This could’ve been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, if I had just been a little bit smarter.
During my recent flight out to Denver I made the acquaintance of some very lovely people, but it didn’t last long.
The plane was crammed with bodies as I made my way down the aisle and I’m sure the airline would’ve stuffed people into the overhead compartments if the FAA had given them the thumbs up.
I had the window seat, much to my dismay, since I don’t particularly enjoy being reminded how high up I am.
Aisle seats allow to me to imagine that I’m going to the movies instead of streaking through the sky five miles above the world. Plus I like being closer to the can.
I checked my ticket one more time then looked at the elderly couple sitting in the first two seats.
“I think this is me,” I said.
And then I looked down and saw that the gentleman had no legs—seriously—just two aluminum supports starting at the knees.
“I can sit in the aisle seat so you don’t have to get up,” I said, trying to be helpful.
“That’s all right,” he said, and rose to let me pass.
I sat down next to his wife—I’ll call her Jane--and immediately she started talking to me like we best buddies.
They were from New Zealand, she said, and they were on their way to visit one of their daughters who lives in Vail. They had four daughters and ten grandchildren. She was so open and friendly I felt like I was part of the family.
And this was all before take off.
I’ve been stuck in economy with some first class losers, so I was grateful to be seated next to this sweet lady.
Logistics prevented me from speaking with her husband as much as I would have liked, but I admired his determination to get out in the world despite his physical condition.
I’ll whine about having to go to Park Slope on the subway and here’s a man perhaps 20 years my senior with no legs traveling across the planet.
Granted, they were visiting their own daughter, but I was still impressed.
Jane and I chatted for a while before the Xanax kicked in and I lapsed into unconsciousness for God only knows how long.
I woke up as we were approaching Denver and found that my little happy pill had worn off, leaving me to face some nasty pockets of turbulence all by myself.
Jane saw me flinching at every single bump and gave me a warm smile.
“You don’t do landings well, do you, Rob?” she said.
No, I don’t. And I don't do takeoffs or any of the crap that goes on in the middle well, either. The only thing I do well on an airplane is get the hell off.
When we landed I told Jane that it was a pleasure meeting her and husband and wished them the best.
But I really didn’t want it to end there. I wanted to know more about these people, what their children and grandchildren were like, and how life was in New Zealand.
However, as has happened too many times in the past, I couldn’t express these feelings.
“If you ever in Brooklyn, look me up,” I said lamely.
What the hell does that mean? How can they possibly look me up if they don’t have my contact information?
All I had to do was hand Jane one of my business cards. That’s why I had the damn things made in the first place—so people could contact me.
But, no, I didn’t do that. I just picked up my bag and walked out of their lives. Maybe I felt that I would like desperate if I asked to stay in touch. People do have their own lives.
Of course New Zealand is a long ride from Brooklyn. And who knows if they would have ever reached out to me even if they did have my email mail address?
But the fact that I didn’t even try eats at me. You can’t leave things up to fate, luck, karma, or coincidence, not in the real world, anyway. Like anything else in this life, if you want something you have to go out and get it.
Years ago my father told me about the importance of holding on to good friends. He said that he had regretted losing track of some really great people, but his words are only coming back to me now.
I’m going to an effort to making—and keeping—new friends. And if I ever pull another bonehead stunt like this again, I’m going to stuff myself in the overhead compartment.