Love thy airplane neighbor
Since long before TSA sucked all the fun out of air travel, airplanes have been my favorite form of commute. My favorite thing about flying? Naps. There’s no TV, no dirty dishes, nothing to distract you or demand your attention.
Unless you get seated next to a talker. Nothing ruins a good nap like a talker. I’ve even had someone try to sell me insurance on a flight!
On my last trip, I had a very frustrating day of travel. One flight left late, the connecting flight left early, and I was stuck in the airport waiting for the next available flight. I was hot, tired, frustrated, and hungry. The last thing I wanted was a “cattle car” experience to finish the trip. So I forked out the nominal fee and sprung for a First Class upgrade, hoping it would increase my odds of being seated alone or with someone who didn’t feel the need to share their life story.
The plane boarded and at first it looked like my hopes would be realized. My neighbor sat down with earbuds in and didn’t even make eye contact. I settled in with my book and prepared for a quiet trip home.
Then it was time to “turn off all electrical devices.” Out the earbuds came, and he dove into a two-hour long monologue about his childhood, marriage, career… As I listened to him talk, I couldn’t help think that I was being cheated out of my highly anticipated quiet time.
I recently finished a Bible study which included a brief discussion on the author’s view that airplane neighbors are divine appointments, God-ordained opportunities to share the Gospel to a captive audience. I appreciated her perspective, but decided that wasn’t for me. Plane time is my nap time.
Throughout the flight, that idea rolled around in my head, refusing to leave. Still, I said nothing. Partly that was because I didn’t know if I could get a word in edgewise. But also, I am shamefully out of practice when it comes to telling a complete stranger the Good News.
Finally we arrived at our destination and began to deplane. He started to leave and I said, “I really enjoyed talking to you. Every night, I like to pray for people I meet, is there something I could pray for you about today?”
And sure enough, after telling me all the wonderful things about his life, suddenly he confessed that there was an area that wasn’t as good as he originally presented it, and asked for prayer. We said goodbye and left.
It wasn’t the Roman Road, but I did pray for him that night, for his situation and the hope that someone taking an interest in him and offering to pray for him planted a seed that others would water.
Maybe next time I’ll be a little slower to curl up for my nap.