No Snakes On This Plane, There Was Only Mags

It’s amazing what can happen in a sealed capsule hurtling through the stratosphere at 30,000 feet.

storm pic

image courtesy of

I had just one of these experiences earlier this week on an interstate trip. Because on this flight I sat next to Mags (not her real name).

The experience started tentatively enough after a two hour delay in departure time due to weather at the destination. Apparently in these situations the destination air traffic control can determine the take off time at the point of departure. And so it was.

I dutifully boarded the plan after killing two hours watching bad television and reading even worse gossip magazines and settled into the window seat in what was a two seat configuration. Then along came Mags, worry lines on her pale English Rose features carrying three bags. She stopped in the aisle  to check her boarding pass, causing a blockage to the people behind much like a cork stopping the flow of fizzy champagne refusing to be tamed.  Oblivious to the swarm behind her, Mags checked her seat number and looked at me, before starting to unload her luggage. She looked at me again and having sensed  that she was to be my flight companion for the next hour or so I said hello as she settled herself.

“I really don’t want to be on this flight” explained Mags.

“Oh?” I asked

“I don’t like flying and now its raining and storming and I don’t understand why they are letting us fly.”

“They did say the weather was clearing where we are going to land, I wouldn’t worry so much”

“I don’t like it and my web mail is iffy, I don’t know whether my friend who is meeting me got my message that we are going to be late”

“I’m sure it will be fine”

“I hope so, my friends told me this trip was risky.”

Mags then explained that she was on the solo trip of her dreams, lasting 6 months. She had been away from her English home for mature aged travellerabout a month now and had taken off to the other side of the world to explore Australia and New Zealand. She was flying into Sydney to meet some friends before undertaking the Indo Pacific train trip to Perth (a three day journey) and would then be visiting New Zealand’s south island for a month. Being a travel tragic, I was keen to hear about everything she had planned for her travels and her expectations about her experiences so I asked her a few questions. At which point  the conversation really started to flow.

We covered all sorts of topics, England, Australia, travelling in general,  marriage, men, divorce ( Mags was a divorcee), parenting (Mags was also the mother of two sons), health (Mags had had a hysterectomy just as her husband left her), study (Mags was a late blooming student, having attended university after she had children), friends (Mags had many – it was not hard to see why), ageing, and being adventurous to name a few.

About a quarter of the way into our conversation, I knew Mags was my kind of woman.

We stopping talking only briefly with the announcement from the pilot that the plane had to circle just outside of Canberra due to delays in Sydney. And we only stopped then because we could not hear each other over the intercom.

Mags was incredible. Here was a 70 year old woman who was travelling solo on the trip of her dreams, having taken out a personal loan to do so. She was doing this despite her comfortable life back home and the advice of her friends who would never dare to embark on such a journey. On this trip she would be staying with former lodgers or family of former lodgers of hers all of whom had helped Mags pay the bills on her home to save it from her husband who tried to take it away.

This was a woman who despite her fear of flying had more courage and grit than a lot of people I know.

At the start of the descent, I turned to Mags and said ‘I’m sorry, we’ve been talking for two hours and I don’t even know your name, I’m Judy.”

“I’m Mags, I am so happy to have met you, I would have been very stressed had I not been able to talk to you.”

And with that the wheels touched down on the runway below.

My short time with Mags had come to an end. In two hours I had told Mags more personal information than a lot of people I had known for two years and felt that Mags had done the same. Maybe we both felt safe in the knowledge that apart from this brief encounter we would never meet again, maybe it was because of the brief moment of connection we had shared or maybe because Mags just needed to be distracted during the flight.

Whatever the case, I will never forget Mags. Right about now, she should be getting ready to board that train to Perth, no doubt talking the ear off the person next to her.

Mags made my trip. Her pluck, courage and welcoming visage were a gift.

And dear Mags, you thought on that flight I was doing you a favour. Ha!

Have you ever been touched by a stranger?

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

28 thoughts on “No Snakes On This Plane, There Was Only Mags

  1. What an amazing story Jude- how wonderful to have had Mags by your side. Yes a tremendous amount of courage at 70 to take off on her own, even with all her doubts and fears. Kudos to her! I love it how some people enter our lives – and sometimes we don;t know the reasons until they vanish – a kindred spirit? Touched by a stranger? The only thing I can recall right now is shopping in a supermarket last winter- wearing my tan ankle tie up boots, winter tights and dress. An elderly couple watched me as I plucked items from the shelves. Then they both came up to me and said how beautiful I looked and that they both loved my boots and how wonderful my legs looked. I just stood there, blushed, smiled and complimented them for making my day! 🙂 x

