Flying the Friendly Skies

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I’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.