I get assigned the middle seat on flight to the Midwest.
The Window and Aisle seats are occupied. (< 2 hour flight. No reason to work oneself up. Last post on similar topic was titled Think Small and it came rushing to mind.)
WSM (Window Seat Mate) asks how “the big guy was so lucky to get stuck in the jump seat.” I reply that I’ve had back-to-back storms to thank for the rescheduling. No reaction from WSM.
Our Flight is grounded for a “quick repair.”
I pull out my PC to grind through some emails.
WSM steals one glance at my screen. And then another. And another. And another. And then just stares. (I need to invest in a screen protector to keep out prying eyes. Yet, we can all be forgiven to steal a one quick glance to knock out the curiosity…) However, there has to be an Emily Post rule where 4-5 side glances followed by a protracted stare is over the line.)
I stare back. Caught in the act, WSM doesn’t avert his stare. Doesn’t smile. He turns away after a few seconds (I don’t want or need a confrontation. DK, an ISTJ, customarily avoids most communication on air flights. And most non-work situations for that matter. Mantra – No talking. This would be an unrecognizable DK in work situations. Who are you?)
Pilot announces that we are ready to take off. It’s wheels up and electronics off. I pull out my paperback: Jose Saramago’s “Raised from the Ground Up.” (I’m trying to re-engage in “real” reading after in inexcusable absence for months.)
WSM glances over again. And asks: “YOU reading Saramago.” (Did he just say “YOU reading Saramago?” No, he couldn’t have just said “YOU reading Saramago?” He might have said “You reading SARAMAGO!” No, I’m quite certain that he emphasized the “YOU” and not the “SARAMAGO.” Amygdala screeching. I must have not heard him correctly. Let it go. Let it go. Let. It. Go. Pal.)
I reply after a few seconds. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.” (Mr. Ever Polite.)
WSM repeats: “YOU reading Saramago.” I offer “Yes.” And show him the cover. He smiles but doesn’t respond. (I’ve concluded that he believes that Saramago is over my head. Too deep for the Suit. Too cerebral for the ex-jock. Must have noticed the scars on the nose. The cuts on the chin. Or noticed in one of his stolen glances that I was 100 points behind in my Words-With-Friends game with Susan.)
DK ponders his 2 way-forward options and takes one…
Path 1: DK lets it go. Normal path in non-work environment. Avoid non-essential communication and contact. ISTJ plugs in his headphones (Universal Symbol of Leave Me Alone), drops his head and buries it in his work. DK forces in peace, zen and solitude upstairs. Correction, DK tries to force it in and absorbs wave upon wave of a low hum of self criticism. (Move the work. Take the hill. Block it out.)
Path 2: DK moves in position for intellectual combat to shake up the little Napoleon. (A most uncomfortable zone for non-work-DK. Anxiety level is sure to climb. Treading in waters where victory is far from certain.) DK asks: “What did you think of White Blindness?” WSM: “I hadn’t read that one. I like his writing style.” DK, The Great White, smells blood in water and circles his prey…with the jaws yawning open: “Well, what did you think about “All the Names? And what is it about his writing style you like?” WSM: “I like his English writing style” (and avoids DK’s other query). The shark now bearing his teeth: “English writing style. Yes. I see. Very good.”
WSM grabs his pillow, turns his back and falls asleep.
Nothing but dry earth, killing heat, deathly cold…
On his father’s side, he comes from tradesmen’s stock, his father a shoemaker, his grandfather a carpenter, but see how destinies are forged, there is no bradawl here, no plane, nothing but dry earth, killing heat, deathly cold, the great droughts of summer, the bone-deep chill of winter, the hard morning frost, lace, Dona Clemencia calls it, cracked, bloody, purple chilblains, and if that swollen hand rubs against a tree trunk or a stone, the soft skin opens, and who can say what misery and pain lies underneath. Is there no other life than this drudgery, an animal living on earth alongside other animals, the domestic, the wild, the useful and the harmful, and he himself, along with his human brothers, is treated as either harmful or useful, depending on the needs of the latifundio, now I want, now I don’t.
~ Jose Saramago in “Raised From The Ground”
Image Credit: Empti-ed