Let Writing Make You a Better Person

When my husband, Bob and I squeeze into the San Francisco airport, we wiggle between lines and lines of people.  Although we’re there two hours before take-off, we wonder if we’ll make our flight with all of these people. 

I haven’t seen so many people since . . . this airport at Christmas.   Maybe this means it’s good news for the economy? 

Fortunately, even with our terminal case of waiting, we do make our flight.  It’s  filled with parents and their children of many ages.  We’re pleasantly surprised to discover that all of the babies and toddlers are well-behaved. 

Since the flight is so crowded we have to sit a few rows apart from each other.  Next to me, in the window seat, sits a middle-school boy reading The Blind Side by Michael Lewis.  He’s looking forward to staying the summer with his father in Boston.  On the other side  of me a man reads his Kindle.  I’m reading  The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which, as a greatly used book, is literally falling apart in my hands. 

Right after take-off, the drama one row ahead of us and to the right, begins.   Shortly after the turn-off-seat-belt sign blinks off, rocky weather causes it to light up again and the intercom voice requests everyone to buckle-up. 

I don’t hear the nearby attendant’s request, but I hear the woman’s loud retort.  “Naw.  The light’s gonna go off soon anyway.” 

The boy next to me and I share a glance.  It says, “Who does she think she is?”

 We return to our reading in spite of the bumpy flight.  Barely a paragraph later, we hear  the attendant say, “Ma’am, you’ll have to wait.  We all need to return to our seats now.”

“I’M GONNA PEE IN MY PANTS!”  yells the woman. 

We’ve only just begun our flight.  I can tell we’re in for a bumpy ride in more ways than one.  I’m very grateful for my quiet seat companions. 

I take a moment to study the woman.  Middle-aged and overweight, her frizzy dyed red hair frames her pasty-white face.  When she gets up from her window seat frequently, she grabs the seats in front of her, forcing those people to sit forward. And of course the people beside her must rise to get out of her way. 

The man who sits on the aisle is pure gentleman.  He is truly polite. No trace of irritation exists on his face when she asks to get out to walk, to use the bathroom, to seek out an attendant.  The entire time she is moving around, she talks loudly, and screams for a soda.  “It keeps me occupied,” she says so that her aircraft audience can hear her.

My irritation starts my thoughts on another path.  What if she were a character in a book?  What has made her become this way?  Was she ignored as a child?  Why does she crave this attention?  As I build her imaginary back story, I’m filled with sorrow for the real person in front of me.   If she is like this all the time, imagine how lonely she must be. 

She needs my positive thoughts, not my judgement.

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One Response to “Let Writing Make You a Better Person”

  1. Nannette Rundle Carroll Says:

    What a great story–I’ve been on a flight with that woman many times! I love how you turned her into a character and filled your “author eyes” with compassion.

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