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A Chatty Visit To The Big Apple

The alarm was set for 4:30 a.m. Or as we night people call it: zero dark thirty.

My BFF, Ginger, was having a significant birthday. She flew here for my celebration last fall, so naturally, I was heading to NYC for hers.

I hate it when I have to set an alarm for three hours early, because I don’t sleep. Well, I sleep a little… but not well… awake every half hour or so. Getting to bed after 1:00 AM didn’t help. My flight was leaving out of Buffalo at 10:05AM. From where I live, JetBlue is always 5.5 hours away from wake-up time.

Just before heading out the door, I checked my computer one last time to confirm departure time. Turns out, if only I had checked it before hitting the sack, I could have slept until my usual 7:30AM. JetBlue had sent the message just after midnight.

New departure time – six minutes before 2 p.m. Rats!! (You know that’s not what I really said.).

By the time I arrived at the gate, I still had two hours to wait and was glad I brought a book. But some friendly folks from Hamilton and St. Catherine’s, Ontario were chatting about gardens and their massive rabbit infestations. Sitting among them, it was easy to talk about my summer’s greatest frustration – the same varmints. It seems that the rabbit maternity ward under my deck isn’t the only breeding ground around. The Canadians were irreverent, good-humored, and we had fun.

I expected to sleep on the plane, but my seatmate was a charming lady from the Philippines who was both an attorney and a food scientist in Palo Alto. Interestingly, I learned a lot about food safety. My late husband was based in Luzon, Philippines during the VietNam era, so we chatted about lottsa stuff. She was heading home from her Toronto and Niagara Falls vacation that she had loved. She was a happy camper – fun to sit next to.

When we arrived, the Kennedy JetBlue terminal was chockablock with thousands of passengers. Ginger, who lives in Forest Hills, Queens, picked me up at the jammed, 4-lane arrivals area. The hordes of arriving travelers all seemed to be looking for cars at the curb.

We finally escaped. And then, enroute, she took a detour through the neighborhood where we lived together 50-plus years ago. Back then, we newbie airline employees lived between LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. Our brick apartment building, which housed stewardesses from many airlines, was dubbed the “Stew Zoo.” Last week, unbelievably, it looked exactly the same. As we continued to Ginger’s apartment, we gabbed about those days, and as usual, we laughed a lot.

And it was the same for the next three days. We went to the theater Wednesday afternoon. Before the doors opened, we met Tony and Lorraine in line. Ginger and I have spent our lifetime, beginning with American Airlines, talking to people. We easily engaged this delightful couple, gabbing about theater, long marriages and growing up in NYC. The Big Apple natives were friendly and quick to share – with laughter.

The next day’s birthday luncheon, was over-the-top on the delight scale. Two of Ginger’s local friends joined us old fly-girls at one of her favorite Manhattan restaurants… classic Italian. Charlie and Luigi kept the Prosecco flowing as we reminisced, laughed, and completely agreed that we had all lived in the best of times – the golden age of aviation – when passengers were all-important. We had always talked to all of them.

And then, the next morning, I read David Brooks column in the New York Times. He wrote about how much we are missing by not talking to each other. And he lives in New York City! Ginger and I discussed his appropriate comments, thinking about today’s young professionals and children – with eyes and noses buried in their phones.

Brooks opined that we are a social species who are suffering from “undersociality.” We are afraid to speak to strangers, timid about what their response might be. When strangers actually do speak to each other, research has determined how surprisingly enjoyable the exchanges actually are. Good conversations lead to more knowledge, good feelings, and ergo, more happiness.

On the flight home to Buffalo, I was sad that my seat mate was wearing his headset and never made eye contact. But he is typical of the eyes-down, plugged-in crowd. He would not be enjoying the warmth or smiles that David Brooks suggested we share.

On the parking lot bus, I talked to the driver. We joked about traffic, weather and retirement. Just another feel-good chat with a stranger.

Can’t we stop being phone-aholics and get back to talking to each other? As communication devices go, I highly recommend people.

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