Years ago I was on my way to Los Angeles.
I flew Southwest, and I scored a great seat up front. A woman was in the aisle, I was at the window. We had one glorious open seat between us.
As passengers funneled in, I silently prayed, “Lord, please do not use me to make someone’s day better on this plane. I am not in the mood and I hate small talk. May I be granted room for my elbows and a place to put my book and snacks. Amen.”
God was really answering my prayers. People weren’t even looking at the open seat, and just kept walking right to the back. As the line thinned, I perked up with excitement. Could it be that I fly all the way to LA next to an open seat? Am I truly this blessed?
Then I saw him. A businessman. Super drunk. His eyes were red and glossy and he was talking loudly into his iPhone on speaker. Naturally, bragging about almost banging a flight attendant. My worst nightmare realized.
I refused eye contact. I kept looking away and expanding my arms to look bigger. I quickly drew a face on my backpack and set it upright on the empty seat. Oh, I’m sorry, this seat is taken. No, no – this isn’t a Jansport, this is my friend Linda. Kthxbai.
Then I heard him say, “Hey!” towards my direction. I gave him a quick side eye and to my despair he was talking to me.
“Is that open?”
No, Linda is sitting here – are you blind?
“Uh, yeah. I guess so, sure.”
Are you there God? It’s me, Anna.
He made his way in to the middle seat, continuing to talk loudly into his phone. He smelled like whiskey and cologne and life isn’t fair.
As we taxi’d, he talked my ear off. I was in hell. To his credit, he did cross his arms so my elbow had room.
I pulled out my computer as a subtle hint to leave me alone and started writing an essay for my website HaHas for HooHas.
“What do you do?” he asked.
“I’m a humor writer.”
“Well I’ve been reading over your shoulder and it’s not that funny.”
“Ew, gross,” I said, shooting him eye darts. I was so pissed. Not because of his insult, but because he was right. I can’t focus on the planes. Maybe it’s the air quality, who knows.
“I’m just kidding, it’s fine.
Oh, it’s fine. Great. Thanks.
“Hey, I know a really famous writer,” he chirps in, “her name is Cindy Chupack – you know of her?”
“I don’t think so?”
“She’s one of the writers and executive producers for Sex and the City, I met her on my honeymoon. I’ll shoot her an email about you.”
“Uh, what? And tell her what, exactly? No no, that’s fine, no need to …”
“Aw crap, I have to buy WiFi.”
“Yeah, no, seriously – don’t worry about it, it’s fine. Really.”
I don’t know a lot about wildly successful people, but one thing I do know is that they probably don’t want a drunk guy they met at a Tiki Bar on their honeymoon to give out their private email to every annoyed girl they sit next to on a plane.
“Oh, I’m happy to do it. It’ll be my pleasure.” He started typing on his phone and talking (way too loudly for a plane) as he typed. “Hey Cindy, Jason here. I’m sitting next to a really funny humor writer named Anna Lind Thomas. She created a website for women called HaHas for HooHas. I thought you two should know each other. Hope you’re well! Jason. Sent! There ya go, you’re welcome.”
“I hope she doesn’t care you gave out her email like that,” I said with a nervous chatter.
“Well it’s done now,” he shrugged, then raised his finger. “Hey, miss. Miss! Can I get a drink over here?” he leaned in over at me, “You want something?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks.”
The truth is, I didn’t hate Jason. He seemed like the kind of guy you could totally make fun of and he’d just laugh and take it. I like people who don’t take themselves too seriously. But I also don’t like people who talk way too loudly on planes, especially about banging flight attendants, so I admit I was a bit conflicted.
He finally started flipping through a book and I had time to ponder. I didn’t think Cindy would ever respond.
But I mean, what if she did?
She did. The next day.
Hi Jason, so good to hear from you! Anna, I checked out your site and you’re very talented. Keep going!
She was being nice, of course, but her courtesy response meant everything to me. I had just started my humor writing, so to be seen by someone of her caliber felt surreal.
I wrote back. Then she wrote back. Then I wrote back. Then she wrote back. Were we best friends?
She was so kind. Gave me fantastic advice about publicly reading my work to getting published. Even though she was busy working on huge block buster projects, she never treated me like some mom blogger. She made me feel proud of who I am and that if I wanted, I could someday reach my dreams too.
And this is why I’m in awe. That now, years later, I get to meet her in person as her host for the screening of her new movie, Otherhood. We’ll share a stage where I get the privilege to introduce and lead a Q&A for one of the funniest, kindest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of emailing in my life.
Sometimes our prayers our prayers for an empty seat don’t get answered for a reason, you know. And sometimes blessings funnel through unexpected people, like drunk businessmen who talk way too loudly on speaker in small public spaces.
That’s what makes life so exciting. Maybe this person, right here, is the key that unlocks your next door?
Better keep an eye out, and maybe not be so quick to have your Jansport, I mean Linda, take that empty seat.
If you’re in the Kansas City area or down for a road trip and would like to meet me and Cindy and even Linda, you can RSVP to my live podcast event here and I’ll hook you up a screening ticket for you and a friend.