NYTimes—A Seatmate Falls Asleep, and His Small Dog Gets Comfortable

By Jonah Disend, as told to Joan Raymond. E-mail: joan.raymond@nytimes.com

I TRAVEL a lot from my home in New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The flight delays trying to get to and from these cities have an upside. I get a chance to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: people-watching.

I’m a New Yorker and proud of it. But I find that New Yorkers, myself included, will go out of their way to ignore each other when flying. But every time I sit next to people from Los Angeles, those people want to chat, about anything. They wind up “friending” seatmates on Facebook before the flight lands. People from San Francisco want to talk, too, except the conversation is usually about finding ways to save the world.

All I want to do is get to my meeting in one piece. It’s not that I’m unfriendly. I just don’t want to chat. Spilled drinks have turned me into a chatterbox, though.

I often fly with some colleagues, and we were headed to Pittsburgh on a small plane. My seatmate spilled his drink on me as he was checking out the work I was doing on my laptop. I was very polite about the spill; it was no big deal. But the guy wound up talking to me the entire flight. Seriously. I couldn’t get out of it. It was nonstop conversation.

My colleague, who was sitting a few seats away, saw what was happening and couldn’t stop laughing. She knew how much I was tortured by spending the entire flight in conversation. When we exited the plane, the guy kept talking. I’m a speed walker and I swear I had to literally almost run away from the guy.

The same thing happened on a night flight to Paris. I was traveling with a colleague who is very clumsy, and she admits it. She wound up spilling a glass of Champagne on her seatmate. Apparently, the guy got a little angry, so she talked to him quite a bit to smooth things over.

One of the things they talked about was me. I was half asleep and the next thing I know the guy is sitting in the open seat right next to me, chatting away. It was like I was the love of his life or something. It was very strange and very awkward. But my colleague found it absolutely hysterical.

Dogs can make great seatmates. I was flying back from London and the guy sitting next to me, a well-known actor and comedian, was traveling with a tiny gray and black dog. The dog, which was out of its carrier, thought I was the best thing since raw meat, and decided to hop from its owner’s lap onto mine. The dog’s owner was unaware, since he was sound asleep. One of the things I’ve learned about flying is that you don’t want to wake people up. They have a tendency to frown on that. Famous people might even get more cranky.

So I sat there for what seemed like hours holding this little dog. I couldn’t even get to the carrier to put it away. No one seemed to mind, including the attendant.

When my seatmate woke up, I thought he would be grateful and take the dog back. He was grateful, but he apparently thought it was wonderful that the dog and I got along so well. I made every attempt to give him the dog back, short of shoving it in his face. Nothing was working, until the pilot announced we were getting ready to land.

To tell you the truth, I was kind of sorry to see the little dog go on his merry way once we got off the plane. My seatmate, well, not so much.

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