It’s not all too often that the WordPress Daily Post writer’s inspiration is a topic I can relate to travel but this one certainly is travel related from the get go. It’s called Middle Seat and they want to know how you handle a very chatty stranger that you’ve been seated next to en route to your destination.
As it happens, I don’t often seem to get caught with a very chatty seat mate on a plane. I’m a large person and I try to pick a seat that’s next to an empty one, hoping the plane doesn’t fill up. It makes things more comfortable for me and the person beside me. Sometimes I get lucky and the empty seat stays that way and sometimes it’s filled. The odds seem to be about 60/40 in favour of a seatmate on the long haul flights. Never, ever do I sit in the middle seat of a 3 or 4 seat section and in general, prefer the aisle so it’s easier for me to get out.
I do remember one flight where I had a very nervous seat mate. She jumped and squeaked and fretted at ever sound the plane made. She was white, she was fidgety, most definitely a nervous flyer. When the landing gear thumped down into place, I thought she’d lift right out of her seat. I joked, “Ok, if you *didn’t* hear that, we’d be in a lot more trouble !” I chatted to her, make a few jokes, and I think I distracted her enough.
One other time I sat beside a tiny French-speaking nun. She didn’t say too much and her English wasn’t too good. When she did make the occasional remark, mostly I just smiled and nodded because her accent was very strong and I couldn’t make out what she said. My French is very much limited to what I learned in school, 35 to 40 years ago! I can interpret numbers, food, directions but it’s not really up to holding a conversation and I suppose her English was about the same.
The last really enjoyable conversation I got into with a fellow traveler was in the summer of 2014 with my friend. We were heading to Montreal to see Queen in concert. She sat in the row behind me and got into a conversation with her seatmate about music and concerts and drew me in as well. It’s a bit more awkward, trying to talk to someone in the row behind but we managed. He turned out to be a Jimmy Buffet fan of great stamina, belonging to an online fan group whose members follow the singer religiously and travel around to meet up and attend his concerts. I can identify with that in my own way, since I have been known to travel under the same sort of circumstances to hang out with my online friends who are fans of Coronation Street. Fandom has given me lots of travel opportunities and has expanded my circle of friends enormously.
I have had lovely conversations with occasional seat mate but I’ve never got “stuck” with someone that prattled on and on endlessly, annoying or boring me to tears. When I have had a seatmate that wanted to talk, they were friendly, and congenial. Mostly, though, whoever is beside me in the middle of the three or in the other seat, if it’s a “two-fer”, keeps to themself as do I. I am not a shy person but striking up a conversation under those circumstances seems to bring out the shyness in me more. It’s more than just small talk isn’t it, when you’re on a 6 hour+ flight somewhere. I am, however, pleased if my seatmate does want to talk and it all turns out ok.
I shouldn’t have jinxed myself like that. I’m flying out next weekend to the UK on the overnight flight. If I get a seatmate, it could be a disaster now that I’ve said I am usually lucky! Oh dear.