Monday, February 18, 2013
People don't expect me to be shy because I am a performer. I cannot explain how it is that I can get on stage to do a show, but am shy around strangers.
I was away last week on a work retreat and took a flight home on Saturday. Being next to a stranger on an airplane is weird. Here we are, sitting next to each other, possibly facing death together and neither of us make eye contact. I assume the person doesn't want to talk to me so I arrange myself and strive for invisibility. I try to get the aisle seat so I can slip easily into the bathroom. If I have to ask them to move so I can get out, the invisibility thingy is shattered.
This plane was small. It was so small they had to stow my carry-on underneath. As I moved toward my aisle seat I saw there was a man in the window seat next to me. He looked up and saw me coming. He looked slightly scared, and I had a feeling he didn't speak English. It wasn't just that he was Asian, but it was a sound he made that was maybe a greeting.
I nodded, smiled and then got myself settled.
A part of the settling was finding gum for the ascent. It is a long held belief that may have no scientic merit, that chewing gum keeps my ears from exploding. The thought came to offer a piece to him. I usually fight those thoughts, but this time it felt too right. Like if I didn't do it I would be responsible for his becoming deaf. I offered, he hesitated, then nodded and took it. We sat and chewed and I began reading a book to feel less awkward. The cabin lights were on, and just as I thought I should turn on the reading light above my seat, the man reached up and switched mine on, and then adjusted it to perfectly illumine my book. He nodded and smiled, and so did I.
That was all, and that tiny interaction between strangers, has made me happy for days.