When We Travel

The man next to me in a puffy jacket the color of raspberries is snoring. Sweetly.

When the plane bounces, he jolts, realigns The New York Times on his lap, resumes reading. Only to nod off. Plane bounces, he jolts, realigns, reads, nods off.

When I first sat down next to him, he was upright, shoulders back, reading closely. He had clear glasses, the kind I’ve seen architects wear, and dapper low cut boots. He had all the adornments of dignity, precision.

Twenty minutes into our flight, the dignified, precise man is a snoring raspberry slump next to me. And it’s hard not to love this sweet, unprotected mass of humanness.

I doubt he would do this if at the DMV, dentist office, a BBQ joint. But we’re all somewhat out of sorts when we travel, aren’t we? On someone else’s schedule, without our usual lunch options, comfy chairs, privacy for calls, nose picking. Outside our regular nest to soothe us, there’s less protection between us and the world. We lose some control, we drop some guard, we may be more easily bothered.

I’m endeared to those who slip into open-mouthed napping in the terminal, are susceptible to spending fat sums on mediocre airport food. The fortitude to be high-minded and decorous got checked, or at least eroded, at security.

The plane lands in Pittsburgh. The man realigns into his dignified, precise self. He walks like a Senator down the jet bridge.

Silently, I thank him. My raspberry reminder that when thrown from the nest, we’re unadorned and quite beautiful humans.

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