Joshua Wood

Airplane Games

I like being seated first on a plane for one reason: the anticipation of who will sit next to me as I settle in and begin to watch the procession of passengers march down the isle. I don't ever analyze the people that aren't already looking at their tickets to double-check their seat numbers. Like everyone else these people already know exactly where their seats are, and usually have a ways to march before they nervously take out their boarding pass to delay eye contact with their pre-selected neighbor until the last minute. On a flight with unassigned seating, people check their boarding passes anyways; as if a seat number will magically appear, saving them the dreaded decision. Typically people are more prone to favor predestination on airplanes, in which case if they end up becoming acquaintances, friends, or even lovers with their seatmate, it can be blamed on the airline. Personally, I'd rather the person that I'm going to be sitting with for the next 4-6 hours have a choice in the matter, although there is a lot more guesswork involved if you do happen to have an attractive person pre-assigned to you.

Most people don't even realize they are a part of these intricate social games, but once in a great while you find someone who does, and is also playing. I've been in many different circles of friends, ranging from military to Hollywood bohemians, to small-town intellectuals, and they all have a version of "get It." It's like every civilization dating back to ancient Sumer having its own version of god without being linked to each other. No one ever says what "It" actually is, usually because no one knows. The truth is that "get It" is merely a universal verb for relating to a specific school of thought, no matter what that school of thought may be. The people who are consciously playing these social games, well, they "get It" on a level far above anyone else. These people are part of a culture that traverses social circles, religious opinion, and political standing. If everyone "got It," people in airplanes wouldn't be worried about flying into skyscrapers, and people in skyscrapers wouldn't be constantly looking out their 40th floor windows for airplanes.

As I bounced North in a Bombardier Q400 twin-turbine prop jet, I wondered if the girl sitting next to me was pretty. She had a nice profile, which was all I had been able to see as I glanced up from a speech I was reading when she sat down. I told myself that it didn't matter anyways, and went back to my reading. The girl pulled out a notepad and began working on something, I'm still not sure what because although I saw her writing out of the corner of my eye, I never saw anything on her notepad but printed numbers. She also kept feeding something to a bag that was at her feet, which I thought very odd.

Over the course of the first leg of the flight, which was Sacramento to Boise, the girl and I didn't say a word to each other. We sat in our respective assignments, shifting from time to time because of the uncomfortably small seats, and went about our respective activities. I finished my speech and moved on to "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck. The flight attendant announced that they would be serving refreshments momentarily, and since I wasn't listening, I missed the specifics on the complementary wine or beer. I began a debate with myself over whether the wine would be red or not; if it was Quelque chose Blanc or Riesling, I would definitely opt for the beer. The girl and I both had the 2005 reserve Merlot of some unknown vineyard in California.

When two people are intrigued by one another, there are little signals and idiosyncrasies that neither person can help showing. Things like reaching for your drink at the same time, or exchanging slight glances out of the corner of your eye that you both know the other can see, but you do it anyways. Whenever something such as this happens, it's best to draw it out for as long as you can without talking. I find the awkward silence and quiet wondering is usually more entertaining than after you break down and actually talk to the person. If they don't have something interesting to say after two or three hours of this, you know it's time to change seats.

When the girl finally spoke, she wanted to know what the tattoo on my hand said. When I explained the Hebrew translation, the look on her face was either relief or sarcasm. I asked her what was in her bag that needed feeding, and she unzipped the top, revealing some kind of small parrot. We talked about the bird for a while, and then I decided it was time to change seats, but mostly because we had stopped in Boise and half the people on the plane had gotten off, so there was now plenty of open space. We both took window seats at the opposite sides of our row, and didn't say much for the remainder of the flight.

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I'm Josh Wood, a tech entrepreneur and software developer. I founded Hint.io and Honeybadger.io. I'm all about building awesome apps! More »