My goal with these brief posts is to be fun, informative and in touch.
Taylor Mason Beat

Mile High Conversations


I have reached a total of five million real air miles flown over the past x-number of years. I'm not proud of that freakishly absurd number, and all it really means is that I travel too much. The now-gone US Airways sent me a certificate a couple of years ago because I had "achieved" two million miles flown. "We know you'll want to frame this and hang it proudly," the accompanying form letter read. It hit the recycle bin within seconds of being opened.

I've been seated in every section of all the main aircraft used by commercial airlines, and I have developed a keen sense of understanding my fellow passengers and seat-mates. I know when conversation is appropriate, I know what subjects are acceptable and what is off-limits, and I know when people want to be left alone. These observations are based on questions and responses I call "tells." As in, "Sir, I really don't want to talk to you." That's a tell. It means "Leave me alone." See? I'm totally tuned in!

I have my own response to people I don't want to talk to, by the way. First Class is where I meet some of the most talkative folks, often gracious and interesting, but sometimes not. For example, consider this greeting from an overly enthusiastic fellow traveler. "Hey! How are ya? This is gonna be a great flight! It's my first time up here in First Class! I'm from Michigan, what do you call home? Want to see some pictures of my cats?" It's obvious. I have to shut this down NOW.

The question I wait for is the dialogue-ender. They will ask - they ALWAYS ask - "What do you do for a living?" Using the truth (I'm a comedian; I'm a ventriloquist; I'm an entertainer; I'm a writer and a musician and yes, this is my career) is much too open-ended and results in long explanations which leads to more questions and more explanations and more weird in-flight juju with someone I don't know.

So I always answer, "I'm a janitor." Or, "I work in waste removal. Sorry about the smell - it goes with me everywhere." And I sit in happy silence for the duration of the flight, interrupted only by the occasional sniff of my seat mate, as he or she wonders if in fact there is a bad smell.

Years ago on a cross-country flight, I was seated in First Class, via an upgrade, on the aisle in seat 2C. There were a total of 16 seats in this premium section on the plane, and 15 of them were taken up by a law firm, major players from what I could tell, all shouting and laughing and enjoying the fact they had the first 16 seats all to themselves. Their own little club, as it were.

Well, all but seat 2C. Me. Sitting with my notebook and working. The flight had not taken off yet when I was approached by a distinguished-looking man (re: tall, graying at the temples, ruddy complexion, piercing gray eyes, perfect white smile and tailored suit - you get the picture - the Type-A guy who always gets what he wants) who stared at me until I finally acquiesced and "noticed" him.

"Can I help you?" I asked in a non-committal, you-mean-nothing-to-me kinda way.

He blasted me a smile.

"Listen, I'm a partner with whatever-our-firm-is-named-this-week (my recollection, not the real name), and we have all these seats up here but yours. I wonder if you'd trade with me?"

He re-blasted the smile.

I smiled back.

"Where are you seated?"

He used his thumb to point back over his shoulder, "I'm in 4E, by the window."

I nodded.

"Well," I said, thinking how to phrase my response as I was talking, "here's the thing. I fly a lot. I always fly in Seat 2C. Because every time I have flown in this seat, the plane has not crashed!"

There was a long pause. A couple of beats in theatrical terms. The kind of uncomfortable silence that stops all conversation in a First Class section of a commercial airliner, so that even if you're not familiar with the people you're surrounded by, even if you have never met them or seen them or know anything about them, you still know that someone might get angry here in a moment and a temper tantrum might erupt.

Mr. I'm-a-partner-in-a-prestigious-firm kept beaming his smile at me, his eyes boring into mine, and I thought I could see some redness rising from his starched collar up his neck into his chin. The way cartoon characters do just before going nuclear when they lose their temper and their heads explode.

Instead, Mr. Partner began laughing. A wild, off-the-charts insane laugh as if I had just told the funniest joke in the history of commercial aviation. "That's the funniest joke in the history of commercial aviation!" he shouted, hitting me a little too hard on my shoulder as everyone laughed and went back to their loud conversations.

I flew in 2C and did my work.

I'll be flying to Wisconsin Rapids this Saturday, January 30 for a show - I hope you can come see me! Tickets Here

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