The weekly flights can be exhausting. The delays, the sitting, the need to remove my shoes. Sometimes when I sit down on my flight I pass out within a couple minutes. Sometimes I continue the work I never really stopped thinking about. The one thing that seems to break up the seeming monotony are the people. Most people I’m sitting next to have a more interesting story than I do- they’re making a reunion or returning from an adventure. Of the people I met this summer, here are some of the most notable:
“Tennessee” was a 26-year-old woman. She was tall and muscular- a basketball player in high school who still played with her girls. She was from Nashville and carried an accent that made me jealous. She was a waitress, living at home with her mom but really wanted to be a nurse. She described the same mother/daughter my twin sister experiences at home. We spoke about growing up in Nashville, about her boyfriend who was a vet current capitalizing on the marijuana market in Colorado. We mostly spoke about what it was like the be young and restless. To be frustrated yet happy. Excited yet scared. After 90 minutes or so of talking we let the natural silence do its job and she return to studying for the MCAT while I read the Economist. Upon approach I showed her the various LA freeways I could recognize and she did her best country mouse impression. We wished each other the best as I called my Uber,
It’s always a good day when someone looks more rushed and disheveled than I do on the 7am flight out of Burbank. When the flight attendant came around to make sure everyone was wearing a seat belt, “Louisiana” ordered a coffee and two baileys. Louisiana was her in 50’s I think-. She was a big woman with a deep, deep Louisiana accent. I’m not sure how we started speaking but she sure warmed up as she drank her coffee. She was on her way from Louisiana to Alaska to see her daughter. Her daughter had bought some property outside of Juneau a few years before and she went up as often as should could. She showed me pictures of the Alaska property, and then of her daughter, and then of her extended family. We spoke about Louisiana and I told her was from Northern California. She told she had lived in Chico for many years. When she was 5 she had been playing in the front yard and a drink driver drove almost clear into their house, killing her little brother in the process. Within a week her mother had moved them all to Chico, selling the old house immediately. She eventually moved back to Louisiana to start a family but we never spoke about anyone except her daughter. We talked about all sorts of memories- where she was living when this or that happened. I wasn’t even an idea when most of these stories happened but he kept saying, “but of course you know that honey.” I fought off sleepiness for a while out of politeness but the mother in her knew and she offered her pillow to me in the way mothers do when declining isn’t an option. When I woke up she was asleep too and we were descending into Washington- time to start another workweek!
As the summer winded to an end it was time for one more flight, this time from Oakland to Ontario for my return to school. As I sat on the bus, deliriously tired, a delicate woman, “Yale, about my mother’s age, quietly sat down next to me. As I teetered in and out of sleep she smiled at me and asked where I was travelling. Not to be rude, I sat up and responded. Before long we were swapping stories about Mexico and the characters we met there. We talked about her husband and her childhood on the East coast. Before long she told me about her current work with Music Therapy. After an all too short 20 minutes she had left and I was purchasing her book on Amazon. An amazing woman with an amazing story- a perfect way to wrap up the summer and the conversations I shared.
Sometimes I’m wary of the travel that will await me when I join the workforce fulltime. There is an undeniable exhaustion that accompanies the constant lines, delays, and hours of immobility. I’m not naïve enough to think I won’t be too tired or too tired to share these moments but I hope I’m never too jaded or distanced to see why they’re important or how much they mean to me. Maybe the point of writing this down is so I can look back at it and remember how cool these people were.
So ends summer 2014.