If you’ve ever flown, then you know that there’s not a whole lot of room in the cabin area of planes. Clearly, whoever designed them was on the side of the airlines because personal space is at an absolute minimum. And the smaller the plane, the smaller the space.
So, here I am on one of these small, sardine-like planes, sitting in my assigned window seat, when I see this big guy get on. When I say big, I don’t mean that this guy was fat, but he did was about 6’3 and looked like he could be a linebacker for a pro football team. He was HUGE!
Of course, the first thing that I think is, “Please don’t be my seat mate. Please don’t sit down next to me.” I’m intently watching his eyes to see where they go as they scan for his seat number and, soon enough, I realize that he is headed for the seat right next to mine. Greeeeaaaattt….
Me being, well, me, I normally speak to the person I’m sitting next to on a plane. After all, we’re going to be there for a while together. To be clear though, if I sense that they don’t want to chat, that’s fine too. I’m not one of those people who talks regardless of the wishes of my seatmate, but I do want to at least be a civil seatmate and make the offer.
With this guy, I decided that I wanted to bring the elephant into the room while being sensitive to him as opposed to judging him, so I say, “This plane must be hard for you.” I know how much I struggle getting on board and getting into place and I’m nothing in size compared to this guy.
“Yeah it is,” he says. Then he starts telling me how some people make it even harder. He shared how he’s sat next to passengers who put their arm on the armrest to make sure he can’t have any more room than he already takes up. Then there are the ones who don’t say anything to them, as if they’re silently chastising him for being so big.
I felt kind of bad because, here I was thinking to myself how I could be more comfortable, how his size was going to impact me, with no regard for how it impacted him. That’s when I switched gears and focused on how to make him more comfortable. What’s the best way to do that? Good conversation.
We talked openly about things like what it’s like to travel, and we had a great time. We actually wound up speaking the entire flight and, once he landed, he said, “This flight was amazing. It went by so fast!” What’s my point in sharing this story?
What started out a seemingly negative situation—being stuck in a rather small space with a rather large man—wound up being a positive experience. I got to meet this great guy who, although I had him pegged for a football player, shared how he ran the chess club at a college where they play at a national level. Hmm…who would’ve known?
When you take the time to turn something from bad to good, it makes it better for you and those around you. It really doesn’t get any better than that.