On the last flight I took I found myself sitting down next to a girl with a smile bigger than a whole pack of Chiclets.
It wasn’t for me, that smile.
It was directed toward her phone, where a text message, or a Facebook update or perhaps even a YouTube clip had her enraptured.
Anyway, she didn’t speak to me; she scarcely saw me.
Anyway, she didn’t speak to me; she scarcely saw me. That’s part of the etiquette on planes these days, what with the seats built so close your knees are practically kissing the knees of the people beside you. Speak too readily to your seatmates and Lord knows what might happen. You could find yourself listening to them for hours, as they delightedly recite the highlights from every chapter of their lives.
So the two of us maintained a courteous silence, which was fine with me. Our body language was amiable enough.
While she smiled away at her phone I got busy arranging things in my own mouse-sized allotment of space: placing my water bottle here, my planner there, my carry-on with its several gadgets and chargers tucked safely under my feet down here.
When the flight attendant came by one last time before takeoff, my seatmate looked up and addressed him with her big wide smile.
“Can I move?” she asked. “I want to sit with my mother.”
“Ah no, you can’t. We’ve just pushed back from the gate.”
“But she’s right back there. And there IS an empty seat.”
He sighed. “You can’t now but which one is she?”
She only indicated with a toss of her head. She didn’t even turn around.
“The one with the hair and the glasses,” she said.
That’s when I started to smile. In fact, I laughed out loud.
“Spoken like all daughters everywhere!” I hooted.
She looked at me for one beat. Two beats. Was she offended? Perplexed? Then she laughed too. I think we both knew that all mothers are, at certain times, a source of embarrassment to their children.
Maybe she laughed because she was acknowledging this truth. Maybe she suddenly heard herself and realized what she was suggesting by her remark: Namely that of all the people on the plane no one else had hair and no one else wore glasses. Or that of those that did in fact have hair and wear glasses, none did so in the same wildly conspicuous way that her mother was doing.
Maybe she laughed because she saw she saw, even if only briefly, that at some point not so far in the future her own daughter would be indicating with the same toss of her head, “THAT one. My mother is THAT embarrassing one over there.”
Anyway, we had the laugh. Then ten minutes later, the Fasten Seat Belts sign went off and she moved back and sat in the place she had so badly wanted to sit, near the back of the plane by her mum.