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