Because Sometimes It Is Always Worth It To be Genial
Fellow Passenger No.1: Gatwick-Atlanta
Kevin, the mid-level manager from Michigan. This guy was, like myself, tall, and thus opted for the emergency exit. He worked for Coca-Cola in their finances department a fact he pointed out as I drank a bottle of Oasis (tragically the only available fruit juice at the departure gate). We had an interesting conversation at the beginning of the flight, but it quickly became obvious that, though pleasant enough, he was quite an ordinary guy with ordinary tastes – beer, women, American football, etc. He had an interest in our quaint old sport of rugby, which I rightly pointed out had as much claim to be called football as his version of football. Namely, both sports involve an egg-shaped ball that was mostly held in the hands rather than with kicked around with the feet. Silly American misnomers. We departed on amicable, but ultimately empty terms.
FP No.2: Atlanta-San José
Dutch guy. Name, age, likes/dislikes: all unknown. Slept the entire journey to San Jose with the Dutch version of volume two of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy about Swedish intrigue or something. Didn’t get a chance to chat. Shame, really. The Dutch are usually entertaining. The Economist I had just read had an article about the Millenium Trilogy which was quite interesting. They’ve just published the third book in English. Maybe worth a look, but I doubt it. The Swedish title for that particular one is “Flickan Som Lekte Med Elden”, which, unless my Swedish is mistaken, which it couldn’t possibly be, means “Flicking Someone’s Lexus At My Elders”.
FP No.3: Atlanta-Heathrow
Merchant Sailor from New Orleans. Fantastic accent! Can’t recall his name, but he was a mostly pleasant fellow, though perhaps unused to non-sailor talk judging from his occasional lack of conversational awareness. He had just started working for Shell in Qatar transporting Liquefied Natural gas by boat and was on a connecting flight through Heathrow. Had some wonderful stories about sailors crimes, debauchery and whatnot. He grumbled about how Shell had just lowered the Beer Limit from 5 a day to 2 a day, much to everyone’s chagrin. He did have some useful information which I will be taking to heart: when travelling, the international currency of getting past power-tripping border guards and prickly immigration officers is apparently Marlboro Reds, a luxury good in the third world. Duly noted, my good man, duly noted.
FP No.4: Heathrow-Atlanta
Turkish academic by the name of Jozef. Dean of Nanotechnology at the University of Illinois. Best person I’ve met so far. Lovely chap by all measures. After parsing a few tales of travel woes – his baggage is currently somewhere in Minneapolis for some reason and he was almost late for a conference in Cambridge Uni – I casually namedropped that I knew some Turks (via Eyp) from Robert College (one of Turkey’s most prestigious school and the source of many a great EYPer), he revealed that he was in fact an alumnus of Robert College and its college attachment Bosphorus University. The conversation went swimmingly from there! Having a good five hour chat on a ten hour plane trip is a many splendoured thing indeed. History, politics, religion and science – fascinating, deep and intellectual, it was such a pleasure. In my jetlagged state, I had to sleep a lot as did he. So I watched some Curb Your Enthusiasm on my laptop to make up for it and learn exactly how not to speak to strangers.