Here’s two open letters I thought up of while on the flight back in to Sydney.
Some parts of the narrative has been edited to preserve the identities of the peoples involved. Some situations have been slightly exaggerated for dramatic effects, but they mostly happened.
To the guy who sat next to me, Mr. S:
Dear Mr. S,
You’re an interesting guy. When you first asked me how my Kindle worked, I dismissed you as an old fogey in my mind. But then when you didn’t laugh nervously at my “I’m an economist, but I don’t know why the economy is in the gutter” schtick, you piqued my interest. Then you revealed yourself to be a statistician, working with voting behaviour. NOW, I’m listening to everything you say. You say your current 1-day-a-week job is in risk management in insurance. Go on, tell me more!
But then you stuffed up our interaction there, Mr. S. You did. You segued into my cultural identity. You asked me where I was from, which I replied truthfully – that I was from Malaysia. You then proceed to tell me that you had been in Malaysia and you grew up all over Asia. You told me that you were born in Hong Kong and you speak Cantonese. Good on ya mate, now get back to the topic at hand, talk about voting behaviour, about risk and market psychology.
What did you do instead? You told me you flew past Kota Kinabalu and went to Sandakan. Yes, I give you that you have very good pronunciation of the local names, but really, I want to hear more about your job. I cursorily asked if you had climbed Mt. Kinabalu, out of politeness and trying to keep the conversation alive, and you said you hadn’t. Then you told me that you flew up north to the north of South East Asia, and visited the Hmong people.
You then waxed lyrical about how you get philosophical about immigrants just wanting the best for their kids. Look, Mr. S, I know you are a bleeding heart liberal. I sensed it the moment you sat down and tried to engage me in conversation. I’ve sat next to conservative Aussies with some very conservative views on immigration before, and initial reactions are very different than yours. You don’t have to signal to me that you’re a bleeding heart liberal. Really.
Perhaps you were trying to find a common ground between us – you being a 60-something year old white male with a wife who looks uncannily like an elegantly aged, older version of my boss’ wife; and me, a 20+ year old asian male – and I can tell you this: we DO have common ground. And yes, granted I am a bit slow on my responses, but that’s mainly because I have never experienced talking to someone who has similar intellectual interests as I have – I was taken quite aback as you see, I’m usually prepared for people who are quite the polar opposite of you. I seem to attract creationists, bible thumpers, conservatives who simply love to engage in conversation which will turn out to be arguments. In fact, while you were talking about Malaysia, I was trying to find a way to butt in and ask your opinion about The Black Swan, because I believe we could have yak’d the whole journey.
And trust me, we DO have a lot of intellectual pursuits in common. When you were talking to your wife – ahem your liberal self switches between calling her your “partner” and your “wife” ahem – about Renaissance European art, I KNEW we definitely have something in common. ’tis a shame though you had to spoil it by trying to engage me in conversation about my cultural identity. It’s not that I am ashamed of it – it’s just that we have SO MANY other things more worthy to talk about. And that was the reason why I broke our conversation to start doing some work on my laptop instead.
Of course you could just have been trying to be friendly but I don’t really know how to interact with other human beings, so…Oh well, I hope your golfing trip would be fun.
To the jackass who sat in front of me:
Can I call you Chuck? Or Bub? You look like a Chuck to me. I know you probably play rugby and all that, and this is probably your first time flying, but for fuck’s sake can you STOP moving about? I am guessing this is not the first time you’re flying though, since you have a Kiwi accent. But bru, you DO know that before the plane takes off you’re supposed to keep your seat in an upright position right? And despite the steward (note that this is being used in a gender-neutral way, but I seriously doubt you have the intelligence to understand what gender-neutral means) telling you multiple times, you STILL don’t get it do you?
Oh please, stop mimicking the steward showing the safety instructions. Really, doing the YMCA dance moves will not impress anyone save you and your friends. No, the strip lights are there to GUIDE YOU out, not for you to swing your arms over and make silly signs.
You and your friend across the aisle, the one wearing the Beats By Dr Dre headphones – I think I’ll call him Beats – are irritating the fuck out of me. Really. OH MY FUCKING GODS STOP MOVING THE CHAIR! I am bloody typing on the laptop for fuck’s sake. Now can you and Beats shut up for a while? Stop trading each other your iPhones 4ses. Yes, we know you have really cool iPhones, but really. Do it some other time. I am trying to type some code.
You know something Chuck? When the plane went through some turbulence earlier, I had a dark fantasy of an emergency happening, and the plane is nose diving, and the only exit is the door behind me. In my fantasy, you and Beats were trying to follow the strip lighting out of the door, but you had to go past me. I decided to punch both of you in the face before jumping out of the plane with the last parachute. No, I’m aware that jumping out of the plane with a parachute will not work and it is best reserved to movies, but it’s my fantasy, and I can do what I want in it.
Can I have some peace while typing code? Have you had a laptop in front of you and move towards you or away from you at random times? No, the steward has told you that the pilot has put on the seatbelt sign, so that means stay in your seat and not go to the toilet. STAY!
Oh good, I see that we’re landing. FINALFUCKINGLY. Now I can go home and go do more work, or sleep in peace without you trying to disturb me.