Kryptonite to ‘Enjoy’

9F. Economy Plus. Two rows back from first class, on the lower-rent side of the worthless curtain. There was a man in my seat. He slouched against the window, skinny-legged, knees almost touching the back of the middle seat.

I smiled. Pointed. “9F is my seat.”

He looked confused. Replied in broken English.

More words and gestures from me. He finally moved to the middle seat. Then he and the man on the aisle got up and out so I could get in.

There was a maintenance delay. I looked out the window while the man next to me kept his eyes trained on the Western he was watching, cell phone sideways in the drop-down device holder. I checked my email.

The pilot announced the engine needed oil, maintenance was on their way, and the delay would be brief. The flight attendant came through the aisle to prepare us for takeoff.

She told the man to stow the device holder, noted his earbuds and non-response, then brought her hand close to make a sharp “fold it up” gesture.

He did, keeping the phone at eye level, propped in his palms. The elbows at the end of his long skinny arms pointed into his thighs.

It looked uncomfortable.

As soon as the flight attendant had passed into the seclusion of first class, he pulled down the device holder, nestled his phone, and settled back in his seat.

My hands itched, wanted to shut his device holder.

Thus began my internal dialogue.

“Settle down.”

“He’s breaking the rules!”

“Do you seriously think the device holder in front of his seat presents any danger to you?”

“No, but he’s breaking the rules.”

“Oh. And it’s your job to enforce them?”

With that non-question, I remembered a comment from a colleague years earlier, in response to a criticism I had uttered: “Who made you God?”

My hands were clasped, fingers nestled inside each cupped palm, wriggling, worrying. I tried to focus on my word of the year: Enjoy.

But I felt no enjoyment.

“Enjoy,” I commanded myself.

But enjoy does not arrive on command.

The device holder was still down, the miniaturized movie still rested on its perch, and I was the only one it bothered. I tried another word.


I looked at my legs, thankful they had carried me onto the plane. I thanked the maintenance crew, who made it possible for us to pull back from the gate. I was glad for my home at the other end of the journey, the bed I would sleep in, the dog who waited for me.

I could not enjoy while I was criticizing.

But appreciating was a path to get there.

Chewing the Cud of Good

view from an airplane window, of flat ground covered by snow

Thankful for Bethan who said, “Paying attention leads to wonder. And wonder leads to joy.”



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