The face of travel has changed dramatically. Rules have shifted south, as prices have continuously flown upward. It takes a patient person to fly the "not-so-friendly" skies these days, while maintaining a sense of humor in the upright position.
Having recently traveled through several airports and states, I decided to adopt a different attitude than usual. Rather than assume the travel portion of my agenda to be nothing but a necessary evil, I considered it just as significant as any other part of my trip. As a writer, I was optimistic that I would find pearls of wisdom where I least expected them. Committing them to memory, or perhaps a journal, would allow me to transfer them to magazine or newspaper copy at a later date.
My mental journal began as I boarded my first flight. I watched as, one by one, passengers ahead of me searched for seat assignments and overhead compartment space. I was amazed that no one incurred bodily harm, as luggage was hoisted from ground level to heights I could only imagine from my short stature. I was completely entertained as my fellow passengers dodged airborne objects, switched seats to be near loved ones, and made a mad dash to the tiny lavatory in the back of the plane, where my seat just happened to be. Okay, not "in" the lavatory, but one row ahead of it!
The first hurdle I faced on this flight was how to physically position myself in the middle seat of Row 32. As time was of the essence, I briefly considered my options. I could use earlier gymnastics training and vault over the gentleman in the aisle seat, but if I miscalculated, I could land in his lap. Judging by his looks and magazine of choice, I decided a lap dance would be required and immediately went to plan B. Engaging in the rules of ballet, I gingerly tip-toed past him, while making apologies for the inconvenience.
My next challenge was a mental one. Could I keep my pleasant disposition once I realized who the occupants, yes plural, were of the seat to my left? A mother and her one-year-old son were attempting to stay in the small space allotted between my arm rest and the window. My initial concern was whether or not I would need the migraine pills I had just stored under the seat in front of me. Thankfully, however, they never left my purse.
The lovely tan-skinned mother, with a beautiful African accent, was more than capable of keeping her little boy's behavior intact. She needn't have bothered. I took one look at his precious grin, with three tiny pearl white teeth, and melted. Matthew was adorable and I couldn't keep my hands off him. In no time at all, we were well into "peek-a-boo" and "put mommy's hat on the stranger's head." I had forgotten how refreshing little people could be. Sadly, once our flight reached a certain altitude, I lost my little buddy to the joy of napping.
During this quiet time, I learned a great deal about Matthew. In his short life, he had already experienced renal failure and multiple surgeries. Mother and child had earned more than their fair share of frequent flier points, traveling the globe to receive proper care. I was relieved to hear that his prognosis was good, with several surgeries yet to come.
Chapter two of my journal would be the highlights from a flight I can only describe as surreal. After buckling into my cherished window seat and opening a newly purchased novel, I became aware of the gentleman to my left. To this day, however, I could not tell you his name or anything about his appearance. Our conversation began slowly, with casual banter, but rapidly picked up in intensity. As he spoke, I was completely captivated. Through our discussion, I learned that he was a Christian speaker with engagements around the country, yet no formal training. He shared about healings he had witnessed, totally overjoyed with his love for the Lord.
Before I knew it, the landing gear was being released and a departure was inevitable. Prior to our final goodbye, this kind acquaintance asked if he could pray with me concerning a health issue I was battling. Taken aback by his generous offer, I was only too happy to accept. I have no recollection of the words he actually spoke, as he held one of my hands. As far as I was concerned, we were the only two people on the plane, or the planet, for that matter. Nothing could have tarnished that bright moment.
On the final leg of my journey, I became seatmates with a pilot employed by Delta Airlines. He began his introduction by admitting that if he wasn't piloting the flight, he would have to talk his way through it; sitting quietly was not an option. Happily, this worked in my favor. He was totally fascinating. I found myself asking constant questions and laughing profusely at his answers. This perk was definitely not included in the price of my ticket.
With a journal full of unexpected script, I encourage you to reconsider your own attitude before boarding future flights. Although the takeoffs may seem identical, you may be surprised at the outcome of each. That briefcase or purse you tucked away may just contain things no metal detector could ever reveal.
Barbara Benjamin is an avid poetry and short story writer. She has published a children's book, One White Christmas in Alabama, and a poetry collection, Beneath the Surface.