Tag Archives: flying

Flying the Friendly Skies

shutterstock_167734952I’m what you would call a reluctant business traveler. While I am the director of the Education Department of the ISJL, with the main office being in Mississippi, I actually live in San Antonio, TX.

Thanks to technology, I mostly telecommute, but once a month I fly into the Jackson office. I HATE flying. I mean I really HATE flying. Although I fly a lot, I am a very anxious flyer and as a result I have developed a very fixed coping routine mixed with superstition, prayer, and just a splash of OCD. I will spare you the details but just know that I recite the Shema A LOT!

What makes matters worse is that most of the people around me seem to be fine with flying.  Some of them even look cheerful and like to make all kinds of new friends. It shouldn’t surprise you that I am not fond of plane chatting. I am often in my own world of Shema-ing and yoga breathing, and don’t really feel much like hearing where people are headed or the reason for their travel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rude and I will always answer questions when asked but I have figured out what to politely say that will end the conversation quickly.

Here’s how it usually goes:

Passenger: Is this trip work or fun?

Me: Work.

Passenger:  What do you do for work?

If I say I work in education, there are immediately more questions….

Passenger:  Oh, are you a teacher? What grade do you teach? What subject do you teach?

Then I have to explain that I’m not actually a teacher…..

Me:  I actually work in the-non profit world.

Passenger:  Oh, how interesting.  What’s the name of the non-profit?  What does it do? Have I heard of it?

When I bring up the word Jewish, the questions/comments reach a whole new level…

Passenger:  Oh!  Are you Jewish?  I have a Jewish friend named ____________.  Do you know him/her?

The conversation/questions can go on and on and can involve my own personal belief system or could just involve some comments about Jewish foods they have tasted. Regardless, I just want to sleep or cope with my flying anxiety, so I have come up with what to say that provides some information but that shuts down the conversation as soon as possible.

This has become my new go-to response?

Me: I work for a non-profit providing educational training and developing curriculum and programs.

This usually sounds uninteresting to most, and I am done with my plane chatting for the flight (phew!). But every once in a while, someone really just wants to chat. Last week on my flight was one of those times. She was a nice middle aged woman who let me know that she was going to visit her son and help him to move into his new apartment. She had an art magazine in her hands and continued to let me know that she was a painter. For her day job she worked for a printing company in Jackson. She was getting ready to retire in the next few months and paint full-time. After she had given her me her back-story, I knew that she was ready to hear from me and that my usual end the conversation technique would be ineffective.

Nice lady:  What do you do?

Me: I work for a non-profit providing educational training and developing curriculum and programs.

Nice lady: Oh!  That’s exciting.  We do a lot of printing for non-profits.  What’s the name of your organization?

Me: The ISJL.

Nice lady:  Oh my goodness!!! We do all of your printing!

Me: You do!? I’m the one that has y’all printing all of those spiral-bound curriculum books each year. They are lessons for the teachers we work with. I’m soooo sorry that we get them to you so late each year, but you always come through for us.

Nice lady: We just love working for y’all.

Me: I’m so glad to have the chance to say thank you.  Those lessons are important to many schools and we couldn’t do our work without you.

Nice lady: I have a Jewish friend named____________.  Do you know her?

Even though my conversation that morning ended up being predictable, this one was also special.  Sitting next to me was a stranger that I couldn’t do my job without. She took our words, ideas, and experiences and literally put them on the page so that we could share them with roughly 500 teachers throughout our region. It was a nice connection, and a chance for me to say thank you. After we chatted LOTS more, I returned to my role of grumpy business traveler… but with a pretty full heart.

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Posted on June 4, 2014

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