Tuesday, 22 July 2014

WordPress Daily Prompt: Middle Seat

It turns out that your neighbour on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?

Inside plane to London

Huh! My neighbour is a chatty tourist, never. When they let me out I make the most of it. Once a year I visit dad in London and take a plane from Zürich to London and return. This has been repeating itself for many years and many are the victims that have had to sit next to me. I must have been bored waiting for my next seat neighbour when I took this picture in 2009. I did not start a conversation with the bloke in front, I did not even know he was on the photo, honest. Usually they give me a seat next to the window, noticing that I have a camera somewhere hanging on my wrist or perhaps even around my neck. Camera people need a window seat so they can take the unforgettable photos of the space between the plane and the ground. Mostly it is just clouds, but by take-off and landing you can capture quite a few good views.

Cameras can engage you in conversations, but sometimes not so friendly. I remember when I was on the return trip to Zürich and a young lady was sitting next to me. I had already classified her as being unfriendly, as she made no attempt to engage me in an interesting conversation. I believe she was one of our colonialists from the States. I was approaching my fifth or sixth camera shot from the plane and she turned to me. I thought “at last a chatty conversation with an American colonialist”, but no she said “Do you mind not clicking your camera all the time to take photos, it is annoying me”. I was speechless, put my camera demonstrative in my handbag and ignored the fact that she was sitting next to me. There can be up to hundred passengers on a plane (it was a mini plane) and they sit me next to someone that has a camera phobia. Perhaps she was annoyed that I was given the window seat and she was the “pickle in the middle”.

There have been other positive journeys. The best that happened was when I was seated next to a Swiss lady that was married to an Englishman and was returning home after visiting her family in Switzerland.  Her mother was seriously ill in Switzerland. I was travelling to England, an English lady married to a Swiss, visiting my dad in England. I remember the journey well as it was when my mother had died and I was going over for the funeral. Not a very good start to a journey, however, the lady and I discovered we had a lot in common. We mainly spoke in Swiss German, with some English in between and were swopping experiences of life in Switzerland and in England . We were so engaged in conversation that the air hostess collected our empty coffee cups as the plane was diving for a landing. My dad and her husband met us at London Airport.

The seat neighbours on these trips are all part of the fun. I do not really care if they are chatty and generally they do not have a big chance of getting chatty with me as what they can chat, I can chat better. There was a computer technician on the way to London City Airport: poor man, it was when I had just finished my web assistant course and was in the blogging way of life. I had a lot of questions about computers, html, css and all that stuff. He did his best to help. The last I saw of him was when he was almost running down the boarding stairs from the plane and darting through the arrival lounge at the airport. Did he want to get away from me?

The boring neighbours are those coming from strange countries, especially if they are in groups. I love a good conversation, you can always learn something from other countries, but an hour sitting next to an Indonesian who spoke English like an Indonesian was a strain. The Arab was more interesting, but spent the first ten minutes telling me that they did not want to let him on the plane, I think it was something to do with suspicious luggage. However, he was happy to be there and I spent the hour’s flight hoping that I would arrive in one piece.

My last flight to London was almost boring. I had a window seat and the plane was half empty. The food used to compensate for no talking neighbours. It would at least keep my mouth busy. Due to cutting costs on the flight ticket, today all you get is some sort of strange bread roll with an indefinable filling and a small bar of Swiss chocolate. Even the coffee is not as it was, so I just have a plastic cup of plain water to wash it all down.

The return flight was better. I notice people do not really know how to classify me. Is she English or Swiss? Even the flight attendants are confused. We were approaching London and a passenger suddenly sat next to me and began a conversation about London in English. I asked if she was Swiss and she confirmed saying that she was living and working in London. I automatically switched to Swiss German when we were flying over the Olympic buildings from the last Olympics in London. This area is interesting for me as it is where I grew up. I gave the young lady a guided tour of the area from the air. She did not flee when we landed, and I think she was quite happy.

Mr. Swiss and I once did a flight to New York. That was seven hours, but boring. I can talk to Mr. Swiss at home and thus he is not such an interesting conversation partner on a plane. At least they showed a Tom Cruise Film, The Firm, which kept me quiet for a couple of hours. We were given business class thanks to Mr. Swiss. It was in the good old days when you were allowed to smoke on a plane and they had no smoking seats left in the low life seats, so they put us in business class. We got real plates made of china and the wine was served in real glass. It compensated for my boring seat neighbour that had nothing new to add to the conversation. On the return flight it was a different thing altogether. We flew through the night with the low life; everything plastic, hot and sweaty. I was glad when we landed in Zürich.

Now that was a chatty blog wasn’t it. I wonder what my neighbours over on the next blog are telling us. We are all sitting at our computers and chatting away with ourselves, and sharing our conversations with each other, so see you all on the flip side.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid you would find me one of the 'boring' ones. I don't easily strike up conversations with strangers, particularly of flights, although you might be lucky if you happened to open the conversation with a subject I enjoy talking photography, computers, science or movies. I always request the window seat, and keep fingers crossed for a half-empty flight where I can stretch out across all three seats (we're talking trans-Atlantic flights here). Last time i went to the US, I was lucky in both directions.