I Met Myself as a Dog on an Airplane
You read that right. Imagine you met your dog-self as a canine companion on an airplane flying high above the East Coast. Well, it happened to me and the story behind it is one which brings with it a valuable lesson to every single traveler.
I, as I tell my girlfriend, “am not the smartest koopa shell in the Mushroom Kingdom”, but one trait I undoubtedly have is an unadulterated love affair with both conversation and travel. I am as unholy as to want to combine the two, and it just so happens that every single time I am graced with the opportunity to travel through an international airport, I am reminded of my absolute affinity towards both of them. Many of us despise these transportation hubs as it is easy to view them as just concrete masses with delays, cancellations and arguably horrific business practices. But I am human after all, and we’re fickle beings with the capability to look at our lives in rather special ways. Airports, at least to my stubborn self, aren’t just hubs for airlines or massive parking garages for aircraft capable of soaring higher and faster than ever, they are hubs for actual human beings from all sorts of walks of life.
In our everyday lives, we live so secluded and segregated to the point that we don’t ever realize how limited we are in our real, personable interactions with the rest of the world. We think that the internet has solved this issue, but in my belief, it’s simply not the same. There is something authentic and divine about a real human interaction with a stranger. A warmth that cannot be communicated through our worldwide web. Airports however, give us a glimpse of each other and a chance to experience these interactions on a mass, diverse, and random scale: global citizens interacting in person for the shortest periods of time, but yet still… interacting. The premise can be rather frightening for a young adult with Asperger’s, but again, I must inform you, I’m a stubborn man.
In these airports and on these airplanes, I see families from the People’s Republic of China, businessmen from Ethiopia and lovers from Brazil. I see people from all over, and it so amazing and special to me. They just like I are stuck in their own world, traveling to a set place to see a set amount of people in the set time that they have. But just like I, for the short amount of time that we are sitting at the same gate, in the same section of a plane, or even whilst riding along the same moving walkway, we are exposed to each other and our stories in ways we never would otherwise. I tell myself that the reason I am pursuing Media & Journalism and Global Studies at UNC Chapel Hill is for this particular reason. Our stories and the rare moments they may meet and interact. The times they need to be heard. And when they are, we are better people for it.
To expound on my theory on air travel, I have provided a well-rounded compilation of evidence. Just on my way to Lyon, I have met so many kind people, and even one very special friend (further foreshadowing). In Frankfurt, just before writing this, I bonded over two Germans and our inability to operate an automated Nescafe machine. It’s rare for smiles to break out before the Sun has, but nevertheless we couldn’t help but laugh. Warm water and three small flakes of coffee grinds is a poor excuse of a cappuccino, in any country. Needless to say both of us were cheated two Euros each (the third had figured out that pressing ‘Coffee’ instead of ‘Cappuccino’ brought considerably better results). Alas, hearing a hearty German laugh is worth ten cups to me.
But like Billy Mays screaming through your television set, there’s more. On my plane overseas I spoke at length with a nurse from Norway. She is in a long distance relationship with an American investor in NYC. We discussed healthcare and the world at large. I’d like to think I convinced her that she and her boyfriend should visit Iceland together, arguably the most beautiful country I have ever set foot on. Our lengthy conversation would sadly come to a close when an Albanian lady near us informed us she wanted to sleep at 7:40PM (I’m talkative, even at an exorbitantly late times such as that).
However, this was not my first interaction. Our next strangers’ rendezvous is what brought you to this article, what enticed you to click and read. On a little JetBlue plane to JFK, I had spoken with a man adopting a young puppy. This New Jersey man, former Air Force, traveled with his NYC law firm coworker all the way to Raleigh to pick up his recent purchase of a little Hungarian dog. Alongside sharing our life stories, he mentioned the name he had chosen for his little seven week-old pup. He wanted to name him Lucas, but was met with a predicament: he’d like to stay authentic. So, he did what any rational being would do, he popped the name into the translator, and out came the Hungarian version:
They had settled on Lukács (accent included, bolder than even I).
Imagine my surprise when in the seat directly across and behind me, a New Jersey man who travels to Manhattan everyday to practice law is sitting with his puppy and explains to me the little dog’s name. I stayed completely quiet until he finished, at which point I pulled out my North Carolina Drivers License and gave it to him. We laughed in amazement so hard that it seemed everyone on that tiny Embraer E190 had now wanted to hear the story. The coincidence of him choosing my rather uncommon surname as his dog’s name; a man whom I had never met before, and I only being on that plane due to a weather cancellation the day before. And here we see my hypothesis in action. Diverse and random interactions with people I’ve never met before, but finding the strangest of commonalities and the greatest of discussions with them.
To me, airports and airplanes represent such a unique opportunity for all of us to interact and engage with people of all walks of life, from all areas of the world, even if for the shortest little while. We see them as stressful, tiresome and lengthy processes. But the next time you fly, talk to those around you if they’re willing (let’s let leave be the weary). Heck, just smile back at them when they look at you. Greet them. Meet them. Interact with new people and do it knowing full well you’ll likely never see them again. But that’s fine. Do it because our lives are so short, and they deserve sharing. Do it to make a memory. Do it to make an impact. Even if it’s just shaking the hands of the Lufthansa A380 pilots to thank them at the end of the flight. Travel and socialize for you will find that not only airplanes soar high above, but so do kindred human (and canine) souls.
Besides, who knows, if you’re lucky enough you might just find your own dog-self.