A couple of weeks ago I was preparing to fly out of DFW to my hometown of Philadelphia. My schedule was tight, which is not my norm. I take getting to the airport at a comfortable time very seriously. Even the slightest chance of missing my flight is anathema for me. I loathe the anxiety of possibly missing my flight and will go through great lengths to avoid it.
On this occasion, I had done my usual timetable preparation: I would get off work at exactly five o’clock and get back to the crib as expeditiously as traffic would allow. With an 8:35p departure time, I could easily satisfy my compulsion to be at the airport at least 90 minutes in advance. Even if there was a hiccup in me getting a ride to the airport via Uber or Lyft, there should be plenty of time to spare.
But I decided to throw a small monkey wrench into the works by squeezing in a haircut. My first mind and best option was to have gotten that done on the day before my flight. But I got lazy and decided against it, thinking my unruly gray hair wasn’t shaggy enough to make is necessary. However, while at work on Friday, I took a gander at myself in the restroom mirror and realized I couldn’t arrive in Philly in such a state. So I decided to cram in a haircut after work before my flight.
This decision was not good for my continuous campaign against travel anxiety. My erstwhile cushion of time between getting off work and arriving at the airport was almost totally dissipated. The barber was working on one head–he appeared to be just about done–and signaled to me he had only one more after before getting to me. By my estimation, I could pull this off and still maintain my timetable of getting to the airport.
Au contraire, my friend. The guy before me, who appeared to be not much of a barber’s challenge–his hair was already closely cropped and didn’t look to be in need of a cut–wanted not only a cut but his beard trimmed and shaped. Added to the time consumption was the sloth-like manner in which my barber performs his tonsorial duties. My anxiety was pushed to the limit and by the time I got into the chair, time was critical, and I showed it. I informed my barber that he had a twelve-minute window in which to make me look presentable. Mission accomplished! Time was back on my side.
My arrival at the airport was early enough for me to actually have a bite to eat–that was a huge part of my reason for getting to the airport according to plan–and a tall brew, with leisure. But then another unforeseeable delay reared its ugly head. There were only two checked-baggage agents working at the time. Each of them seemed to be occupied in some sort of problem that was taking longer than I thought I had time to endure. In particular, there was a young lady who seemed to be struggling to dig something out of her rather large suitcase, with the coaching of the baggage agent. I couldn’t figure out exactly what they were attempting to do but I was getting very agitated. I could see the time for a grub and grog slowly running through my fingers.
Eventually the baggage thing was resolved and I got to check mine and move through security and, finally, arrive at the gate about an hour for my departure. Enough time for my much-anticipated beer and sandwich repast.
Finally, flight time, and as I moved through the stretch A321 jet towards my aisle seat in the very rear of the aircraft, guess who was already firmly situated in the window seat in the same aisle? Yes, the woman who was holding up the check baggage line.
I greeted her with a wide smile and quipped, ‘Could we be any further in the back of the plane?!’ She laughed in return. ‘I know you,’ I continued. ‘You were the women in the baggage line holding things up.’
Again, she laughed as I settled in my seat.
‘I was getting really irritated with the delay,’ I said, enjoying our playful repartee.
‘I could tell. I was getting really nervous.’
‘Oh, wow, I didn’t think it was noticeable.’
‘Yes, it was.’
We giggled some more.
I asked what the matter was with her and the baggage agent and she explained that the reason for them fishing through the small unzipped portion of her suitcase was to find an item that would lessen the weight and keep her charge at $25.
She was an attractive and pleasant young woman and we engaged easily. The aircraft had a 3-and-3 configuration and the seat between us empty. Passengers were still filing in and my seat-aisle mate said, ‘I hope no one has the middle seat.’
The middle seat went unclaimed and we chatted each other up, eventually identifying ourselves. When traveling by air, you are in close proximity to strangers and conversations may develop. Some are short and formal; others are animated, sometimes even delightful. This conversation was of the animated and delightful category. Like old acquaintances, we asked questions of each other, offered opinions on different subjects, and playfully challenged each other’s points of view.
The flight was delayed by about 45 minutes. The new young friend–yes, it didn’t take long for me to consider her as such–shared with me how a plane’s takeoff terrifies her. ‘Would you mind holding my hand during takeoff?’ she asked. ‘Wouldn’t mind at all,’ I responded. Sure enough, at takeoff, she began to squirm and fret. As the jet hurtled down the runway she squeezed my hand even tighter and bent over in distress. Finally, as the jet lifted off the ground and began its climb to 33,000 feet, she slowly relaxed her grip on my hand and sat up straight. The 45 seconds of terror was over.
As we picked up on our conversation, it came out that my flying companion was just 30 years old. At some point, she asked how old I was and showed disbelief at my answer. ‘No way,’ she said. Of course I was pleased at this response. The age thing first surfaced because we had been talking about dating. (This after her query about my marital status.) I had mentioned my ‘rule of 20 years,’ which mandates that there be no more than a 20-year difference in age between anyone I have romantic interest in and me. Even that gap is too much in my opinion–15 years or less is more like it–but I can stretch under certain circumstances.
We talked freely for some time before taking a break: she looking out the window and fiddling with her smartphone; I browsed through the American Airlines flight magazine. Earlier she had asked me if I could detect anything different about her. I had had a vague notion regarding her ethnicity, my first guess being that she was possibly of African descent, possibly second generation. She divulged that her grandmother was one-half Filipino. Fooled me!
Demmie asked whether I had children and I said yes, a 38- and 32-year old, both males. She asked if I would get married again and I answered I wasn’t against it. We talked about her recently failed relationship with a man; he had cheated on her. She asked about my dating life–thus my ‘rule of 20 years’ declaration–and we debated our points of view. A totally organic exchange. I wanted such a woman for either of my sons, especially the older one, and told her so.
Demmie thought my age rule was hogwash. I’ve been told that before by several women. My logic is sound, I believe, but doesn’t appear so to my detractors. It certainly didn’t seem so to Demmie.
‘Would you date someone my age?’ she asked
‘No, you are less than half my age!’, I replied vehemently
She didn’t understand why such an age gap would necessarily be a problem. I explained that it was more about the future, though the present would surely present the challenge of just how much two people of such disparate ages could possibly have in common on a day-to-day basis. Then there is the math: in ten years time, I’d be 77 years old. A 30-year-old would be only 40. Would she still be interested? How many more skin tags and moles could she take? Also, health–mine–becomes more of a factor. Also, would I be secure enough not to be suspicious of any man who entered her orbit?
Demmie wasn’t buying it. In her opinion, diminishing physical attraction wouldn’t be a factor. If you are into someone, you are into someone, she reasoned. This thread of thought seems to be a common thread with women I’ve talked to. They’re into the entire package, not just what they see. Fair point. But I’m a man–we like more pictures, less text.
My conversation with this young lady was a transgenerational one. Of the very best kind, to my mind. There should be more of this type talk: folks of divergent ages talking about matters of life. It’s an opportunity for wisdom to be passed, in both directions. Young people can benefit from the extended experience of their elders. Conversely, oldsters can glean some insight about the current state of social mores from the younger generation. This exchange forges understanding and trust among the variant generations.
I think we all could use a bit of that.
P.S. For the PC Nazis in the house, my use of ‘girl’ in referring to a 30-year-old is born of relativity and should not be categorized as derogatory.