Achy and chocked full of Mexican food, I took my seat on the Jetblue flight out of Tucson and nervously awaited takeoff. As is custom in my travels, I will invariably be seated next to the saddest, most desperate person on the planet. A woman in her forties sat in my row, turned to me, and asked:
"Are you from New York?"
Ugh. Go fuck yourself. I guess we're talking now and I don't really want to get into the technical stuff like the fact I'm from Pennsylvania nor do I want to get trapped into answering obscure New York trivia for a tourist just before a four hour flight, which would no doubt open up the floodgates for more questions until I find myself telling this woman where to go for the best Brazilian pedicure.
"Yes," I answered.
"Well, my father just died and my mother is suicidal. How long do you think it would take to get up to Connecticut if I drove from JFK?"
Wait...wait, what? There are definitely TWO separate thoughts here. It had a strange blend of personal tragedy and an SAT question:
Jake is on a train traveling north at 4 meters per second. Paul is leaving from the same location, traveling south, at 3 meters per second. If Paul runs out of steam three minutes in, how could you do this to me?
"Uh, well, considering we'll be arriving at 7:30 AM, you'll probably hit a fair amount of traffic. I'd add an hour to whatever you were expecting."
And then I stared at my personal TV screen embedded in the headrest in front of me. Were we done? She didn't want to TALK about this did she? I'm ill equipped to deal my own tragedies, much less the woeful despair of others. I pretended to be enthralled with Animal Planet until I saw her vanish from my periphery. For a long time. So long that it appeared that, maybe, she went into the bathroom to open her veins 30,000 feet above the United States. (It turns out she found a row all to herself in the back of the plane in order to, one would hope, work on her tact in broaching sensitive subjects to complete strangers. Most likely, however, she used the time to figure out how to get into the cockpit and let the pilot know about her father's death, in case he wanted to make an announcement or something).
I suppose some things are so incomprehensible, so devastating, that you can't help but spill your guts to everyone you meet. Or, people can smell my awful fear of awkward situations.