Better than an elevator friend, but...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/10/15 17:59 -04:00, original URI:

Very little technical, I blame the IUC for throwing me off the schedule here!

So I was flying down to San Jose and ended up sitting next to Susan, a[n apparently] young lady.

When she sat down, I said nothing (I was watching the end of the third episode of Love Monkey and the headphones were in the way of conversation).

But she was having trouble getting her bag overhead (my cane was getting in the way) so she looked around for the owner.

I took off the headphones and identified myself as the owner, and she inquired whether she could take it out and put it back.

Of course, I let her know.

My Love Monkey episode ended and we were still on the ground. We were talking for most of the hour that we waited to take off, about various somewhat related issues. You know, like the fact that we were apparently waiting for flight attendants, that this flight had only a 50% ontime departure rate, and so on.

It is a lot like the idle chitchat that occurs while waiting for the elevator to arrive, I'm sure you've been there before. We make a lot of "friends" waiting for it, where one defines "friends" as our comrades in this waiting game who we will probably never talk to again.

I paused several times during the conversation since I tend to talk too much and I am willing to appear awkward if it gives people an easy way to stop talking to me if they would rather do almost anything else. As they sometimes would rather do,who are we kidding here?

At one point, I noticed her wedding band and her engagement ring. I was actually quite impressed, to be frank. And I told her so.

"A beautiful Tiffany illusion setting, an understated and simple yet beautiful expression of passion and love."

She looked at me for a moment (perhaps deciding I was gay?) and then suggested that her husband may not have put as much thought into it, though things seemed to have worked out okay, anyway....

Anyway, we continued this conversation for the rest of the flight, pausing as I listened to music or she read her New Yorker.

The article she was reading sounded fascinating, which I know as she described it. 

I learned that she has been married for years and has a daughter who is four, plus she is twelve weeks pregnant (this is why although she loves the Alaska Air "we fly to Hawaii now" drinks like Mai Tais that she was going to decline. We did toast to Hawaii though.

Were I to guess I would have put her age at around 32 and that she wasn't pregnant -- so I was about seven years and twelve weeks off in my assessments. I could weasel here and claim that on affected the other but I was probably just wrong.

I also learned that she is a scientist (a toxicologist) and we ended up talking about the fact that we were both geeks (with obviously different terminologies) and we did some comparison/contrast between them.

I told her some things about me too, nothing regular readers here wouldn't know about, of course.

At some point we learned each others' names, too (not at the beginning of the conversation, it was somewhere in the middle....).

We both thought the captain referring to the flight attendants as "the girls" seemed a bit out of place.

We both seem pretty engaged in the conversation, in any case. It essentially went on for over three hours!

Before we knew it, the flight was over.

We walked off the plane and she headed in (I waited for my scooter checked-in plane side), and we didn't actually say a true goodbye. We didn't mention our last names and we didn't exchange cards and such. In all likelihood, will probably never see each other again for the rest of either of our lives.

So it was obviously more than a conversation waiting for an elevator, though less than a conversation that could actually lead to future conversations or an actual friendship.

I guess if either of us had actually asked, the other would have provided more info. So the fact that nothing happened could be viewed as a prisoner's dilemma type issue -- no one made the effort, so nothing happened.

What is the name for a relationship of short term that was entirely cordial and friendly yet entirely disposable?


This post brought to you by D (U+0044, a.k.a. LATIN CAPITAL LETTER D)

# johnw on 15 Oct 2007 7:34 PM:

To give credit to Chuck Palahaniuk's Fight Club: You call them "Single Serving Friends".

"Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They're single-serving friends. "

# Michael Todd on 15 Oct 2007 7:40 PM:

How about a "time-passing-acquaintanceship?"

A bit long but it accurately describes that type of scenario.

And, to create a word for it, we'll start with Latin (no, I never took it, so bear with me) with something like "tempus fugit amicus," which we could then shorten to "tempicus." In addition to the literal translation of "time flies friendship," the "temp" in "tempicus" would further indicate that the relationship is temporary, with the stem "-cus," from amicus," indicating amicability. So, temporary friendship.

# ReallyEvilCanine on 16 Oct 2007 2:46 AM:

"Bar buddies" (although that "single-serving" moniker isn't so bad). I probably wouldn't even go that far. Blabbing away for a couple hours with a complete stranger (who's married, pregnant and already has a kid) is hardly something which could be considered any sort of relationship and therefore needs no definition.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 16 Oct 2007 8:47 AM:

Well, it could be delusional on my part, but I think you can kind of tell when it fits into the "single serving friend" (I like that tern, it fits!) category -- like when there was some kind of connection. It really did seem like something more than just a "nothing better to do" kind of conversation, even if it wasn't something either of us pursued beyond the flight?

Like I said, might just be delusion on my part....

# Tyler on 16 Oct 2007 3:40 PM:

Naming a thing and knowing a thing are sometimes contradictory purposes.  I think this might well be one of them.

R3stl3ssN8tiv3 on 15 Mar 2008 6:33 PM:


enjoyed your blog. did you enjoy

destination? :)

Michael S. Kaplan on 15 Mar 2008 7:15 PM:

I had a great time, actually -- and a very productive meeting. Plus a great outbound flight and inbound pre-flight!

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referenced by

2011/01/24 The single serving [girl]friend that almost was

2007/10/18 Better than a single serving friend!

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