Deer in Headlights

Deer in Headlights

A few months ago, I had one of those “a-ha!” moments. I was boarding a flight home to Dallas when a slight, thin, older man who was reminiscent of Burgess Meredith took the seat next to me and introduced himself. “I’m Joe.” He extended his hand.

I nodded, deeply engrossed in my -Kindle and The Girl on the Train. As the police were discovering the body (plot spoiler; sorry), Joe cheerfully interrupted the book to tell me he was headed home. He was on the road for five days and he would spend the next five in Dallas with his family.

I nodded again, trying my best to do the polite thing. But I had to look up when I heard Joe call out, “That’s right!” He was shaking his finger at some 20-something men who were making their way to their seats in the back of the plane. “Those are my co-workers,” Joe said. “I told them that I would sit by a deer. They didn’t believe me.” I was intrigued. A deer? “A pretty girl … you’ve never heard that?” Joe asked.

I had not. “When you’re as old as me, you have a lot of crazy things to say,” he said with a wink. Throughout the flight, I learned that Joe was more crazy--interesting than anything: He served in the military for more than a decade, met his wife in Texas at a “dance” (bar), and he could still do a mean two-step. He now works on planes (with his younger colleagues on the flight), and he spends a lot of time on the road making sure the aircraft we fly on are operating correctly. My quick kinship with Joe reminded me how important it is to put down the technology and embrace human contact, especially when traveling. A simple act — a friendly nod and a “How are you?” — can completely change the course of your trip.

Take, for example, our “Final Words” essay on page 90 by author and CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg. Peter explores how a chat in a cab in New York City turned into attending a wedding in Egypt. The story never would have happened if Peter and the driver did not take the time to get to know each other. Would their lives be the same today?
Our features on the Galápagos Islands (page 64) and caviar farms in America (page 74) are also examples of how starting a conversation — perhaps about conservation or how we get the food we eat — is the key to growing not only as individuals but as a society. And yes, I know, we can always ask Siri, but I bet the person next to you will have an answer too.

Who knows? They may be as cool as Joe. Or even a deer.