October 23, 2015: I sat in an airport terminal ready to fly home for the first time since I had left for college. A woman appeared beside me who looked as if she was in her late 60s. She was polite and asked if the seat next to me was reserved for anyone. I answered no, and so it began.
I am one of those people who others loath when they just want to sit in peace and quiet. The lady, Kathleen as I later learned, beside me was not reading a book nor watching Netflix, only staring at the plane that we both were about to board. I took out my headphones and quietly asked, “Are you headed home or are you vacationing?”
It was a simple question that opens up a multitude of doors. She told me her son went to a university in Nashville and she had the time, so she thought she would surprise him. She continued on by saying that she had lived a busy life as he was growing up, but now that she was retired she took advantage of every opportunity she had to visit him.
Our boarding class was called and we said our goodbyes. I walked on the plane and thought how nice it was to have talked to someone instead of watching a movie or reading a book for those 10 minutes I was sitting there. After I took my seat, I looked up to see the same lady walking down the aisle toward me. With the sweetest smile, she asked if the seat next to me was taken. How was I to say no? It was like I would be saying no to a grandmother who asks her grandchildren if they want a butterscotch candy! She sat.
What I thought was going to be a 10 minute interaction at a terminal, ended up being the pouring out of life stories over a two-hour plane ride. The busy life she lived? She was a FBI agent. Her husband worked for the agency as well (retired as well). Her son decided that he couldn’t live as crazy of a life as they did and decided he would become a lawyer instead.
After landing and exiting the plane, she turned to me and stated, “I wish every plane ride was like this. Relaxing and making new friends, even if it was a two-hour friendship.”
Those short, meaningful interactions are ones that we quickly forget about, but grin when we remember how much we enjoyed them. My hope is to take these interactions, whether serious or light-hearted, 30 seconds or two hours, and capture the reasons as to why we love them. I am that person in the elevator who will ask you, “What floor?” After pushing the button I will then ask how your day has been—I cannot wait to share their answers with you.