I made my Seattle flight out of Charlotte only because the departure was on a two hour delay — good for me but not so much for the passengers who had been waiting. My seat mate in biz class was a fifty-something man on his way to Seattle because his father in law had just been diagnosed and hospitalized with pancreatic cancer. His wife had flown out earlier; their three adult offspring were also on the way. The older man’s diagnosis is complicated by the fact that he is in early stages of dementia.
Once again I’m curious about the phenomenon of talking with strangers when we are under stress — easier perhaps, at least in superficial form, than talking with our loved ones. We talk to people on planes, in bars, in the gym. I mostly listened, unable to offer anything useful other than empathy in the situation of a family I don’t even know. But in some way the act of sharing-listening between strangers is an affirmation of our common humanity — and in my experience, a rather common thing.