07 October 2007

Plane People: Part 1

This summer, I contemplated a lot on the nature of Christian community. I studied Ephesians, preached a sermon on it, thought about it. Recently, I've decided to do something about it--why should I be spending all this time studying something and not encouraging it? I will talk with people who need someone to talk with! I will include the left out! In short, I will be a one-person community harboring machine! I got my big chance to test my skills this weekend. During my trip to see my parents, in which I had a one and a half hour flight each way, I was determined to make a few more people in the world feel like they made a new friend that day. It was during this quest that I decided that there are two types of plane people in this world.

Type 1 is the person who sits down, turns on their iPod, and generally wallows in their cocoon of self-travel. These are the type of people who refuse any contact from the outside world--they don't ask for drinks or food from the flight attendants. They don't talk to anyone else. They tend to wince when spoken to.
Type 2 are the type of people who bring a book, but rarely read it because they're so busy talking to their fellow flight-goers. They're okay with taking the middle seat because that means there are more opportunities for discussion with two neighbors. They don't bring any music or extra work for fear of being shut off from the outside world save for a Sudoku book, and in all honesty that's only really a fall back for if they're surrounded by Type 1 people as described above. They tend to order the Bloody Mary Mix from the flight attendant. I haven't figured that one out yet.

I'm a bi-plane person if there ever was one. I can curl up in a corner, put on my iPod, and flip my hoodie up like any self-respecting college student, but sometimes I like to walk on the wild side, meet somebody new, have a conversation without even knowing their name. This weekend, I was the latter. I did draw the line at the Bloody Mary Mix, though.

My sojourn into community building began before I even got to the gate. I was standing in line at Potbelly Sandwiches, salivating along with everyone else in a twenty foot radius (in part because that's how amazing that place smells, and in part because that's how long the line was, which I suppose is a testament for how amazing the place smells) when I decided that I was going to be a Type 2 plane person for this trip. The man behind me looked pleasant enough, so I decided to make a friend. I started off easy, "Do you have the time?" This was quite ingenius in part because he had just looked at his watch (so I knew he did) and I actually needed to know what time it was (another convenience). "Five after seven" he replied, and promptly flipped open a copy of PC Magazine. This was a Type 1 kind of guy. Not to be out-geeked by PC Magazine, I contented myself by reading my Yale Divinity School viewbook. I'd like to pretend that he was impressed.

After getting my sandwich, I made my way to the gate. "Okay, you'll find yourself someone here" I told myself as I took my place at the back of the line and dug into my roast beef on wheat. The man in line in front of me looked over, "Is this the line for Baltimore?" Jackpot. I nodded, my mouth full of tasty goodness. He had made the first move, the next was mine. I gulped down my (probably too large) mouthful of heaven, so as not to miss the window of opportunity. "Are you going home or traveling?" I asked, trying to look as innocently inquisitive as possible. He smiled. Double jackpot. This man was a Type 2. "Home. You?" Triple jackpot. Explaining why going to my parents' house was sort of home, sort of not was a sure conversation starter. "Well, sort of," I answered, playing with some rogue lettuce that had escaped my sandwich, "I'm going to see my parents, but it's not technically home...we moved around a lot." My plan worked. For the next fifteen minutes or so we chatted about a little bit of everything, from where and why my family moved so much to his kids to my interesting choice of major.
"Theology?" he asked. I had never seen a look so mixed between incredulity and suspicion before.
"Actually, my concentration is in Bible, but the degree is Biblical and Theological Studies."
"So, what are you gonna do with a Theology degree?"
"Bible. And I'm planning on getting my PhD, teaching and writing for a few years, then pastoring when I'm older."
"Wow, that's impressive. I wish my kids could come up with a plan like that...so are you Catholic?"
"Well, no. I'm Protestant. I couldn't be a pastor if I were Catholic."
"What's the difference anyways? I bet a Theology major would know."
"I bet one would, but I guess you've got to settle for a Bible major. There are a few differences between Catholics and Protestants..."

We talked for awhile more, pointing out the differences between the two sects in understandable terms--he pointing something out and me explaining it more for him (for example, as we were walking onto the plane, he exclaimed, "Protestants don't pray to Mary!" I tried explaining that technically nobody prays to Mary, they ask Mary to pray to God for them and the concept of the communion of saints, but that went over like a lead balloon). Right before we stepped onto the plane, he stopped to adjust his bag, letting me step ahead of him. Perfect. Now, the "who to sit with?" ball was in his court. I didn't look like the obsessive kid in need of a friend if I sat next to him. I made my way about a third of the way down the plane, found a comfortable looking seat, and turned around to say something to my newfound friend. Alas, there he was, albeit about ten rows behind me hunkering down into a seat. I had lost my Type 2 companion. It was time for a new gameplan...

Find out what happens next! Same bibLooHoo time, same bibLooHoo channel....


Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Yale Divinity School viewbook? I'm impressed.

-WA formerly known as AK

Anonymous said...

Logic would dictate that all people selecting the middle seat AND the Bloody Mary Mix would therefore be Type 2. Or possibly people with a book and ordering Bloody Mary Mix would be Type 2. What of the people who like to read AND just like Bloody Mary's but don't want to drink at an unthinkable hour such as 6:55AM? And we mustn't forget the people sitting in the middle seat sipping Bloody Mary Mix, reading a book and not really caring about being shut off from the outside world because the headlines these days usually are about death and destruction, and for a few solitary hours in the sky they can forget about it.

Anonymous said...

When traveling with a companion I most often take the middle seat. However my companion doesn't always want to chat and has never ordered bloody mary mix. While I have attempted to communicate with the unknown traveler on my other side I've never been successful at it, so I do travel with a Sudoku book. But, when I'm traveling alone I seem to be able to spark a conversation, some are brief - others longer, but a conversation none the less. You never know where you can make a new "friend" so from now on I think I'll take your approach. Now when is my next trip???? pal