19 Jun

My last US trip I had pretty interesting seatmates on my various flights.  These included a doctor from Dallas (who had worked in Michigan) with whom I sympathized about the Chinese tour group a few rows up and an IT enterpreneur who worked for Dell and had hilarious stories about presenting to State Owned Enterprises and going to dinners with them.  On my flight to Chicago from Austin there was a gentleman who was coordinating some kind of “get out the vote campaign” – he kept asking his brothers to support him in this important endeavor (on the phone, yes I was eavesdropping) and whose headphones rolled under the seat immediately upon sitting down.  On another flight there was a venture capitalist whose company specialized in the hospitality industry who told me that she’s flown 16 round trips between Shanghai and the US in the last 2 years and typically travels at least 75% of the time.

I started thinking about other seatmates who have made an impression on me over the last five years- there was one guy who claimed I broke his headphones when he went to the bathroom, a gentleman who fell asleep immediately and I had to crawl over him ninja style to get out, a woman who had started a second career in China and was going back to Iowa for Christmas, another flight where when I planned a surprise trip home the woman next to me had done the same – so we compared stories and a few years ago I even went on a few dates with a basketball player whom I sat next to.  We were both seated in the exit row.

On an airplane, the person who sits next to you can make or break the flight.  The majority of my traveling is alone, so I typically don’t get to choose that person.  An ideal seatmate is not too large (so that your limited space really is your own), pleasant smelling, not sick and understands the “rules of the sky.”  My “rules of the sky” include: 1) having a little small talk at the beginning; 2) asking the person on the inside seat if they need to get out and go to the bathroom at least once every couple of hours; 3) once the flight is in progress – minding their own business!  I realize that this is a business travel mindset, but that’s ok – it works for me.

So – have you had any interesting seatmates when you travel?  They could be train seatmates too – once in the US I sat next to a retired philosophy professor who was trying to peddle his website.  He broke rule #3 – talked way too much, but I did check out the website a few weeks later.  Who knew?  Any interesting seatmates that you’ve had – I’d love to hear about too.


8 Responses to “Seatmates”

  1. jotsfromasmallapt June 19, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Some rules are meant to be fudged a bit….but not “rules of the sky”. I have a couple of horror stories when flying between UK-US and back….but will spare you and all your readers!! Loved YOUR rules!!

    • gkm2011 June 19, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      Thanks – I think most frequent travelers have something similar. 🙂 Are you sure you don’t want to share one story?

  2. sarahinguangzhou June 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Good rules. You know I”m not much of a fan of small talk, so my favourite travelmate is someone who can entertain themselves and doesn’t expect me to talk to them for the whole flight.

    • gkm2011 June 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      I feel the same way once we take off – my book and music will keep me busy!

  3. Kristin June 20, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Yes, Yes, and Yes to your rules! I always end up sitting next to the biggest and / or chattiest guy… Whenever I hope to be sitting next to that Swedish fitness trainer, I can be sure to being next to the talkative, non-reading butcher.
    When I was working as a flight attendant though, I scored some dates – all disastrous ones, may I add. I remember one guy who was so cute, all my colleagues were a bit jealous when he asked me out, but when I met him, he was such a nitwit! So I texted my friend, and she popped by pretending she had forgotten something at that bar earlier. I got rid of him and got busted with my friend instead. So all in all, I guess it was a good date in the end!

    • gkm2011 June 20, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Thanks for the story! I would imagine being a flight attendant you’ve seen all types. Glad that there was a happy ending to the story.

  4. Expat Alien June 20, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Mind your own business is the best rule. I have sat next to a lot of strange people. The worst ones are those who think it is necessary to lecture you or push something on you. Ugh!

    • gkm2011 June 20, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      I wholeheartedly agree! When you’re that close to someone you at least need the illusion of space and minding your own business helps with that. Thanks for the comment.

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