Jan 12, 2012, 12:45 PM
Post #1 of 1
By Dr. Michael Gordon
I fly a lot, often on trips that combine work and pleasure. When I fly alone, especially when heading overseas, I always try to get a specific aisle seat.
On a recent flight to Israel, I was already in my preferred spot with my carry-on stowed when a family of two adults and three children arrived. Their seats were spread out so that a young boy was to be seated alone. The mother asked me in French, Hebrew and English if I would mind moving to his seat, which was on an aisle, but not in my preferred location. I initially balked, explaining that I liked the seat I was in.
The mother explained to the child that he would be seated separately from her, but she wouldn’t be very far away. He pouted and said he didn’t like the arrangement. I looked over to his seat and noted an older woman sitting beside it by the window. There was room overhead for my carry-on bag. I told the couple I would switch if they would move my luggage for me. The husband agreed and I sat down next to the woman.
She then said to me in a decidedly Latin American accent, “Thank you for changing seats. I dreaded an 11-hour flight next to an unhappy five-year-old, even though I have nothing against children.” I responded with, “I understand” and extended my hand.
“My name is Michael,” I said.
“Mine is Leah,” she replied.
What followed was a wonderful conversation. She told me how she left Latin America, where she had been an ardent lover of Israel since childhood, and moved to Canada. She studied science and completed her education in nuclear engineering and became a nuclear engineer in Ontario. She said that despite her diminutive stature and female sex, she excelled in an area where knowledge and talent were the currency of success. From her story, it seems she had ample
amounts of both.
She then recounted a most remarkable epilogue to her career, which she expressed enthusiastically in a delightful Spanish accent that reminded me of the Argentines I knew when I lived in Israel.
“I was offered early retirement when my company restructured, and I jumped at the opportunity to pursue a repressed dream.”
I was expecting something like a desire to study literature or history, but she smiled and said, “I always wanted to be a hairdresser, and the retirement package funded such training.”
She continued: “I provide free hair dressing out of a room in my apartment. It’s all word of mouth with many clients coming from my synagogue. I love it.”
The conversation then meandered to how we both found ourselves in Israel and how we go back and forth and relish our visits, hers being much longer than mine. We realized we shared experiences in Israel and that our experiences there had overlapped.
She exuded warmth, intelligence and humour. The world is full of people with interesting stories, something I take advantage of as a geriatrician. As we got off the plane, we wished each other a safe journey and a Happy New Year. It was a special day in Israel, as Gilad Schalit was released from captivity – a memorable day following a pleasurable flight made more so by this very endearing woman and our flight conversation.
Dr. Michael Gordon is Medical Program Director, Palliative Care Baycrest Geriatric Health Care System in Toronto, Canada and Professor of Medicine, at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Gordon is the author of the engaging memoir Brooklyn Beginnings: A Geriatrician's Odyssey, published by I-Universe.
Brooklyn Beginnings is available in bookstores and online at: Indigo-Chapters, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and I-Universe
Moments That Matter: Cases in Ethical Eldercare: A Guide for Family Members, is available online at Amazon.ca.
His latest release is Late-Stage Dementia: providing comfort, compassion and care. It is available at Amazon and Indigo.
Visit Dr. Michael Gordon's website.
(This post was edited by MGordon_MD on Jan 12, 2012, 12:48 PM)