I am sitting on USAIR flight 614 from Phoenix to Atlanta and if the attractive thirty-ish woman sitting next to me in 20B reads this I will have some ’splaining to do. In fact I’m typing it in eight point font because that’s the smallest font on my laptop. I’m banking on the fact that she can’t see my screen very well from her position or that she, quite frankly, has no interest in my activities. Most likely it’s the latter based on her body language. She hasn’t lifted her eyes from her book in almost seventy-five minutes and, c’mon, nobody can read for that long!
Anyway, I’ve never been a good pick-up artist (I know that phrase sounds so Robert Downey Jr. but they haven’t come up with a better one since 1987). I’m a good conversationalist, have a decent sense of humor, and can even be okay looking on a good hair day. But having “game” and the ability to break the ice with women has always been a skill at which I could have worked harder, and garnered better results.
I’m thinking about this now because, as much as I’ve traveled, the one thing that has always fascinated me is how rarely I’ve found myself seated next to a good-looking woman on an airplane. The ultimate P.P.G.—Pick-up Proving Ground. Friends of mine tell me stories all the time of striking up conversations with horny pharmaceutical sales babes, tipsy bachelorette weekend attendees, and even good-looking stews (okay, flight attendants) dead-heading to their next shift (or whatever they call them) and hooking up later that evening for some blah blah blah. Where were all these women for the thirty years I travelled before getting married?
I haven’t sat next to a smoking hot woman on a plane since, well, since smoking was actually legal on planes.
For the record, my luck getting seated next to a good-looking woman doesn’t just stop at airplanes, though. It’s a lifetime affliction. I’m the kind of guy who could go to a Hooters and end up being waited on by the one dude who took the job so he could test their hiring policies and get on CNN.
But alas, it wouldn’t matter anyhow because, as I said, I have no game. And that’s just pathetic. It’s unacceptable that an adult such as myself can’t find something on an airplane to initiate dialogue with another human being … attractive or otherwise.
How about …
“Can you believe they’re now charging for napkins?”
“Any idea if this flight is scheduled to land this week?”
“Is it me or does every flight attendant nowadays seem like an angry Hillary Clinton?”
I’m not saying those are gems but the point is there’s a lot of material out there, and a guy should be able to strike up a conversation with a woman he is welded to for multiple hours through multiple time zones.
Small talk is an art and it’s one at which, admittedly, I’ve never been an artist. But on a plane? I ask again; how lame am I that I find myself unable to break the ice in a situation that’s just one notch below being Siamese twins (sorry to any Siamese readers out there).
My friend Checkoway does everything seemingly wrong when approaching women. He’s sarcastic, sexually explicit, and arrogant. And I tell him this all the time. I cringe when we’re at a bar or party and he starts rapping with some good-looking woman because, to me, it always sounds so uncomfortable. But you know what? He succeeds, and it’s astonishing. Checkoway says, “Dude, it’s so easy to break the ice on a plane. Just open by asking her if she’s going home on the flight or coming from home and then take it from there … dude.”
Well I’ve tried that. I wait till she’s not glued to her book or scrolling through her iPod and I’ll say something like, “So do you live in Atlanta or are you going there to visit?” and generally it’s met with a grunt or a “look.” Then there’s awkward silence as I break into prickly heat and spend the next three hours hoping she’s allergic to my peanuts as punishment.
The problem with making small talk with random females while on the road is that there’s a huge disconnect in how the sexes approach travel, and it’s actually understandable. Lauren, a twenty-five-year-old grad student, says, “Men see being out of their normal environment as a license to cut loose and be bolder than they are at home. Unfortunately, many women become more self-aware and protected when in a strange city.”
It’s hard to argue with that, especially today. Yeah, sure you still run into a gaggle of twenty-somethings every once in a while partying in the streets of New Orleans or Vegas or Austin with mixed drinks stirred by little plastic penises, but they don’t represent the norm. Lauren continues, “When I’m on a plane I don’t mind talking to the guy in the seat next to me if he’s not cheesy, but the minute I sense that he might be I immediately open my book. I may even tell him I prefer to just sit in quiet during the trip.”
When asked to describe “cheesy” she says, “If he talks about porn in the first five minutes.” (Wow. The notion that there are men who actually feel that porn is an okay line of dialogue to a complete stranger whose name isn’t Cinnamon is mind-boggling.)
Eddie G. is a single, thirty-eight-year-old real estate analyst who is a Delta Platinum flyer and has had a fair amount of success converting in-flight conversations to post flight rendezvous. He observes that women almost universally book window seats and men take the aisles. He says that, while men like aisles for legroom, women like windows because it gives them a better opportunity to retreat into the corner and turn away should they be seated next to an unwanted conversationalist. But what if they just like looking out windows, Eddie? What about that, huh?
Eddie does concur, though, that one does not need an arsenal of witty anecdotes or one-liners to strike up airplane conversation. Again, talk about the entertaining Rob Schneider film-fest they’re offering, the yammering pilot who won’t let you sleep because he sees the fuselage as a flying comedy club, the mom who really needs to introduce her child to Mr. Ritalin, or how you’ve aged waiting for this flight to move one foot on the tarmac.
I suppose, for either sex, there are three simple concepts to keep in mind when mustering up courage to strike up a conversation with someone on an airplane: Every passenger is sharing a common experience (being uncomfortable), every passenger is sharing a common goal (arriving alive), and every passenger is sharing a common adversary (the flight attendant). Now discuss.
By Travel Guy Jimmy Baron of TravelGirl
Photo courtesy of TravelGirl