Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: ATL-MSP

When returning from a work trip, especially one that started with a 6am flight Monday and is ending on an 8pm flight Thursday, the last–and I mean the last–thing I want to do is talk to my seatmate.

Naturally, whenever this perfect storm arises, my seatmate always wants to talk to me. On a Delta weekday flight out of Atlanta chock-full of Zone 1 businessmen who wait to board in a line at the priority boarding carpet and fake call in eleventh hour sales deals, I will invariably not be seated next to one of them. And this is a shame because they are quiet. They too have put in a long week and just want to get a drink and pretend it’s already Friday.

Instead of one of these lovely gentlemen, I will, 90% of the time, get a seatmate like the one I got on this particular trip: an early-70s retiree who’s young enough to be able to torment me with an iPhone but too old to really relate to me in any meaningful way (“I used an abacus when I started my accounting firm!” I don’t think he was kidding.)

I’ve just settled in at my favorite point in the trip: 10,000 feet. I like to start all my trips the same way:

1. Frenzied panic to board until I can rest assured I have overhead space.

2. Furiously email/text until the door shuts.

3. Anxiously monitor the taxi out to ensure there are is no Tarmac “resting”.

4. Catnap until 10,000 feet when I have to make the decision between work and iPad. The iPad almost always wins on trips home.

So here we are at 10,000 feet. Time to boot up the iPad and ensconce myself in some combination of downloaded magazines, music, Sudoku, or shows/movies until the drink cart comes by. Decisions, decisions.

I’m just getting a playlist running and a Sudoku game warmed up when I sense the gentleman next to me leaning over and saying something. I know that I’ve described myself as that person who can’t not talk to someone who initiates conversation but in a setup like this, unless you’re reminding me to take my heels off before we go down an emergency slide, STFU.

I take my earbud out and say, “Sorry?” in a way that I hope conveys that I’m not and he says: “I’ve always wondered how to play that game!” I respond with something noncommittal, hoping we can leave it at that but apparently that’s not in the cards. “So…explain to me what you’re doing.”

Really? Really? I try to be good natured and sort of explain Sudoku but he’s really not getting it, despite the fact he’s a close-talker who’s allllll up in my seat, leaning over the iPad. He mentions that he thought he’d be better at understanding it since he was an accountant and I counter that I thought I’d be worse at understanding it because I was an English major but oh well!

The flight devolves from there, at least for me. I can’t remember the segue (scintillating I’m sure), but somehow I find myself looking at blurry pictures on his iPhone of him and the Banjo Bandits (real) playing at local legions and VFWs and hearing stories of how he learned to play the banjo partly on his own and partly from a homeless man on a park bench (also real. He brought him muffins in return for lessons).

This goes on for the ENTIRE flight. As I’m on the window and he’s in the middle, there’s precisely nowhere to go for two plus hours. I’m pretty stabby by the time we hit MSP.

To top it all off, E blew a tire on the way to get me and I had to take a cab to a sketchy part of south Minneapolis to meet him and take the dog home (who was also coming to greet me) while he waited for a tow truck. The perfect end to a perfect night!