I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago in London to a group of about thirty-five young people, and therein I told them that if I could give them one piece of advice, it would be to talk to people on airplanes. They are never uninteresting, I told them, recounting the story of a refugee family from Libya on my flight from Istanbul to London and the cognac I’d shared with the man as he recounted his story of fleeing after the Arab Spring erupted. Since that time, I am gratified by the number of students — and their teachers, who have emailed to tell me about people they have since met on airplanes.
On the first leg of my flight to Boston yesterday, I met a college professor from UNL who agreed with me that academics need to learn to teach, and who is married to a minister at a church where I used to play basketball in the basement. On the second leg, I met a woman with a thick Spanish accent whom I did not challenge when she told me she was from Delaware (hey, she could be), and who was on her way to Canada. I wanted more of that story than I was able to pry out, but we had a nice conversation nevertheless.
Once in Boston, I met a man in a West Point shirt who owns a cookie company with his wife in Hawai’i. “Everyone is there on vacation, everyone is already happy, and what do we do? We sell them cookies!” he told me with genuine glee in his voice. He told me all about how the overground transport in Boston changes from diesel fuel to electric and, when I got to South Station, pointed me towards the red line to Alewife.
I got checked into the Harvard Square Hotel with no difficulty, had a complimentary water, and dropped my bags off in my room. I was exhausted, but I was even more so hungry. I walked across the street to the nearest tavern and asked if the kitchen was still open. It was. I ordered lobster rolls (when in Rome) and listened to a group of young men eating oysters discuss the World Cup results in thick accents that I might have once attributed to the mafia.
Shortly after that, I was joined by a Canadian college professor who is also in the field of education. Inebriated, she held her wine glass at such an angle that I was astonished she didn’t spill more of it, yet she spoke in an eloquent slur about the issues facing education not only in Canada but worldwide. We were getting on just fine, and then she decided to start talking to the young men by calling across the bar to them. We soon learned they were wrapping up a bachelor party, and they were elated to learn that one of her former students is a famous hockey player (whom of course I cannot name because, well, because it’s hockey). We chatted with them for a while, and I shook their hands once I’d finished eating, sharing my favorite cliche with the groom-to-be, namely that marriage is both the most difficult and best thing I’ve ever done.
“Good teaching!” the Canadian called to me on my way out, and we waved.
Oh — forgive me. I’d nearly forgotten this is supposed to be a wine blog. I did order wine to pair with my lobster last night. It was the house Pinot Grigio, and I carefully selected it from a list of three white wines because it was $2 less than the house Sauvignon Blanc or the house Chardonnay. Mildly acidic and slightly tart, it paired well with a lobster roll. That’s about all I can say about it; Unknown Producer, Unknown Vintage, Don’t Care. As you’ve read me writing frequently before, it’s usually not about the wine. I’ll try to do better next time. Until then, don’t forget to talk to people on airplanes. And in public houses.
Cheers to conversation,