I received an email last week from my very distant past.
A young girl was traveling from a Canadian city to a European one with her Dad while he was to speak at a conference. We were airplane seatmates with an ocean to cross and many hours to fill.
It was March 1980, and I know the exact date because I was 20 and about to begin a life-changing four-month solo trip through Portugal, Italy, France and Spain.
This week, she wrote to me — having seen my New York Times wedding announcement, thanks to her Dad — despite her current job in a dangerous Mideastern location. How cool to be remembered, and fondly, and to re-establish a connection. For I remembered her also very well.
My mom met the King of Belgium on one of her flights and I shared one journey with Canadian celebrity Rick Mercer, although not sitting beside him.
Her email made me remember a few other intriguing in-flight seatmates:
An assistant coach for the Toronto Argonauts and a team member, his thighs as thick and solid as tree trunks, on an Air Canada flight from Winnipeg to Vancouver. I was as intrigued about life in the major leagues as the coach was about the life of a writer.
A devastatingly handsome Welsh engineer, azure-eyed, deeply-tanned, living in Khartoum, flying from Dublin to Bristol on Christmas Eve to visit his Mom as I was flying there to visit mine. Instead, smitten, we ran off together for a few days driving the foggy hills and valleys of Wales.
The gentle physician on my flight from Newark to Vancouver last year as I faced the hideous task, without any family help, of putting my mother into a nursing home once I arrived. The man, who turned out to know a colleague of mine, trains other doctors in how to care for the dying. He offered powerful words of advice as we began our descent.
On a flight from Minneapolis to New York, my seatmate was a senior executive for a television network. I mentioned an idea to him that I had for a show — and he liked it enough to give me his card and ask me to pitch him. I’ve since assembled some of the necessary pieces, so we’ll see what happens.
Who has been your most interesting airplane seatmate?
When and where did you meet? Did you stay in touch?