MKE to LAX. I spent the flight listening to tunes. Reading. Working. And being interrupted every-so-often and ever-so-sweetly by the older woman sitting next to me who fell asleep soon after take-off only to wake up with a start. Confused. She asked so quietly I could barely hear her. “Where are we going?” I said. “LA.” She said.“LA? Well, that’s not right. I am supposed to be going to Wisconsin not California.” We talked a little bit more until she seemed less confused. Or perhaps just resigned to go wherever the plane was taking her. With that, she went back into her own world. And I back to mine. Every once in a while she tapped me on my shoulder. I lifted my headphones and we would share a few words and a smile. And then she would retreat back to her world and I back to my tunes. As we neared the end of the flight, she leaned in towards me. I lifted my headphones and she said: “Do you travel a lot?” “Yes.” I said. “I thought so. You are very calm.” Then, as an after-thought, she said: “I am a licensed pilot. My husband wanted me to learn how to fly in case I had to take over if something should happen to him while he was flying. And something did happen. I was not with him. But something did happen. They think he had a stroke. I am a widow. Six years now.” I gently put my hand on her shoulder. She put her hand on mine. And patted it a few times. Then she went back into the world that was only hers to explore and I once again went back to mine. But soon after, I recognized her familiar tap on my shoulder. She asked if I would help retrieve the message her boyfriend (yes, boyfriend!) had left for her. I quietly told her “there is no service up here in the clouds which is why your phone is not working.” She smiled and said “Oh thank you. You know. I am 81 and I just do not know how to use these new phones.” Then, she rested her hand on mine.
There is something so unexpected about traveling. So intimate. So soul stirring.