I travel a fair bit for both business and pleasure but as much as I like the “being there” I’m not quite as crazy about the “getting there”. There’s just something about being locked up for hours in a very large metal tube that is wholly dependent upon a multitude of computerized parts that I find disconcerting. It’s not that I really think space junk will fall from the heavens and hit us smack on the nose, it’s just that if it does it has occurred to me that I don’t know how to fly. And at 37,000 feet off the ground that’s not, as Martha likes to say, “a good thing”. Nonetheless, for much of my adult life I have ignored these rather inconvenient thoughts, pulled on my lucky jeans, said a few prayers and made my way to the airport. Oh yeah, and popped a little white pill.
You see for the past 20 years or so I have been reliant on “a little something to keep me calm” as I make my way across the big blue. Now I don’t really have a problem with altering my state of mind for this, and only this purpose. As a matter of fact, the first time I went to fill my newly acquired prescription at the pharmacy the conversation went something like this:
Pharmacist: So have you ever taken this medication before?
Me: No, I haven’t.
Pharmacist: Are you certain you need to take this?
Me: I’m only taking it to get on an airplane.
Pharmacist: Oh! That’s different! We all take it to get on an airplane. Have a good trip.
I’m not sure that made me feel a whole lot better but I took some solace in knowing I was not alone in my plight. And since that day, although things usually go well in the air, they sometimes fall apart at the far side as, depending on the length of the trip there are times when I am not quite my rational self when we land. And that’s when the problems start. Like the time I had to pick up a rental car in Vancouver and when told I had been allocated an Impala, which in retrospect I know to be a fine car, I leaned over the counter, looked the poor unsuspecting clerk in the eye and without even the hint of a smile said “nice try my man, but I like small foreign cars”. Or while unexpectedly grounded in Denver with nothing much to do but shop, I came to the rather expensive, as it turns out, conclusion that my next cup of coffee would taste much better in a $20.00 Ferrari mug and the cat would look smashing in a Harley-Davidson vest.
So a few months ago I made the rather courageous decision to fly “au naturel” without the assistance of any synthetic aides. Surely I thought, there are skills I have honed as a shallow person that could help me deal with this situation. And that’s when it came to me. Maybe this is the time to exploit my propensity for small talk, my uncanny ability to carry on a conversation about essentially everything and nothing because honestly, that’s what shallow people do most of the time. Want to talk about your kids? I’ve got some too. Interested in politics? How about that Obama! Going to university? I work at one. Don’t like flying? Boy, do I know how you feel!
And so it was that on my first foray into substance-free travel I was fortunate enough to sit beside a woman who not only had children attending university out of town (mine too, and can that ever get expensive!) in Ontario (hey, I used to live there) but was also employed by the same institution as I am (let’s see, who do you know?). And it worked. Four hours later as we touched down at our destination I realized that not once had I thought about the possibility that a bolt could come loose on the left wing causing it to fall off in mid-air. Of course there is no way of knowing who you’re going to get so you have to be flexible and roll with the punches. And since you may have to be the one that initiates the conversation take my advice and have a quick peek at Yahoo News just before you board.
Yes I know some people use their travel time to do a little work, lose themselves in a good book or just catch up on some well-deserved sleep. But the next time you find yourself sitting in the seat next to a “Chatty Cathy”, be kind. Because although they may not be as interested in you as they appear to be, you just might be their “little white pill”.