Sometimes when I’m on a long flight, I like to give people background stories that I think fit their behaviour or appearance. Sometimes, I like observing people and listening to their conversations, though I usually don’t like having conversations. Today, on a 17-hour journey, I created a daydream version of me.
She sat a few seats down from me while waiting to board the flight. She wore jeans, a plain t-shirt, a jacket and sport shoes – exactly what I usually wear while travelling. Her hair was long and tied back into a ponytail – messy, like mine. She wore glasses and no make-up. She was typing furiously into her laptop. In my version of her life, she’s a writer – not a journalist, a fiction or blog writer. She writes subtly funny articles and realistic stories based on her interpretations of events and people. She smiled while typing – something one of her characters just did amused her.
She carried only a backpack. It looked new – her last backpack was too worn out from all her travelling to be used anymore. A water bottle was stuck in the bottle-carrier net on the side of her backpack. She never buys a backpack that doesn’t have those carriers, because keeping a bottle inside the backpack is too inconvenient.
During the flight, she sat at the emergency exit row, in the window seat, the same seat that I had on the other side of the plane. Clearly, she visits SeatGuru to research the best possible seat, and has travelled enough to know to check in online to make sure she gets the best seat. She spent most of the flight watching something on her laptop that she found funny. The first thing she did when we reached our transit airport was to buy a can of Coke, and then look for a plug-point to charge her laptop – a woman after my own heart.
She talked to the guy sitting in the aisle seat in her row. She talked about travelling – she’s an American student, travelling Asia on the money she earned working several student jobs. She worked in Singapore for a while, but her workplace wanted longer commitment and she didn’t want to stay longer than a year. She’s moving on now – perhaps to Melbourne, where I’m headed, or the mysterious sounding Changchun, flashing on the board of the gate we’re waiting at in the transit airport. The conversation wasn’t long – she’s friendly, but prefers to spend travel time reading her book or watching her movie.
We eye each other at the transit airport, both stuck here for a few hours, both recognising the other from the first flight. I see a kindred spirit, someone who, in my head, is similar to the romantic picture of myself I sometimes conjure while daydreaming. Maybe she notices similarities too, in my behaviour and habits. Maybe she’s giving me a story in her head, in which I feature as a student travelling on a tight budget – I’m flying from Singapore to Australia through China – clearly a cheap ticket convinced me to add 10 hours to my travel time. Or maybe she sees me as a confused girl, unfamiliar with airports, running around and constantly turning to walk in the opposite direction because I can’t choose between Starbucks and Coffee Bean.
Or then again, maybe she’s just pegged me as the inevitable creepy person of the flight, staring at her constantly and typing furiously away into her laptop, blushing when caught.