When I get on an airplane, I hope that my over-the-ear headphones will send the same message to strangers beside me that I hope they send to strangers on the subways or streets of New York City: I don’t want to chitchat. This isn’t meant to be taken personally — it’s a decision I make before I ever lay eyes on the passengers seated beside me. Plane rides have always been meditative for me. I prefer to zone out with the help of a good album or, if the screen before me is working (which it wasn’t on one of my most recent flights), pass the time with a movie. While I’ve never had a bad conversation with strangers that manage to strike up conversation with me during the no-electronics portions of a ride, I would have always chosen to not have any conversation at all, had I been given a choice. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
A recent Velvet Escape piece discussed the declining social nature of planes. Perhaps the in-flight media available is satiating enough for us. Perhaps the internet has us feeling so intertwined with the rest of the globe that we aren’t as interested in strangers. Perhaps our lives are becoming so saturated with talk and work and we relish time alone more than ever before. The Velvet Escape piece asks this question and I ask it, too: when was the last time you had a memorable conversation (good or bad) with someone beside you on a plane?