Wednesday, May 21, 2008

These Are The Rules

Conversing with strangers in airport bars.  If you've never given yourself this pleasure, I can say from experience there are few places to have more honest and genuine conversations with fascinating people.  There must be something about traveling that makes folks feel free, happy and open to chatter.  It is rare for someone not to strike up a conversation with me in an airport bar.  I have found this not to be true in most other bar genres.  It all started for me after 9/11, when my flight-anxiety raised well above tolerable.  I decided it was either get drunk before the flight, or get my doctor to prescribe medication.  I opted for drink, and found a whole new world!

Soon, I had developed some rules for my traveling-alone-airport-bar games:
1. I must sit at the bar (not at a table)
2. I order a glass of wine (red, and airport wine is usually crappy, but it's part of the experience)
3. I cannot open a computer, book, magazine, newspaper or other individualizing distraction. Cell phones are OK for short calls or texting.
4. I must sit, with my wine, and wait.
5. I cannot initiate the conversation, unless it's clear that the other person has already begun communicating with me (this can happen via gesture, facial expression or some other non-verbal cue)
6. Once conversation has been initiated, I must happily go where it leads.  No conversation, regardless of dullness, craziness or obnoxiousness can be disengaged from until the other person disengages or I must go catch my flight.

Within the boundaries of these rules, I have had many many conversations.  In future posts, I plan to blog these conversations taken from a journal in which I write them all down immediately after take off, usually rather tipsy and often giggling to myself in my window seat. 

Who knows, maybe you'll recognize yourself in one of these stories.  It's rare that I get names or identifying information, so I really don't know who these strangers are. That's part of the fun.  It's humanity at it's best.