The well dressed businessman, the one who knew it was Tuesday because he was leaving O'Hare for work, boarded with four others who looked just like him.
The rest of us, First Class and Elite and Sapphire and Gold were a motley crew. In full Summer Vacation Mode, we moved at a different pace. We were free. He was not.
TBG and I found ourselves seated next to him, aisle and middle to his window. He was not displeased.
Then a mom with two pre-schoolers hoisted her roller bag into the bin above us and swiftly, cleanly, with little muss or fuss, settled herself and the kids and their snuggles blanket and backpack-cum-bear and Snow White into the row behind us. In complete sentences, the big sister was narrating the experience with the delighted excitement only a four year old feels while anticipating the Food Cart.
The worker bee by the window sighed a sigh which could have propelled the plane on its own.
The mom was smiling and gentle and in charge so the girls were just fine. The cell phone was used to call Daddy, awaiting them in Tucson. The little one wanted him to help her right now, and her sorrow was palpable, but the Food Cart Fan soon distracted her.
Their chatter, amusing and loud and giggly, was soothing to my just-left-FlapJilly soul. Obviously, not everyone shared my opinion. My businessman showed his indignation by pulling down the window shade, appropriating the entire shared armrest, and falling asleep.
The girls rattled on as Mom handed out surprises, discussing their relative merits while answering their constant stream of questions. It was delightful and distracting and they were definitely in my personal space... and then I sneezed.
I sneeze in threes. Not earthshaking but certainly noticeable, three let's-all-turn-on-our-air-vents-at-the-same-time dust storm dry sneezes put three distinct aachhooos out there. I stopped, and then, from the row behind me, after a decent pause, came a friendly, high pitched, heartfelt "Bless You!"
I returned the favor with a "Thank You!" and then the engines started and no one could hear anything and I sat back and realized that I'd just been taught a lesson.
In our increasing interconnected world, where we all seem to share one another's social spaces, it's easier to be friendly and polite than to tilt at windmills and pray that a mom and two kids don't sit behind you on your Tuesday morning commuter flight. My sneeze was in her space as much as her Food Cart Obsession was in mine. As long as we accepted that and were respectful to one another, we'd have no problem.
I think My Businessman must have felt the vibe, too. He crossed his arms snugly around his chest, leaving some of the arm rest to me.