Airport Food: Stories For Laughs

In case you weren't sure, I will say it: people make me infinitely curious. Whenever I go someplace new or do something routine, the people I encounter are the component that excites me the most. My recap of a social event isn't complete without a fantastic person-related story to tell my family. I feel gypped if I don't have at least a semi-interesting interaction to tell. In this state of mind, you'd think that the top place to have interesting people-encounters would be on board an airplane. It's not such a far-fetched idea, is it? I mean, I'm stuck for several hours with my upper arm glued to a perfect stranger's upper arm while we fly in a pressurized steel tube across half the Deep South. I feel like that's solid grounds for having a conversation. Though...come to think of it, it might be equally solid ground for ignoring one another and pretending this cheek-to-cheek position is actually not happening.

REGARDLESS, the airplane people-stories don't always happen. But when they do, they seem to come in droves. On my recent flights to and from New Orleans, I had an uncommon degree of mid-air interaction with my seatmates.

First flight, reading Bob Spitz's Dearie: The Life of Julia Child

Woman sits down, buckles up, turns to Rachel: “Is that a good book?”
Rachel: babbles something too effusive and ends up embarrassing herself and her seatmate

Second Flight, reading Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me?

Different woman sits down, buckles up, turns to Rachel: “Is that a good book?”
Rachel: babbles something too effusive and ends up embarrassing herself and her seatmate

Second Flight, waiting patiently for my paltry cup of Sprite.

Flight Attendant hands in cup, looks from woman and daughter to Rachel and back again: “At first I thought you girls were twins, but I see the difference now. Y'all are just sisters!”
Girl-Stranger and Rachel exchange unbelieving looks. Look at their sodas and feel embarrassed. Look back at each other. End up laughing. Make a point to not notice one another the remainder of the flight.
Rachel: shocks herself by uncharitably hoping she don't look as tired as the Girl-Stranger does.

Nothing terribly out of the ordinary, right? On the second flight home from New Orleans, my luck changed. We were only half an hour from my final destination when the airplane screens mid-aisle began to show a Jamie Oliver Christmas Dinner special. To the girl who had eaten nothing since breakfast and found herself on the far side of the evening, the sight of an attractive, enthusiastic British cook fixing a sumptuous meal was almost painful. I couldn't even hear the sound, and I was overcome. My face must have betrayed my feelings (what's new?) because the sunburnt man beside me leaned over with a teasing smile.
Sunburnt Stranger: “What do you reckon he's making?”
Rachel: “It looks like some sort of Beef Wellington?”
Sunburnt Stranger waits a moment, leans over again with another smile: “I guess he's making Beef Wellington.”
Rachel folds hands in her lap and hopes the man does not notice that he has repeated what she just said a few seconds prior. Sunburnt Stranger smiles again and Rachel begins to wonder if he does anything with his life but kiss his wife in the seat next to him and smile teasingly at lonely girls for watching a soundless Jamie Oliver program and practically drooling over it.
Rachel decides she ought to make one more overture: “Wow, it looks like he's putting the whole Beef Wellington on the stove-top before putting it in the oven. I wonder if it makes the bottom crust crispy?”
Sunburnt Stranger: “ looks like it might be to make the bottom crust a little crispier and more sturdy.”
Rachel wonders if she can really be hearing this correctly. Second Sunburnt Stranger from the row in front turns around.
Second Sunburnt Stranger: “It's to stiffen the bottom so the juices don't seep through the crust. I'm a chef. You're talking to a chef.”

At this point, I was totally starving and pinned between two men who seemed to not understand a word I said. They began to talk about cruise ships and the sunburnt stranger from the second row explained that he was a chef on a private yacht. The sunburnt one beside me said that he had thought about going into the culinary arts at one point in his life but gave it up for something utterly forgettable. I could have had a lot of questions for the yacht-chef, but his very blonde and equally tan girlfriend was sitting beside him looking forbidding. Anyway, there was the issue of the seat-barrier so conversation would have been somewhat stilted. I nestled back in my chair and tried to look unapproachable, hoping no more wise cracks would be made about my adoration of Jamie Oliver.
I wasn't so lucky.
And as I got off the plane and escaped into the vast emptiness of my hometown airport, my staircase-wit awakened. What I should have said finally came to mind. Something that would have cemented our triumvirate of food-boasting.
I'm a recipe developer,” I announced in thought. “I write a food blog.” And then I went in search of dinner.

Wendy's had never tasted so good.  


  1. Oh oh I loved this! You write so well and so wittily! Those last lines were perfect :)

  2. Love awkward airplane encounters.

  3. I love this. What a fun read! <3