Look Who's Talking / by Courtney Mehlhaff

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I enjoy a good eavesdrop. I can't tell you how many entertaining tales are the direct result of this sometimes unavoidable activity. When eavesdropping is good, it's great. But when it's bad . . . well, read on.

On a recent flight to Seattle, I was seated by the window when a man and woman joined my row. He was 36, she was 24. They had never met before, but they quickly began to severely overshare details of their personal lives. I had overheard a full backstory on each of them within five minutes. Okay.

But then they JUST. KEPT. TALKING. And it wasn't a normal exchange. The man in particular had an insufferable life philosophy he wanted to impart. He was an "artist" and "entrepreneur" who was trying to be "authentic." He especially loved the word "embrace." He was trying to embrace everything, including his "darkness" (and, I think, the girl next to him). 

He was deeply "spiritual." He kept using phrases like, "This world is so awesome," and talking about his "intentions on this earth." He also weirdly humble bragged about all the wonderful things he'd done for other people, which in my opinion is just a brag.

I can't quite say how I survived four-and-a-half hours straight of hearing about his juice bar and t-shirt designs. There was never a break -- not even when we all had to disembark just before takeoff and board a different airplane.

I kept hoping the woman would shut him down, but no. They had drinks. They shared a snack. They paged through a magazine together. I wanted to punch them both in the throat.

When we finally landed, they made plans to take the light rail into downtown together. That was exactly my plan, but I literally ran in the other direction once we hit the terminal. I grabbed a snack and dawdled in the bathroom until it was safe to make my way to the transit station. I breathed a sigh of relief as the train filled to capacity and pulled away. At last, glorious silence.

And then I realized, to my absolute horror, that the chatty couple was sitting two rows behind me. There was nowhere to move. I had another 40 minutes of these assholes. Through the screaming in my brain, I heard them strike up a conversation with a random stranger, and they shared their personal "journeys" all over again.

I could only sit and seethe and wonder what was wrong with them. They were Minnesotans. They should have understood the concept of being polite but not friendly. We will tolerate strangers, even be cordial, but we don't want your life story. 

When I flew home a few days later, I was seated next to a man who also wanted to chat, this time to me. He was showing me pictures of his Alaska vacation on his phone before we even took off. And that's when I knew I had to shut that shit down. Small talk is too big a commitment on a three-hour flight.

So the second he turned away, I stuck my headphones in my ears. Then I smiled. Politely. Because I'm Minnesota nice.