Traveling sucks. It’s a game of hurry up and wait—get to the airport early so the TSA can take their time getting you through security. Line up at your gate at least an hour before departure so you can jockey for the ever-dwindling overhead bin storage. Get in your seat so you can sit in a too-small space for your body, with your knees up against the seat in front of you. It’s generally not a fun experience, especially when your personal space can’t help but be invaded by the person next to you. There is nothing glamorous about air travel any more.
There is one small thing I enjoy about a less-than enjoyable experience. Talking to my seat mate. It’s a fairly polarizing issue, but I’m firmly in the pro-chat arena.
I tend to fly at least a half-dozen times a year, and usually one of those is a trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic flight, which means I’m stuck in a metal tube 35,000 feet above ground for at least 10 hours. It feels weird not to say hello to the person sitting next to me and engage in light chit chat before we push off from the gate. 9 times out of 10, my seat mate is receptive to this, and we’ll engage in light banter throughout the flight. If they’re not, no harm no foul, I don’t force my presence on people (except for everyone at Pajiba, hey-oh!)
The talking started out because I used to be a nervous flyer (I’d break out in hives 24 hours before a trip, because I was so convinced I was about to stare death in the face) and I found that talking to my seat mate during takeoff distracted me from the dread I felt once we left the ground. I conquered my fear of flying about 10 years ago because I finally got so exhausted by getting myself physically and mentally worked up that I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore. What stayed was my love of chatting my seat mate up.
I find talking on a plane acceptable under the following conditions:
1) Your seatmate is receptive to it.
2) On a long flight, after the meal is served, everyone shuts up for at least 3 hours.
That’s key—just because I (and my seat mate) want to chat during the flight doesn’t mean that the person on the end of the row wants to hear us the entire flight, especially if we’re looking at 7+ hours in the air.
I’ve met some really interesting people by talking to strangers and have created a few business opportunities as well. I’ve even made one or two friends, but that’s usually because we’re doing our best to drink all the prosecco on the plane (I’ve only managed to accomplish this once) and nothing brings strangers together faster than a common goal and alcohol.
I’m sure this aspect of air travel, like basically all aspects of air travel, is polarizing; but I’m firmly pro-talking to your seatmate when on a plane. How about you?