An Open Letter to People on Airplanes Who’ve Tried to Convert Me

I once read an in-flight magazine article about businesspeople using airplanes as a vehicle for sales. They’d realized commercial flights were an untapped market, a networking free-for-all with a guaranteed, limited time captive audience. I’ve since encountered several of you: religious types using flights to work your sixty-second—or two-and-a-half-hour—pitch.

While I support Southwest Airlines, the whole open seating policy lends itself to this kind of unregulated hustling. You make your way down the aisle, eyes scanning rows for the perfect seat, which you won’t choose but God will choose for you, and I know what’s coming. I was genetically engineered as an ideal target: female, blonde-hair-blue-eyed-Midwestern-Nice, average height and weight, utterly unintimidating. You pause. You smile. You and God choose me.

But since my time here is short, and since I’m not banking on it continuing eternally in a winged world somewhere beyond the puffy cumulus clouds, what I’d really love to do is live that dream, to savor these rare hours of soaring through the heavenly skies in peace. For both our sakes, then, allow me to offer a few travel tips:

1. As conversation starters go, “Do you know that Jesus loves you today?” is inadvisable. First of all, it’s a Y-N question—not a recommended rhetorical move. Also, unless the soul in question spent the duration of the boarding period smacking buttons in the cockpit while the rest of us fought over baggage space, and unless he is now sporting little plastic wing pins, kicking the seatback in front of him, and cramming his face with his own personal stash of peanuts, it’s a little patronizing, wouldn’t you say? (As an aside, I noticed that you were reading the Left Behind series for the entirety of the flight, but waited until the plane was making its descent before you turned to me and popped that question. Something about that just felt icky.)

2. No one likes to be shaken from a dream state and reminded that they’re going to die someday—good god, flight attendants don’t even wake us for free snacks and booze.

3. To the younger ones: I understand that you are ecstatic about your college campus’s burgeoning Christian ministry, and that the frontal lobes of your brain haven’t fully connected yet. However, as a nineteen-year-old, you should be more than well versed in the Gospel of Privacy Settings. Consider reading material, earplugs, headphones and laptops to be a conscious, preventative move aimed at keeping strangers on the plane from Friending me.

4. This is economy class. And those MBA kids are working the rows, too. If you want to compete with the suits, you’ve got to get in on the schwag. Eternal life in Heaven after I die? That could take decades. The Abreva rep on my last American Airlines flight offered me free pens. Even the Census folks gave away free tote bags and trucker hats, and they only wanted to count me as part of society, no ideological transformations or weekly meetings required. Take a cue from the airline credit card kiosks and give us a little instant gratification with your logo on it. Oh—and as long as I’m making requests, a “Jesus is Watching You” sleep mask or one of those pretty cross necklaces would be nifty.

I hope this saves you from further failed attempts at conversion and forever clears the compressed air between us.


Anna Vodicka’s essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Brevity, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, and Shenandoah. She lives near the Spokane International Airport.

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