I normally try to keep to myself while I commute on my airline to and from Phoenix. I most always wear plain clothes and typically squirrel my identification badge away while I’m seated in the passenger cabin. I often busy myself with a book or sudoku puzzle on the iPad, or I simply shut my eyes and listen to music as I dose my way to or from work. But every now and again, a pleasant person sits down next to me and strikes up interesting conversation, which is what happened last week on my flight from LAX.
A young lady tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could help her find her seat. I explained that seating was “open,” and she asked if she could have the open seat by the window of the row in which I was sitting. A bit of small talk was exchanged (in which I found out that she was a fan of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey club…my Kings’ upcoming opponent in the Western Conference Finals, so…BOOO) before she mentioned how much she loved to fly.
The conversation continued with me saying, “Oh yeah?” and asking her if she flew often. Enthusiastically, she proceeded to tell me how she was actually taking flying lessons out of Long Beach, and that she’d just soloed for the first time two weeks prior. With one of the biggest grins I’ve ever seen across someone’s face, she described what it was like in just about every detail. Clearly, this was something that brought great happiness to her…something she truly loved to do. She asked if I’d had any experience actually flying, and my response was my usual (and purposeful) understatement: “I’ve got a little bit of time in small planes.”
We continued talking about her plans to continue her flying education beyond a basic private pilot’s license, and it was clear that she was at one of life’s many crossroads. With a degree in communications, she’d gone into public relations after college, and I don’t think she could’ve stated more emphatically how much she disliked her field of work. When I suggested that it might be a good time to change her career field (being that she was only in her early 20′s), I could tell by the look on her face that the thought had appeal.
By now her curiosity had gotten the best of her (or she’d caught a glimpse of the crew tag on the bag I had tucked under the seat in front of me), and she asked what I did for a living. I confessed. Instantly, I became (in her mind) a source of knowledge to her regarding the career field, and questions came at me rapid-fire style. What’s it like? What’s the best part about the job? What’s the worst? How long did you take to get to where you are now? How long would it take me to get there?
I did my best to answer the questions, of course, and offered to keep in touch should she have any questions. I’m a bit removed from the flight-training and ladder-climbing phases of the career choice, I’m afraid, so I don’t know how much help I can be to her in planning a potential career change. It was quite nice, however, to see that level of interest in flying in someone as young as she. It provided some perspective, actually, helping me to remember that I am indeed living my dream. That’s something that is remarkably easy to take for granted, especially after twenty years of flying and nearly fifteen years in the airline industry.