I hadn't flight-mentored anyone in a while and, frankly, I didn't realize how much I missed pretending to be the high priestess of air travel.
The last time I got to act all knowledgeable on a plane was in May 2006 when I had the incredible fortune to sit next to a Wal-Mart painter from West Virginia. This week, flying home from Mexico, I sat next to Lucero, Puerto Vallarta massage therapist, who was headed to LA for her nephew's wedding.
"Spanish?" Lucero asked me, pausing in the aisle next to my seat.
"Si," I replied.
She showed me her ticket, which had 19F scrawled in ballpoint pen across it. I pointed to the window seat next to me and smiled broadly as I hauled myself out of the middle seat to let her pass.
I was skipping the whole I VALUE MY PERSONAL SPACE SO ZIP IT, STRANGER phase that I go through on planes, a phase that is closely related to the I GET EMOTIONAL AT 30,000 FEET SO UNLESS YOU WANT TO WATCH ME CRY ON MY PEANUTS YOU WILL MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
I immediately offered Lucero a piece of Trident because I suspected we had some talking to do and I wanted us both to be minty.
I asked her if it was her first time flying. She told me that it was her second time but it was her first time flying ALONE. Here I practically had to restrain myself from hugging Lucero and assuring her that she was not alone. She asked me if Alaska Airlines was "puro gringo". I said everyone on the flight crew was indeed a gringo but that I was sure they were bilingual. Turns out I was wrong.
This meant my role was expanded to include directives such as "She wants you to put your purse under the seat, Lucero" and "Yes, there's a toilet in the back," and to the flight attendant, "Lucero would like a Diet Coke, please" after assuring Lucero that she didn't have to pay for it.
I'd thought I'd just talk about turbulence and remind her of how safe we were even though at times it really might not feel like it.
Which, in and of itself, would have been fulfilling. I don't remember if I actually delved into systems of "baja presion" but I definitely enjoyed calling choppy air TO-TAL-MENTE normal. Because enunciating in Spanish is more staccato and, therefore, dramatic. And since I speak with my hands more in Spanish, I found my palm taking off from the dinner tray like a little plane for added visual effect.
We became a team, Lucero and I. After landing, during the period where people stand and squirm anxiously until it's their turn to grab their bags with the rutty energy of ferrets, we sat calmly. We also exchanged small smiles and slight roll of the eyes when a high-energy Polynesian man was too busy hollering at his friends to notice that he almost took out a few people with his oversized duffle.
Lucero and I split up at customs with thanks, goodbyes, a have fun at the wedding, and a number and address in my pocket for a massage the next time I'm in Vallarta.