I settle into my aisle seat, 9D with extra leg space, and watch as my fellow passengers board our flight from Orlando to Dallas/Fort Worth. Flying home on a Tuesday evening usually means I’m sharing my flight mostly with other business travelers. However, that is usually not the case when flying out of Orlando. Passengers boarding our flight include families with young children sporting their Mickey Mouse headgear, young adults heading home after a long weekend getaway, and just a few of us road warriors sporting our casual business attire and our Swiss brand backpacks. All of us want the same thing: to take our seats and enjoy an uneventful flight to our final destination.
“Honey, be still.”
Over the hustle and bustle of the boarding process, those words spoken in a husky voice by a female passenger close by grab my attention. She is seated in 8B, the aisle seat across the way and one row in front of me. Although we are at the gate, her seat is fully reclined as she sits under her blanket, clutching a plastic cup and a small stuffed pony. She is blond, middle-aged, and somewhat heavyset with large glasses. Her eyes are closed. Her husband, a rather small man with dark hair, is seated at the window next to her, looking outside and commenting on the baggage handlers and other tarmac workers busily prepping our plane for takeoff.
“Honey, be still.”
She says it again as he comments on something else he sees as he points outside. Is she nervous? Is she downright afraid to fly? Maybe she’s not feeling well. Whatever it is, she appears to be quite uncomfortable and more than just a little annoyed.
Seated behind the couple in 8A and 8B is an older couple obviously traveling together, both entranced with their iPads. Attired in dark dress slacks and a white business shirt with no tie, he is a distinguished looking gentleman with salt and pepper hair and silver wire frame glasses. She looks more than a tad bit younger than he, dressed in a sophisticated dark pantsuit with her iPad adorned in a white leather case. As the flight attendant walks by he points to “Honey, be still”, reclined so steeply that their eyes would meet if she simply looked up, silently reminding her that all seats are to be in their full and upright position for takeoff. The flight attendant acknowledges his gesture with a smile but says nothing.
Now, fully tuned in to the people around me, I notice the gay couple seated in front of me. How do I know? Men don’t gaze into each other’s eyes and lean into each other unless there are feelings between them far beyond fraternal friendship. These guys aren’t buddies, they are a couple; even I can see that. Although I am not a fan of the gay lifestyle I can’t help but be touched by their obvious affection towards one another; I’m just hoping there is no in-flight PDA.
Seated next to me are two ladies, each traveling alone. Both are donned in professional business attire and sport nicely coiffed blond hair. We exchange friendly greetings as I stand to allow each of them access to their respective seats, but once seated the three of us are all business. Beyond our friendly greetings we focus on our respective in-flight habits. 9F listens to her business motivational book on CD (I haven’t seen a portable CD player in a long time!) as she gazes out the window at the sunset on the horizon. 9E has her hardcover book called [Something] One nestled in her lap as she sleeps. I try to make out the title, but I can’t unless I lean far closer than what would be appropriate or comfortable. It has a large silver question mark on the cover; maybe you’ve read it. And I, in 9D, compose this essay as I observe the people around me.
Well into our flight, “Honey, be still” wakes from her nap. From where I sit I see a smile on her face as she speaks softly to her husband. That’s a good sign. I take a sip of my red wine as I look at the people seated around me, and I can’t help but smile. Tonight we share a flight to Dallas. But I’m reminded that we all share this life we live on planet Earth. Each of us has a story. Each of us has a purpose. We have our burdens, our hopes, and our dreams. We have victories and we have losses. We have each other. I find myself lifting each of these people seated around me in prayer, asking God to guard and protect them as they complete this flight and continue on their journey through life.
As I re-read the draft of this essay, feeling somewhat proud of my perception and intellect, “Honey, be still”’s husband rises from her seat and heads to the back of the plane. That’s right – her seat. He is a she, with short-cropped dark hair, sporting a gray tank top, baggy painter’s jeans and tattoos on both arms. What was once a smile is now a full-tooth grin as I remind myself that things aren’t always what they appear to be. Husband? Daughter? Partner? Caregiver? Close friend? I have no idea. All I know for sure is, as perceptive as I thought I was, I had totally missed the mark.
“Honey, be still.” As I wash down my slice of Humble Pie with the remnant of my airline Cabernet, I’d say that’s some pretty good advice.