Forward Living: Missing — and making — connections

01/03/2011 1:13 PM |

Social networking sites offer us the ability to chat with “friends,” meet new people, renew old friendships and effectively control who enters our lives. That being said, I’ve stumbled upon a novel way to meet people.

In November, Frank and I embarked on a 22-hour journey to Portland. Ore. (No kidding!) We landed and took off six times and were grounded at a Chicago airport for seven hours. It was the proverbial trip from hell.
We were on a flight heading into Chicago when the weather conspired against us. This development caused the pilot to circle for an hour. With a sinking heart, I knew we’d missed our connecting flight.

While we were circling above the clouds, Frank continued reading his newspaper and I started to feel uptight. The seatmate on my left began to sigh and look at his watch every 30 seconds. He was clearly annoyed and commented, “I’m going to miss my connecting flight.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

He continued, “I haven’t seen my daughter in several years. We’re supposed to meet in San Francisco.”
Next thing we knew, a crewmember announced that we were headed into St. Louis to refuel. Frank looked momentarily annoyed. But, in true Frank fashion, his annoyance passed quickly.

Not so for my seatmate or me. He lapsed into a tale about his daughter and former wife. I welcomed the diversion; it kept my own tendencies in check.

We circled the St. Louis airport for an hour, landed, refueled, flew back and landed in Chicago. Much to our dismay, the next flight to Portland wasn’t for another seven hours.

At the airport, we met a lovely couple from Minnesota who were en route to Las Vegas, where they hoped to rendezvous with “Lady Luck.” We chatted until their flight was called.

Our kids were calling frequently; consequently, our cell phone batteries were low. After informing Frank that our phone chargers were in our checked bags, he looked a tad concerned while I was launching into full Ceil mode.

Thank goodness, my launch was aborted. A gal traveling to Disney with her family offered the use of her cell phone charger.

A little lady carrying a huge bag plopped down next to me and sighed. She was 86 years old and visiting with her son who lived in Phoenix. She wondered how long she could continue making this journey. I commiserated with her and, although I’m not an octogenarian, I wondered the very same thing.

Finally, our flight was called and we were on our way to Portland, via Albuquerque, N.M. My seatmate was a “Chatty Cathy” — and opening my book did not deter her; she continued her monologue. Ultimately, Ms. Chatty talked herself to sleep, albeit nodding on my shoulder.

After stopping in Albuquerque, we took off for Portland. When I looked out the window into the dark night, I noticed that my seatmate was quietly weeping. She blew her nose and revealed that she was in route to her mother’s funeral.

We landed in Portland during the wee morning hours. The trip from hell was over.

Funny, I wonder how it all turned out.  Did my first seatmate have a good reunion with his daughter? Did the couple from Minnesota meet “Lady Luck”? Will the 86-year-old mother continue to Phoenix? Was “Chatty Cathy” merely a “Nervous Nellie”? Will the gal whose mother died find peace? Did the gal who loaned us the phone charger have fun at Disney?

I’ll never know. But here’s what I do know: For a brief period, we all shared a small slice of our lives. These friendships, although transitory, were my salvation. I would hate to put Frank, or anyone else, though a full-blown Ceil-like episode.

This year, I’m definitely going to work on becoming more like Frank. Wish me luck! I know firsthand how iffy New Year’s resolutions can be.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

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