I have forgotten how friendly and forthcoming Americans can be. It’s at once disconcerting, slightly annoying and kind of touching.
En route to Chicago, John from New York tells me about his company, his state of origin, his job scope, which parts of Asia he’s travelled to, his sister’s name, how airport dogs like to smell his agricultural scent, where he stays just out of Manhattan , which Bill Bryson books he’s read (I was reading one while trying to hint that I needed silence) and I barely said more than 20 words throughout this 15 minute “conversation”. On a happier note, he thought I was still from college.
John from New York later swapped seats with Alicia from Boston so she that she could sit next to her “friend”. It was weird, I don’t think they knew each other well because she asked “So could you show me a picture of your son?” but they were certainly quite cosy with each other physically. She was on a three-month Asian work trip with her company and kept telling me how “magical” her “first Asian experience” was (judging from her digital pics, it seemed to consist of a lot of cheap drinks in Shanghai). Her “friend” was a lot more private with his personal information but felt the need to educate me on how to conduct oneself on a flight. This includes “Hey, you know that you can put your seat down after the seat belt sign is off?”, “Don’t tell me you are not going to pile yourself up with drinks?” and “I hope you washed your hands” after I came back from the bathroom. Perhaps I gave off Chinese provincial villager vibes to him.
The connecting flight to Iowa was pure hell with cancellations due to severe storm warnings. This meant a lot of time overhearing people’s conversations at the domestic terminal. It was amazing, people would just plop down on their seats and just ANNOUNCE who they were, where they came from and giving extremely personal anecdotes of their lives. Tammy from Iowa declared without any kind of introduction: “McGridles makes a girl happy” while chomping on one. My airport shuttle driver pronounced, upon picking up my luggage, “The Good Lord is punishing us with bad weather all over the world. By golly.”
This has made me realize what a private person I’ve become (at least in the face-to-face context) to think of all of these encounters as alien.