The guy in the white shirt pulling his bag by the pillar in the left of the picture. He just secured a huge grant to provide fresh water to a third world impoverished country and is an unsung hero of humanity. Or maybe he got drunk on work travel and hooked up with some bar-lady last night. And now he has to fly home to face his wife and 3 young kids and act like nothing happened.
The Asian guy sitting close to me – he is going to his newborn baby daughter’s baptism after being away working for a few days because his boss is an asshole but he won’t stand up to the boss. Or maybe he is a recognized musician going to a piano competition? Or maybe he is lonely going somewhere fun for a long weekend to try to stimulate his life.
The guy with the backpack who noticed me taking a picture – he is a young author about to close his first serious deal. Or maybe he has Crohn’s disease and is going to see a world-class GI specialist for a consult? Or maybe his long-distance girlfriend lives in a different city and he is going for a bangingly fun weekend.
The blond lady sitting attentively – she hates flying and really wishes anyone she knew was with her. Or maybe her mother fell so she is rushing there to help out? Or maybe she just interviewed for a big-deal job not knowing the outcome and not knowing if she even wants to move.
The guy in the dark t-shirt with the yellow letters – his wife left after a mere 18 months married. His erection issues gave her mistrust. He is going for one last ditch attempt to salvage things. He is not even sure he wants to get on the plane. Or maybe he is a motivation speaker and just changed many lives on his road tour -and can’t wait to get home to his amazing family.
You will never know their stories because the only socially acceptable thing for solo travelers (and even travelers with companions) is to have their faces in a smartphone until 10 minutes before boarding – then they all look at the counter trying to decide if it is too early to queue up.
The only time passengers really look around at each other is to ponder that great social question, “Which one will sit next to me and might it be that really fat one?”
“People are strange, when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly when you’re alone.”
Nice commentary Paul. Even before smartphones people often didn’t talk – I remember sitting next to Elizabeth Dole on the plane to North Carolina – she was not interested in talking. My MO is to sit at the bar and engage whoever I can in conversation. Last time I played the role of having just having received a grant to solve 3rd world water problems….