Usually when I get into an airplane seat, I am prepared to read through the flight, or less likely, to doze off. But once in a great while someone next to me is not fastened to a digital device for the duration of the air time and an actual conversation ensues. Twice in the last three years I was blessed by traveling companions so interesting that I remember them vividly and regret that most probably I’d never see them again.
Why is it so difficult to find someone to talk with at any depth? Many people read a lot of books and no doubt watch a lot of television and movies, go to interesting places, yet to get past what they had for dinner or how their dance cards are filled out for the month is almost impossible.
On the short flight from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to O’Hare in Chicago this past July, a writer for a farm magazine on his way to San Francisco sat next to me. We started talking about our connecting flights and wondering about the possibility of making the connections since this flight was late getting started. In San Francisco he would be at a product unveiling and information gathering meeting. I mentioned having worked at the J.I. Case/International Harvester Engineering Test Center when it was located in Hinsdale, Illinois. The new piece of equipment he would be reviewing was manufactured by Kubota Corporation, a newer name in the industry since the days when I did secretarial work in Hinsdale.
I talked about my cousin out in West Salem, Ohio and how to this day I clearly recall the image of Jerry plowing the field across from his parents’ home, the sun beating down on him, as held his chin in one palm and steered the slow machine with the other. The look of boredom and annoyance at this imposed chore clearly written on his face. When I told him that same boy now collects tractors, has an old Allis Chalmers, the writer laughed and said he does too. He talked about the satisfaction of being a farmer and I compared it on a much smaller scale to the contentment found in gardening.