@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
While it is both my specialty and joy to write about the characters who are insane, annoying, deplorable yet human— and everyone, I mean everyone, has been subjected to sitting next to a human you wouldn’t even want to know existed, let alone have to sit next to them on a flight. But, alas, most of the plane passengers I’ve sat next to are interchangeable and faceless in my memory. However, there are always exceptions.
Most of the time, if I’m talking to the person next to me on a flight, it’s against my will, and I am trying to find a polite way to get out of it. A couple years ago, I was doing a lot of flying for a “Nobodies of Comedy” tour (despite the awful tour name, they were amazing theater gigs: four comics doing 25 minutes each— great shows with great comics), but if I was ever on a plane with someone who was coughing, I always came home sick. So I started wearing surgical masks, and people think you’re a psycho and/or you are contagious. Fools!!! You will not make friends if you are wearing a surgical mask.
I don’t know why people think that just because you’re sitting next to them they’re allowed to force a conversation on you.
But there have been four exceptions in my life.
On my flight to Spain, I was traveling alone to visit my friend who was living there at the time. I was flying into Madrid, and then had to get on a small plane to fly to Barcelona where I was meeting up with my friend (Barcelona, by the way, one of my favorite cities). From NY to Spain, the guy sitting next to me was, I’ll call him Alex, because that was him name: Alex. He was my age. Great smile. French. An NYU student returning home to see his parents. I don’t remember what we talked about, but we were flirtatious and he was cute and sweet, and he spoke English, French, and Spanish which proved a great help because I couldn’t read any of the signs in the Madrid airport. If not for him, I might’ve missed the plane to Barcelona.
To and from Hawaii I met two great people. Which is apropos because Hawaii is the most amazing magical place. On the way there I was next to an Asian girl, a student in NY who was returning home to Hawaii, and she was reading “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” by David Sedaris, which is one of my favorite books. This may have been the only time in my life I started a conversation with a person sitting next to me on a plane. We talked books we’ve read, school (I had recently graduated college and had been doing comedy only a couple years), the good and bad of New York, and she told me about growing up in Hawaii. I’d yet to to be blown away by Hawaii’s beauty which would exceed my already exceedingly high expectations. She had nothing bad to say about Hawaii, only, quite understandably, that you feel a little isolated. She was a super bright girl who loved being a student in New York, but didn’t think she would be happy living there (because she didn’t see a lot of evidence that people who lived there were very happy— as I said, she was smart), but she wanted to live in one or two other cities before settling in Hawaii. I haven’t the slightest doubt that no matter where that girl is, she is successful and happy.
Leaving Hawaii was hard. I fell in love. I still think about Hawaii every day. On the return flight, during which I felt both melancholy and moved, the guy next to me was in his mid-thirties, board shorts, tan, shaggy blond hair: picture a stereotypical surfer and that’s this guy. He’s cool, laid back, we exchanged some surf stories. His were way better than mine, and I was quite content listening to his stories of surfing Bali, South America, Australia, but none better than Hawaii. Compared to this guy, I’m not a surfer at all. I’m a mere wannabe with a retrofish (type of surf board). He’s surfed Banzai Pipeline. One of the best things about this guy was at some point, I told him I was going to nap and we discontinued our conversation. When I woke, we spoke again, and when there was a lull in conversation, we both read each others body language and went to our reading material, until we were close to landing and talked again. It was just so seamless, like we had already been friends. When we parted, he even said some sort of stupid cliche like “ride on surfer girl,” which sounds retarded, I know. I would do an exaggerated eye roll if I saw that happen in a movie, but it actually didn’t feel cheesy, or contrived, it was cliche but genuine. I think big wave surfers are so laid back because you have to be. If you’re able to paddle out and surf in 20+ft swell, you have to be calm as fuckin’ hell. That shit is terrifying. You couldn’t not like that guy. His happiness with life was radiant.
I cannot remember if I was leaving the Grand Cayman island or returning home. But my best friend Jimmy and I were in a three row seat. Jimmy had the window. I had the dreaded middle seat. This seat, of course, comes with the anxiety of watching people board the plane, wondering who will be the person boxing you in. The woman who sat beside me was a slightly overweight black woman who was bopping to music in oversized headphones. She smiled and greeted Jimmy and I. We wouldn’t exchange much words after that. She spent the entire flight with a slight smile, bopping her head to her music (not annoyingly though, just a slight head bop). The entire flight. At one point, I nodded off, and when I woke up, she was still smiling and bopping to her music. I never saw someone so genuinely content in their own world on a flight. “Life is good, god is good, music is good,” she smiled and then bopped away. Every time I’m on a plane, I think about that woman. If she can beam an aura of light on an airplane, her life must be exceedingly fulfilling simply because she just kills it at present living. Life is good, god is good, music is good. I think life is okay, god doesn’t exist, and music is great. For all my melancholy thoughts, I can get lost in music too. But I can only ever be as happy as she for fleeting moments, moments that fly away but fly back too.