Conversation with strangers – 1

I was transiting in Houston airport and waiting for my flight to Calgary when I decided to charge my phone as I will be needing to watch movies on the United flight back home (not cool United airlines!).

The first charging space I spotted had a bit of puke on the floor which was disgusting and I was pleased to have spotted it before I stepped on it. Naturally, I was on the look out for another charging spot so I don’t have to stare at the puke. I found one near this unassuming older woman who was also charging her phone and so I said hello and sat next to her.

She started a conversation about how it is no longer fun to fly. I initially thought she was referring to terrorism and the alarm that went off earlier at the airport but I was wrong. She was referring to flight cancellations and the fact airlines seem to have fewer flights out of her home city, Detroit, because it is economically depressed and she is now unable to travel on her day of choice and is stuck with travelling with the business travellers, who she considers to be stuck up. She shared a few stories about the stuck up business men she has travelled with in the past. One that stuck was when she told one of the business men she travelled with in the past that she has a million air miles and the guy, with his nose held high, said he had 3 million air miles. To this, she responded with, “but it is not the same, because I paid for mine with my own money, no company paid for it for me”. If you ask me, that was a good come back.

She tried to figure out my accent. Even I don’t know what accent I have. I explained to her I am Nigerian and I lived 15 years in the UK before moving recently to Calgary and so my accent is a big chunk of Nigerian with British inflection (if there is anything like that). She commented that it was an interesting accent. Thank you ma’am.

She told me some more about herself, how she is/was a scuba diver and travels a lot to go scuba diving. She said and I quote “you see, I love scuba diving because there is no bull shit under the water”. This cracked me up. We talked some more about scuba diving and I asked what some may call stupid questions, but I was genuinely interested in the answer. I asked if she had ever come across sharks or dangerous fishes while scuba diving. She said only on one occasion and in her experience if you do not bother the fishes, they leave you alone. She lamented about how some scuba masters in some places she has been to (I didn’t catch which country) have cultivated a habit of feeding the eels. The issue with this is the eel then wraps itself around them, expecting food and bites them if there is no food. Common sense obviously says, don’t feed the fishes, they will fend for themselves.

I noticed her facial skin looked smooth and supple, although there were signs of ageing on her chin and neck, but she looked good and if I was have to guessed her age, I would have said late 60s, about 66. However, she let it slip while telling me about her family that she was 77. I gasped in shock. She happily told me about her facial regime. She explained she had never had plastic surgery but has a great dermatologists and a laser procedure she has done twice a year. I can most certainly see the benefits of it. She looked good.

We talked about her four grandchildren and how expensive it is now to send kids to college. When she went to college in 1957, it costs USD1,000 a year and now it is in the 30-40 thousand range. She explained that her grandchildren quickly realised they will have to work very hard to gain scholarships in order not to be overwhelmed by student loans. I shared my family’s experience with expensive international fees for universities and two other siblings and at the time, as we were not citizens, we weren’t entitled to any form of financial aid.

I asked her how she kept up with everything she does as she gets older. She said getting old is hard and not fun but all she can do is to keep pressing on, keep learning and not to give up. This, I thought was really good advice.

By this time, it was time for me to board my plane to Calgary, I waved her goodbye and she got up, gave me a hug and a peck on both cheeks. I wished her good luck with her travels and we parted ways.

I am glad I sat next to her and engaged her in a conversation. If I were to have guessed what her story was before speaking to her, I would never have guessed it correctly. She opened up my mind that little bit more, and of-course, gave me enough inspiration to update my blog!

To those enjoying a day off tomorrow for Memorial Day or any other reason, enjoy your day off. As for me, I’m back to work tomorrow… boo!

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