I swear to you, this is a true story.
I was flying to New York City. Direct flight from LA. Flying by myself to attend a dream comedy writing workshop that I’ve been waiting my whole life to do. I was so excited. And squished.
Due to the short travel notice, I bought the cheapest direct flight I could find, which resulted in me sitting in a middle seat in a middle row in the middle of the plane. Not ideal.
There is nothing beneficial about the middle seat.
I boarded the plane, pumped for the journey. The gentleman on the aisle was an older man. I warned him that I will probably need to use the bathroom a few times. Something about being in the air makes my bladder shrink to the size of a walnut.
I didn’t buckle up because I knew this was a full flight and I knew there would be a poor shmuck sitting in the window seat, having to do that awkward seat shuffle with strangers in way too close proximity.
Window seat was a younger man. He had a cane and had tattoos all up his arms. We shuffled and squished and he plopped down next to the window. I put in my headphones to start my long list of comedy podcasts. Flight attendants announced that we would have no access to televisions on this six hour flight. Cool beans.
I buckled up, headphones in. Aisle Seat buckled up. Window put his cane under the seat and quickly got on his phone before take off.
I couldn’t help but listen to his brief phone call.
“Hey. I just got on the plane. I have to turn off the phone soon but I needed to tell you, because I just got the update myself, that she’s not going to make it. I thought I was visiting Mom in the hospital, but instead I am flying to find my mother dead.” Window started sobbing. “I can’t believe Mom is going to die.”
He hung up the phone and I sat there, frozen, not knowing what to do.
We took off. Aisle closed his eyes to sleep. I kept my headphones in. Window sobbed and sobbed.
Eventually he got up to use the restroom, and I saw this as my chance to scribble him a note.
Yep. I scribbled him a note.
It said something like, “I couldn’t help but hear you got sad news. I know I am a stranger, but I just want you to know that I am sorry, and I’m sending love your way because people care about you, even if they’re strangers.”
Or something like that.
He came back. Read the note. I pretended to be really invested in my podcast.
He looked at me, and tapped me on the shoulder.
“I could really use a drink right now. And I’ve never drank alone before in my life. Will you have a drink with me?”
It was 9:30 in the morning.
I said yes.
The flight attendant comped us two beers. Turns out his parents were in a car accident. His father has terminal cancer and his mother was taking care of his father but now his mother is brain dead and his dad was in critical condition and he was flying out to be with his brother and decide what to do.
So, I spent the remainder of the flight talking to Window, getting his life story. Taking his mind off his dead mother for the next six hours.
What else was I doing up there?
Window owned a weed shop. He had a daughter and a wife. He showed me pictures of all of them.
Aisle eventually joined. He was flying on business working in textiles. He was from Jersey. He had a grandson.
I told them about my comedy workshop.
We got another round of drinks.
Window was close to his family. He liked race cars. His cane was because of a racing injury. He didn’t know if he would race again after this event with his parents. Aisle didn’t know anything about race cars, but he knew about green screens and Jimmy Fallon.
I told them about my family. My boyfriend. My job. My comedy.
Window told us about his weed products. His home. His tools.
Aisle told us about his home. His work travels. His marriage.
6 hours later, we landed. Window sighed and turned on his phone, knowing he probably had more bad news on voicemails.
We stood. We wished each other well. We hugged.
Then we got off the plane, never to see each other again.
I never even got their names.
I hope Window is doing okay. And I hope that at least for six hours in the air, I was able to cheer him up.
– One L
“I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again.”