You never know who you will sit next to on a plane. As legends go, Fran Drescher found herself on a flight next to a producer and spent the entire two hour flight pitching a story about a sassy cosmetic saleswoman who gets hired as "The Nanny´ to an uptight millionaire´s children. The rest is history.
However most of us probably won´t sit next to someone who can change our lives as radically as Ms Drescher´s. Unless you are in first class, you are bound to have a stranger sitting within inches of your person for a short or extended time — take the "es´ off inches if you fly coach (economy). BEEF STROGANOFF AND BAD AIR
Most of the time you bury your head in a magazine, focus on a movie or close your eyes. Occasionally however neighbors become very neighborly with good and bad results. I once flew from LA to New York wedged between two insurance salesmen and picked up a wealth of tips on risk quantification methods for natural disasters. They also had a pretty hot recipe for Beef Stroganoff.
However I´ve also had nightmare neighbours who complain non-stop, take up the whole arm space and – the most awful of all – "gas´ the entire row and the one behind us: "Wasn´t me, Miss," I whisper to the horrified damsel behind me, as I escape to the back of the plane for some "air´.
There are the Drunks, "Unstoppable Mouths´, Complainers, the annoying Flirts and Snorers. Many times though people cannot help themselves, such as those who shake with Parkinson´s or swear with Tourette´s syndrome.
Whatever the actions or words, I have found it all depends on attitude. Sitting next to a mother and her crying baby during a ten hour flight, I fumed for an hour then created a puppet show out of thin air just to get some quiet. I found myself enjoying it. Soon I was using the baby´s internal cry-clock to remind myself to keep circulation moving while took shifts carrying the child up and down the aisle. Also helped with muscle strength training. The mother, also a businesswoman, eventually became a very useful business connection.
I once sat next to a boy whose leg involuntarily shook in terror as the plane took off. I distracted him with stories of my horseriding exploits and it helped me pass the time. I have talked books to a crying widow, volcanos to a depressed salesman and learned about meditation techniques from a person jerking with Huntington´s disease.
However sometimes there is not much to be done about our neighbours. Here, though, are a few ideas: move seats if someone is being obnoxious, use earplugs for snoring, pretend to understand a different language, pretend sleep, keep a bottle of lavender oil in your hand luggage for those with weak bowels and the old back-up technique when nothing else works – tell yourself you will never see this person again.
Do let me know what experiences and tips you have by flying next to people you love or hate. A friend now always flies "Michael Jackson-style´ carrying a face mask in her handbag after once sitting next to a sick passenger who spluttered, sneezed and snorted all the way from Alaska to Los Angeles. You may not want to go that far, but a few extra precautions may help get though "trying flying´ next to the occasional annoying neighbour.