we were on an elevator. Ever notice how nobody speaks on an elevator, except when you’re at a convention?

On the second leg, I knew that my seatmate was a man, because I heard him complain to the flight attendant that he had no leg room, on account of my dog. Even though we were in bulkhead seats, Dora’s size precludes any footroom, even for me. I had to sit with one leg propped against the side wall and the other foot over Dora’s body against the bulkhead. He had a reasonable complaint. the flight attendant resolved the problem by asking a small woman, sitting in the last row to come and trade places with him. She, on the other hand, was not afraid to speak to me, so we exchanged a few pleasantries and then kept to ourselves for the rest of the journey. See? It can be done. For the trip home, the first leg was like the first, silence between my seatmate and me. But the last leg was wonderful. The best was saved for the last. I had no seatmate, and there was plenty of room for Dora and for my feet and even my back pack. What a joy. It’s hard enough to be packed in like sardines, but really people, can’t we at least be friendly? I promise not to show you pictures or talk about my grandchildren. But if you want to know about Seeing Eye ® dogs, well, that’s a whole other story.

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