Met In Transit: Leon

Date: 7/11| Location: SeaTac International Airport

Traveling back from an amazing experience is itself an amazing experience as the mixed bag of emotions of not wanting to leave blends with the desire to return home and sleep in one’s own bed. For me, this was on a return flight from Seattle to Dallas on Alaska Airlines–something full of firsts for me:

  • First time in the Northwest
  • First time flying Alaska
  • The furthest north I’ve ever been
  • First business trip
  • First (and hopefully not last) time in Seattle

Here’s where Leon came into the picture.

After passing through security I willingly joined another line for lunch (cause there’s no way in Hell I’m buying food on the plane). The line was long; longer than the security line. So as I’m waiting for the world’s most valuable Whopper™ the guy behind me starts snarking about. So I join in.

He finds out I work for Amazon and is so shocked that actual people worked for the online giant. So shocked, in fact that he poked me in the shoulder to see if I was real. So we get past the initial shock and begin talking about the job and what it’s like.

Then he starts his story. He’s flying back home to Dallas after a Seatte vacation with his wife. When he was young, he worked tons of odd jobs but finally ended up as a carpenter working on major projects around the Dallas area. He’s intensely proud of his sons, one of whom is an investment banker who used to work for a major American firm but who now works for a bank in Tokyo. And he was a bit nervous about flying.

This wasn’t a long conversation by any means, just a short chat while we were waiting in line. But not only did the time fly by, we made a connection that lasted beyond that of just another face and into a real, human story.

A pressurized metal tube full of stories

According to NOAA, there are 87000+ commercial flights in US airspace alone. Of those flights, only 1/3 of them are major commercial carriers (American, Delta, Alaska). Taking a crude average of averages, the average airplane capacity is 318.75 passengers (of course, since there are more narrowbody (100-200 seat) and RJ (50-100 seat) departures, the actual average is probably closer to the upper 200s.

Photo by Marcel Roguski
Photo by Marcin Roguski

Either way, let’s say that the actual average is 250, for simplicity. That’s 7,250,000 people–7,250,000 stories–whizzing above your head every day. Each flight is a mix of the rich, the poor, first-time and veteran fliers. Aboard are infants, children with their families, young adults going on adventures, businessmen going to a big meeting, conference attendees, high school tournament attendees, college interns, foreign explorers, people going to weddings and funerals.

There are few other places where the mix of backgrounds, origins, reasons, and stories come together in a waltz of bodies, bags, and multi-million dollar metal tubes with wings.

If you want beauty. That’s where it is.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Erik says:

    I always – always – introduce myself to the person sitting beside me on a plane. Most often, this turns into a cool and memorable story. Sometimes, it’s resulted in a life-changing conversation.

    More thoughts on plane conversations, if anyone is interested:
    paradise lost

    Raul, we’ve got to find a way to get more people here. You have a unique voice and perspective on the world which adds a bright positive light to things. I’m on it!

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