Even the taxi ride to the airport was another grand tour of Rome. I don’t know what all we passed, but there is just too much beauty and history to see. After a two hour delay due to mechanical trouble, we are now airborne leaving Rome. The woman next to me is talking loudly to herself (in Hebrew?) as if we are all going to die indicated by her occasional English statement, “oh a God, oh a God. What is wrong with this airplane!? What is happening. WHAT IS HAPPENING? AYE AYE OH GOD!” I’m trying to make a soothing face and sound to help her simmer down. On top of her building hysteria, I think she might have some sort of bronchial infection or the whooping cough or something. I saw her pop a few pills and am praying they are for sleeping.
Though reflection may take a little more time and distance, I can’t help but to think about what this trip means to me, what I learned and how it impacts the way I think and create artwork.
I learned that most people are the same as each other. I learned that most people have some kindness in them. I learned that we are all impacted by the news, media, and literature we have at our disposal. I learned that McDonalds is doing a good job marketing and selling to Europeans. I learned that many people are jerks when on sidewalks and when it comes to waiting in line. I learned that the USA is in its infancy. I learned that short shorts with bottom cheek hanging out has spread across the globe as acceptable attire for young women. I learned that history is not past, it is living and breathing in every present moment and human thought and decision. I learned that art, philosophy and religion are one in the same and have the same source. I learned that communication can happen without words.
Not one time did I feel unsafe. Not one single time. I was nervous about pickpockets and guarded my belongings, but never did I feel unsafe. As a female traveling alone all over a country, I think this is of utmost importance. I am also extremely grateful that I never got sick, not even a stomach cramp! How fortunate! My knee, which has endured multiple surgeries, held up beautifully and never even hurt, which is unusual. I never even had a crick in my neck or a headache! So so so thankful!
Ok, my reflecting is made difficult by the aforementioned seatmate. From time to time, we read about these people in the newspaper when it gets bad enough…you know, the disruptive lunatics on airplanes. I suppose I should be grateful I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t even know where to begin…she has no sense of personal space, leans over and literally drapes her arm on top of my body. Keeps talking to me, though not in English, and she leans her head ONTO me. We are talking about physical contact here people. I know there are cultural differences with how people interact in crowded spaces but I am getting uncomfortable with this level of physical contact.
When lunch arrived, the stewardess asked if we wanted the chicken or pasta meal and my seat companion kept saying both. She and the stewardess went round and round about how she couldn’t have both, just one. Throughout the meal, each time a flight attendant walked by, the lady asked for a second meal. Eventually, she received another lunch and dumped the whole thing in her purse! Later she dug it out and ate it! She keeps offering me peanuts, which I suppose is nice but she leans way over and puts the bag in my face and I feel like she is tempted to suffocate me with a bag full of peanuts.
I am now TRYING to watch a movie (keep in mind, I’ve been on this plane for over 9 hours now with this woman). She gets up and down from her seat constantly and when people need to pass, she won’t move from the aisle. She asks for drinks when they aren’t serving drinks. I tried to take a nap, and I swear she intentionally poked me in the arm for the entire 45 minutes. When I finally dozed off, she reached across my body and opened the window and the bright light startled me and I was awake (she has the aisle seat and I am in the window seat). I finally gave up and she said something about how I needed some light on me.
As I awoke, I realized she has a full whiskey drink. Seconds later, the drink is empty. A few minutes later the drink cart came around, and she ordered another and the stewardess said, “another?” I don’t know how many I missed while dozing. Based on the fact that she just fell down in the aisle, I’m thinking she’s had more than enough. I’m watching my movie and she holds the glass IN MY FACE and says “whoo whoa whoa, wheezkey, wheezkey, wheezkey.” I’m serious, the cup almost hits my face. I managed to discreetly flag down a flight attendant who, seeing the distress in my eyes, leaned way over so I could whisper, “for the sake of everyone, I beg you to not serve her another drink!” The flight attendant gave me a knowing look and a confirmation nod.
The woman is such a prowler, I have a feeling if she wants a drink, she will wander the plane until she finds an attendant who will serve her one. She pokes at me and interrupts me constantly and asks strange questions. Ok, she just got her baggage down from the overhead and she AND the suitcase fell down onto her and a seated man in another row! He helped her up. Lots of commotion and very loud oying coming from her. She just crawled back into her seat…is poking me on the arm now pointing to her lips which are oozing blood! I suggested that she go to the bathroom to clean up and ask for ice. She came back and started poking me again while I am still trying to watch the movie. She wants me to look at her lips again and I think she wants to show me that the ice is helping.
Now she just asked me to look at a list of phone numbers, loan her my mobile phone and let her call her son. I told her I do not have inflight phone service. Now she is doing what she did with the lunch service. She waits a minute, and asks the same question again and again. “If i cood jus cawl me son!!!! Oye oye oye! I jeest need yuar phone ta cawl me son!” She is up again.
Ok, after reading the book, The Gift of Fear, I am finally learning to listen to my instincts, and I need to move. NOW is my opportunity because she is in the bathroom, or lord knows where. Ok, I just asked a flight attendant if there is another seat, ANYWHERE (I’m about ready to hide in the bathroom). At first, I sensed he thought I was persnickety. But I told him about a few choice moments and he said, “AHHHH! I’ve had my eye on her and have noticed her disruptive and strange behavior. Let me check on a different seat for you.” I packed up licketysplit and by the time he returned and said 19H, I was outta there. My new cabin is like a whole new world. Dark, civilized, quiet. My new seat mate is simply sitting and watching a movie. Three more hours (13 hours total on this plane due to a two hour delay this morning), and I am elated. I really don’t care how much longer we have, as long as I do not have to spend another moment with the deranged woman.
Oh my new seat mate is delightful. After an hour is silence (golden), she asked me for help with reading something in English. We ended up talking about her country, Greece, and she explained how she views the economic problems there. Because I get most of my information from the news media, it was particularly interesting to hear her perspective on the Greek people, the education system and the general work ethic. Her fiancé has left the country to find a good job and she is traveling to see him and is distressed about their future together and whether or not it can be in Greece.
Now I am on the flight from Atlanta to Little Rock. Initial observations: people here are friendly and for the most part, courteous. People do not crowd each other or shove each other. People reach out and help each other like the person who just helped me get my luggage into the overhead bin a minute ago and the person who just helped two young boys traveling alone. People seem a bit more relaxed and less guarded. My friend, Joan, and I discussed these observations and she concurred, stating, “You should see England! We are all so puritanical, and like order and rules, manners and courtesy. It is in our history and in our genes.” Her comments made me think of my Danish friend, Cecilia, who observed that manners can be kind but also can be counterproductive to being honest and true to ourselves. She argued that her “Nordic sensibility” helps her speak openly, bluntly, and neutrally about her feelings and needs. Regardless of our nationality, striking a balance between self service and kindness toward others is an admirable goal and, for me, a work in progress. The people I encountered on this amazing adventure – whether from Italy, Scotland, Denmark, England, Iran, China, or Germany – lent kind words or gestures in their own cultural style and I am forever grateful.
To friends, family, peers and strangers who found this blog interesting enough to read, thank you for your interest and supportive comments during the past several weeks. Until the next adventure, or an intriguing art topic arises, Ciao!