    • That’s such a great story and what a wonderful couple. Some people just have a the gift of spreading sunshine. It’s a wonderful example of what can be achieved by stopping to smell the roses and focusing on something other than meeting our own needs. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Great story! I used to travel often and it’s so interesting how you can either make that eye contact with the person next to you, or just by body language, turn the other way and stay closed off. Depending on my mood, I’m up for either. Mags sounds amazing though; and I would bet her pluck and adventurous attitude might come back to you for years as you work to go through new adventures yourself. I had one flight, in June, where I met a young woman who asked me so many weird questions: how do you know you are in love, or “he’s the one” or about being a mom. She was flying to “surprise” her boyfriend to move in with him…talk about daring! Anyway, great post and thanks for introducing Mags to us!

    • You certainly have to admire that girl’s daring and sometimes there is no other way than to just do it. I hope it all worked out for her, just as I hope it does for Mags. And you are right, I think Mags and her story will prove inspirational time and again. Thanks for your wonderful comment and for sharing your recent flight experience.

  3. As I read this, I couldn’t help acknowledging that I would never strike up a conversation with my seat mate–just not my style. But look what I would have missed out on (what I AM missing out on). Mags sounds amazing. Someone we could learn from. Thanks for reminding me that I need to be better at connecting with strangers, even if it’s difficult for me to do so. 🙂

    • Connecting with strangers can certainly bring gifts and open up new experiences. All of this is a journey for me too, I never used to strike up these conversations, but am making a conscious effort to do more of this. One day it may come totally naturally (I hope). I am an introvert at heart, I know that there are times when I just need to be lost in my own thoughts. However, my fledging extrovert is trying to break free and I’m letting it :).

    • Thanks so much DAF, sorry about the delay in responding to this message. I will drop by your page and check it out :). Hope you’re enjoying the colder weather in the lead up to Christmas.

      • It’s always good to hear from you… it’s summer for you and you are busy, I know how that goes… It is weird weather where we are, it gets cold and then rainy and today it is almost 70… I would perfer the cold! Hope you have a great time leading up to Christmas also!

  4. I love your Mags. What a lovely name, Mags. I’ll have to borrow it sometime.
    She certainly does have courage. I could never travel alone as there are too many things to be aware of etc. I shall be making a BIG trip next year (I’ll be posting about it) but am going with a woman friend.

    I’m afraid I have turned into Mags. I can talk the ear off a stranger, especially when I’m nervous. It’s always nice when two stranger get along in such close quarters as a plane.

    • I too love the name Mags. Maybe it is short for Maggie? It does suit a lovely, sweet woman with a little bit of a nervous tendency 🙂

    • Can’t wait to hear about your big trip, Tess. Whether you go with a friend or on your own doesn’t really matter, as long as you go. Mags is a great name and you are more than welcome to use it. And how lucky are the people who sit next to you or come into your orbit? I’d love for you to talk my ear off 🙂

      • I’m kind of tongue-tied when it comes to talking unless I know someone well…scratch that. As time passes, I have become more adventurous upon meeting strangers and asking the most outrageous questions. However, I can’t come within a mile for Mags. 😛

  5. Great story. I love unexpected nice surprises, especially when they don’t match initial perceptions. Thanks for sharing about Mags. I keep thinking of Judi Dench from several roles where she traveled to India and America. How would you compare Mags and Judi’s traveling roles?

    • Yes, that is right, Mags could be Judi Dench (a lovely, talented British actress). How about the Judi Dench in the film, where she travels to India? The one called “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”?

    • Thanks OF, this was a lovely surprise. It shows the importance of being open and approachable. It also shows that giving just a little has the potential of lead to getting a lot, although you have to give without expectation. Judi Dench reminds me very much of Mags.

  6. Mags sounds like a sweet lady, and I hope she has an incredible journey before returning safely home to England. I also really like these brief encounters, where I meet someone and have a lovely conversation, and though we do not know each other, we can have a meaningful time and share personal things. I often take the opportunity to talk to “strangers” and I love it, when something funny or touching comes out of it.

  7. Nice story well told. I sometimes sit in departure lounges trying to imagine the life stories and reasons for travel of my fellow passengers. Only once did I ever find out about one for sure….a physiotherapy student sat next to me on the plane……I will never forget that flight ….it was my privilege to find out about her life.

  8. I so enjoyed reading this, so I thought ‘I just cannot leave without saying something’. Earlier this year, I had a similar encounter … but still so different. Her name was Sephora [no idea how she spelled it], I could age-wise have been her grandma, but in two, three hours we shared more personal stuff than I’ve done in ages, and I’ll never forget her 🙂

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