Are you a talker, sleeper or ‘do-er’?
I recently boarded a flight back to Sydney after a work trip. We’d had a beautiful morning at the beach before reluctantly packing to head back home… Home is inland and very much ‘beachless’. A little sad to leave the turquoise ocean behind, yet, feeling grateful for our mini break.
Anyway, the point of this article is to seek ‘What’s Your Flight Style’? This may seem like a weird question, yet this thought process came to me when I boarded this particular flight back to Sydney.
We slotted into our row of three and immediately did our [family] ritual… bags up or under the seat. iPad hidden so that Mr ‘four’ can be bribed to sleep before the iPad comes out, drink bottle ready, snacks within easy reach, and don’t forget the three favourite super hero figurines that must be held in gorgeous chubby toddler hands. Hubby’s usually catching flies before take off (i.e. yes, he is snoring and sound asleep – an impossibility for me).
The above all plays out fine, when group flying that is – i.e. you already have your ‘crowd’ you know them and it’s easy to fly in familiar company. However, what if you are flying solo?
When you fly solo, you are unavoidably going to be seated next to a complete stranger or two. Do you chat to them? Do you say hi and then do what you want to do without any interaction? Or are you an engager for the long haul [the entire flight]?
As we settled into our seats, behind us sat a woman who was eager to spruik conversation with her fellow stranger. Before I’d had a chance to put a magazine in my seat pocket, she’d already introduced herself, extracted fellow stranger’s name, age, final destination and asked for a photo of where ‘said stranger’ lived… I said to my husband “We’ve got a talker”… he grimaced and rolled his eyes at the same time. This incessant chitter-chatter didn’t look like it would dim. No, in fact it was going from strength to strength.
I listened… a) because she was a loud talker so it was hard to ignore, and, b) because I thought I could get a story without doing the legwork of the interview [bonus].
If you are seated beside someone who wishes to talk [interrogate] you, how do you handle it? Do you look at your novel and pine, knowing that you are not going to get the opportunity to turn those glorious pages in peace, or do you have a trick up your sleeve to politely [or not so politely] disengage from conversation?
I’ve always been polite and sometimes ‘too shy’ to assertively withdraw [continuing conversation because it’s making the other person happy]… that was until years ago, when someone taught me the headphone trick… This works a treat: smile at the person interrogating you as you place the buds in your ears and say, “late night!” – Whilst closing your eyes, placing your head back and pretending to be asleep at lightning speed. Give it ten to fifteen, and then, without any eye contact or engaging body language, swiftly pick up your book and get reading without the slightest of a side look. Voilà – message sent loud and clear.
Often we are able to engage in small talk for a short duration before natural human instincts allow other like-minded humans to ‘do their own thing’ or give them some space. They can read the play, they know the exact timings of ‘niceties’ and know when to just let someone be.
I can tell you… after this particular flight, I wanted to turn around and high-five the good sport that answered rapid-fire questions for one and a half hours, politely with only a hint of reluctance, yet didn’t opt for an escape [perhaps she forgot her headphones].
I listened, I love to listen and close my eyes to see what I can absorb – I wanted to know whether she [the interviewer aka. the ‘talker’] would leave any stone unturned].
I learned what kind of milk the talker gave to her children, the kind that comes with cream on top, which her kids love. I learned her 74-year-old grandfather runs a handy man business and is still full of beans (God love him), that she has two children and her nine-year-old daughter is interested in all things marine life. Her interviewee [victim] lives remotely on a spread of land containing three properties… “Three Properties” the talker exclaimed, the conversation steered into jobs and her career. I cringed and held my breath momentarily when I thought she might ask what her taxable income was. “Cattle” she said, followed by “how many head”? “Sheep” she said, followed by “How many head”. Do you have a mum? Are you close? What does she think of your boyfriend? What’s the first thing you do in the morning before work, before responsibilities? No, even before breakfast, what do you do? Where were you born? What is your heritage? She had no boundaries… Onto asking how she met her boyfriend and what their plans were with regard to timeframe of procreating! Really? It didn’t stop… literally for one and a half hours; she just kept it going… She’d have made a bloody good 60 Minute journo [cough… interrogator].
I like to use flight time to write, or to read, interrupted intermittently by toddler requests and snoring from ‘fly catching’ husband. Of course, with the exception of short flights, because the minute I open my laptop, I’m told by the hostess that, “It’s now time to prepare for landing”… total laptop time… two point five minutes [insert sarcasm].
So all in all, I would say I’m a polite talker for a limited time only, I then like to ‘do’ [read or write] and on the odd occasion sleep. Or in the case of this flight, I listened and was both mortified and intrigued at the gusto and persistence of the passenger behind me. She was really lovely and she was genuinely interested in her side-seated passenger… but for this flight, I happily dodged a bullet and sat in the comfort of my family cocoon.
The only exception… the jackpot! What do I mean by this? Sometimes, on very rare occasions, you have flight opportunity. Meaning that you make a worthwhile business contact, gain a new friend, or expand personal development from a person that has something to offer. Sometimes the reverse, a passenger can gain something from you in which you’re prepared to share. It has to feel right though; it calls for the right disposition. You must feel open and likewise for your fellow passenger to be open. I guess the ‘talker’ in this instance thought perhaps that she’d hit her own jackpot on this flight, hence, incessant talking. Nevertheless, interrogating is never quite my style!
What’s your flight style?