The progression of last night’s in-flight conversation


“Can I put the arm rest up?”


[spilling over into my seat]  “I’m still a big girl.  But I’ve lost over 200 lbs.”

“Wow – that’s incredible!  Congratulations – what an accomplishment.”

“No more seat-belt expander for me.”

[high-five with a 70-year old woman, initiated by yours truly]

“I’m Pat, by the way, and this is my husband Bobby.”

“Hi, Pat and Bobby.  I’m Annie.”

– – – – – – – –

“Are you from Nashville?”

“No, but I work for a company that’s based there.  I’m heading back for work, and a friend’s wedding on New Years’ Eve.”

“The company that you work for – do they rate well in customer service?”

“We do, in fact.  It’s one of the things that we’re known for.”

“Well, I tell you what.  You need to move to Mesa, Arizona, and teach those nincompoops a thing or two about customer service.  I have never met such dolts in my life as I did in Mesa, Arizona.  Or as many Ethiopians as I did in the Denver airport.”

– – – – – – – –

“How did you two meet?”

“We were in high school.  I had a girl friend who wasn’t allowed to car-date unless it was with another couple.  So she begged me to go on a double-date with her and her boyfriend, and Bobby here.  I couldn’t stand him.”

“What?  How could you not stand Bobby?”

“I don’t know, I just couldn’t.”

“Okay, go on.”

“My girl friend liked the guy she was going with, but her family told her that she couldn’t marry him, because he wasn’t a Christian.  So she wrote him a Dear John letter.  But, you know what?  She died of typhoid fever.”

[gasp]  “That’s terrible.”

[somber]  “Yes.”  [gung-ho]  “But after that, Bobby called me up to ask for a date with just me.  And I said yes.  And we’ve been together ever since.”

– – – – – – – –

“How have you made marriage last for 49 years?”

“It’s give-and-take.  Always give-and-take.  I love him so much, I hope I die before he does, because I could never live without him.”

– – – – – – – –

“Bobby has had a kidney transplant, two knee replacements, and open-heart surgery.”  [fumbling for his meds]  “I hope we make it to 50 years before he dies.  Want a sugar-free yogurt-covered pretzel?”


– – – – – – – –

“Have you met Mr. Right?”

“No, I haven’t.  Not yet.  I hope I do someday.”

“Oh, you will.  A girl like you can’t last much longer without being snatched up.  Blows my mind that it hasn’t happened already, actually.  Men are idiots.”

“Thanks, Bobby.”  Smile.  For real.  Big smile.

– – – – – – – –

“Girl, I’ll tell you what.  I can already tell that you have common sense – which is more than I can say for most people in this world.”

“Well, thanks, Bobby!”

“You do.  You’ve got it.  Common sense.  And pretty eyes.

I need to use the restroom.”

– – – – – – – –

I’ll be honest: at first, I felt tempted to open up my laptop and cut off conversation with them.  But I’m so glad that I didn’t.  Pat and Bobby reminded me that life is precious and fleeting, like a vapor, and that the only thing worth passing on is love.  I don’t know how to reconcile the notion that “life is meaningful” with “yeah, but everyone dies” – but this couple, towards the end of their relatively quiet, non-glamorous years, somehow made me believe that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I think I should switch them.

Everyone dies.

Yeah, but life is meaningful.

Extremely, intensely, marvelously meaningful.



  1. Sarah on December 28, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    i love this.
    thanks oonis – for the conversation to the airport and the one across the country.

    rally sister! see you on the other side!

  2. Greta on December 28, 2010 at 11:40 AM


    I love stranger friends. Ohhh, love this.

  3. Kate on December 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    This is freaking amazing

  4. Margaret on December 28, 2010 at 2:13 PM


  5. annie on December 28, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Life IS meaningful.

  6. katelyn on December 28, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    I love this! A friend prayed for our in-flight encounters to Seattle. At first I thought it was random, but I’ll bet by not turning on your lap top you blessed them more than you’ll know! Happy New Year!

  7. Chloe Boyle on December 28, 2010 at 5:53 PM


  8. Megan on December 28, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    You are such a tenderhearted girl and it’s not doubt that Pat and Bobby were as blessed by you as you were by them. Your talent for story telling truly astounds me and I wish I would have overheard your conversation! Love you friend!

  9. Brooke on December 28, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Love. This.

  10. Carolina Linthead on December 29, 2010 at 6:52 AM

    Thanks for this, Annie! Brightened up my morning, kinda like the rising sun is beginning to brighten the snow outside. My parents have been married 57 years. The last two have been extremely difficult, but they’re still living, loving each other as best they can. There is truth and power and beauty and hope in such tales, even if they all end in death. Final point: from where I’m sitting, that Bobby pretty much hit the nail on the head.

  11. Lauren on December 29, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    Pat and Bobby are right . . . there is no doubt you are going to be snatched up by someone amazing! But, there’s no way he’ll be as good of a blog-writer as you :)

  12. Juliette on December 29, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    Magnifico. Just brilliant. I’m so glad this happened to you. And i’m so glad you remembered enough to write it down. You are delightful and I hope you continue to write down everything. I will always read it… and often aloud to whoever is around me. :)

  13. erin, FROM MESA! on December 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    strongly, highly, significantly offended by Pat and Bobby and their disdain for Mesa, Arizona. But afterall, they’ve never met me…THAT’LL change their opinion of Mesa! But, i suppose there is a reason i don’t live there anymore ;-) Miss you, and WILL VISIT soon!

  14. wrecklessgirl on January 23, 2011 at 12:03 AM

    this was my spoonful of sugar AND my medicine that went down nicely. thank you for sharing. xoxo

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