Most of the time I relish in flying alone. Despite the stress that usually accompanies flying- waking up at the ass crack of dawn, dealing with power drunk security officials, eating god awful food at jacked up prices- in spite of all of this, airports can actually provide a wonderful source of solitude, or much-needed space. I have time to write, ponder, read that book I’ve been dying to finish, observe the various interesting human interactions, and catch up on my latest trashy magazine (yes Cosomo is my guilty travel pleasure).
But then there are times when I wish to all-that-is-holy that I was traveling with a partner, or friend, or anyone who I could comfortably tell to “move their damn arm because it is popping my personal space bubble!!” On my way home this past Saturday, as I sat getting far too personal with the frosty airplane window, because Mr. ‘Unaware of His Surroundings’ just had to take up the entire arm rest, and even some of the skin between my ribs, I thought about the travel “companions” I’ve had the pleasure of knowing throughout the years.
I present to you only a few of the character’s I’ve met.
1. The Talker
This companion can actually be quite fun- if you’re in the right mood. Usually they’re excited about their destination, and want to hear all about yours. But mostly they want to tell you about their life’s story. I’m from Texas, so it’s kinda protocol to engage if someone talks to you. We’re talkers too. However, if I’m sleep deprived, or travel constipated, or still pissed off by the TSA jacking my favorite key chain, (true- it was a tiny pocket knife, but it’s honestly so small that even a fly would roll their eyes at it), then the last thing my sweaty, frazzled self wants to do is exchange in social pleasantries. Which leads me to #2.
2. The Hermit
This passenger automatically gives off a strange vibe when they sit next to you. Usually they plop down with a sigh, or give you an awkward glare when you smile or speak to them. Asking them to stand up so that you may go to the bathroom seems so socially painful, that you actually consider torturing your bladder for another hour or two just to keep from another awkward exchange. And who knows- maybe they’re having a bad day- but is glaring at a smile the right course of action for two people who are crammed uncomfortably close for far too long? Don’t think so- but maybe that’s just me.
3. The Nervous Flier
I’m not a nervous flier. That is until a nervous one gets in my head. As soon as they sit down all sweaty, with heavy breath, and fried nerves, you know what’s coming. Usually they attempt to start off quiet- muttering strange mantras, or twitching every time they hear a potential death ensuing noise. If you dare to make eye contact, or so much as look their way, they lock on. “It’s my first time flying” usually garners more sympathy than, “I hate flying”, or “The other day I had a nightmare about flying. Maybe it’s a sign? I should get off immediately, right- RIGHT??” I sympathize with their desperation, but I also recognize that I am not on this plane in order to become their personal anxiety coach. So I feign sleep. Or sometimes I actually pass out before the flight even takes off. This usually results in one of two ways- seeing someone so completely calm actually relaxes them, or seeing someone so completely still ignites an irrational panic that the person sitting next to them is dead. There’s always alcohol…
4. The In-Your-Space
The internal anger ignited from the nervous traveler doesn’t even compare to the mental rage created from the In-Your-Space companion. My least favorite, this is the traveler who steps on your foot, takes your sliver of the arm rest, snores on your shoulder, sticks their foot in your tiny leg compartment, opens their paper or oh-so-important business document into your lap, and generally takes up as much space as they please without so much as an excuse me. I don’t know if this traveler is really just that oblivious, insensitive, coincided, or what- but I need my damn space! Don’t we all? Wouldn’t this be a better experience if we didn’t smell each others sweat, or if our arms weren’t uncomfortably getting to know one another, or if I couldn’t guess what you had for breakfast this morning? Wouldn’t the world be a better place? Maybe it’s just me, but not recognizing the fellow human scrunched next to you, is enough to make anyone spew an array of internal obscenities as they try to push their anger down to the pretty scenery below.
True, I could say something- I probably should say something- but I guess I’d rather be silently angry then commence a long passive aggressive battle for limited space or create toxic tension in the already thin air. Maybe that’s my problem- I’m the Internal-Over-Reactor companion. But at least they’ll never know.
5. The Family Member
I will end with a positive note because the family member is my favorite companion. Not because they’re an actual member of my family, but because they feel like it (in the most positive way possible).This is the person with whom you can be a talker and a hermit, who doesn’t emotionally drain you, and who knows to respect your personal space. This is the person who mutually shares their story, and asks about yours, but knows when it’s time to sleep or have quiet moments (rather than awkward lulls of silence). This is the person who grins and hands you a piece of chocolate, or the one that comforts you when you’re flying home for a family emergency. This is the person who at the end of the flight leaves you with a smile, and a feeling like you can take on the world. You’ve connected to humanity at its best, partaken in an exchange that meant something- you can be patient, forgiving and kind.
Until your next flight where that motherfucker elbows your ribs.
What travel companions have you come across? What kind of travel companion are you?