Monday, January 3, 2011
Who likes to chat and make friends with seatmates on airplanes? You? Nope? Well, how about you? Nope?
It may be that a bit o' the Pacific Northwest has crept into my psyche (I've lived there for 13 years).
(Ed note: Ned Flanders creator, Matt Groening, is from Pacific Northwest)
Pacific Northwesterners do not like chit-chatting with strangers. They also do not like smiling, or saying "Hello!" to strangers. I learned this the hard way after moving to Seattle from the smiling, "Hello!"-saying Midwest. My innocent smiling and "Hello!"s were answered with narrowed eyes and an increased shuffling pace of the passers-by. One native explained "Well, it's like we're wondering what you want from us."
What I want from you? You mean, like chocolate? Or discounted high-end footwear?
I didn't understand this, but have since tried to accept that "Hello!" is only okay for friends and acquaintances, and passive-aggressiveness is for everyone.
Mutter, mutter, barely audible sneering and complaining.
When leaving the Pacific Northwest by air (for smilier, more "Hello!"-saying destinations) I like to board the aircraft, swing carry-on bag into overhead compartment, shove purse underneath seat in front of me, plop into seat, and then mentally eliminate all other passengers. Not in an unfriendly, or passive-aggressive way, I just enjoy the Me Time on the plane. Just me and the Flight Crew! HELLO FLIGHT CREW!
Diet Coke with lemon, please! (or tomato juice if I want to brag about having eaten my vegetables that day)
On a recent flight, I followed my usual protocol and settled into my aisle seat, closing my eyes. Window Seat and Middle Seat were both women, around my age, who hadn't known each other pre-flight. They became instant friends and were chatting amicably about a bunch of stuff, and I thought "Oh that's nice" while easing into a nap.
As I kind of napped, I also kind of eavesdropped, and ended up being interested in what I was hearing. Window Seat was a Korean-American who had just returned from spending three months in Seoul, South Korea. Hey! I lived there for a year! I wanted to share. I dragged myself out of my self-imposed airplane solitary confinement and said "I'm sorry, I was eavesdropping..." blah blah, shared experiences, and FUN! I really liked these girls! Both were from L.A. so I felt comfortable explaining the annoyances of Pacific Northwest "communication" practices.
When the plane landed and the "fasten seatbelt" sign dinged off, everyone popped up and started the kerfuffle of gathering their crap. I heard Window Seat say "Ohmygosh, I'm sorry! I didn't think we were talking that loud." I looked over at her with eyebrows raised, and she sort of motioned toward the row in front of us, shrugging her shoulders.
When we were released into the terminal, and could move about freely, I said "What was that all about?" Window Seat explained that Random Guy had whined to Random Girl "MAN, they talked the ENTIRE TIME", to which Random Girl answered "Yeah, I know", and then Random Guy said "I mean they just didn't shut UP!" and this was the point where Window Seat, realizing they were talking about us, offered her apology, which was apparently ignored by both Guy and Girl.
Yep. Pacific Northwest passive-aggressiveness.
The airplane is not the library-diddly. People are allowed to speak to one another-diddly-oodly. We weren't drunk or loud or screaming babies-bibbly-boobly! We weren't kicking their seats or grabbing their hair while using their headrests as leveraging devices-dum-diddly-dangily! They were grumpy about basically nothing-noodly! And yet found it necessary to complain just loudly enough for one of us to hear that they were unhappy-nappily-ding-dang-noodly-doodly! And then to completely ignore the apology.
I desperately wished to encounter Random Guy and Random Girl somewhere in the terminal, so I could smile widely at them and yell "HELLO!", so that they would then wonder "What do you want from us?" and I could tell them "I want you to RELAX-iddly-ax-iddly!"
I still can't decide whether or not I'd talk to Ned Flanders on a flight.