Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Totally Different Experience

 In the air
Flying from Newark back to San Francisco - on seat 12A by the window.
Seat B is empty which is quite surprising as the flight two hours before ours had gotten cancelled. As soon as I turned to put my coat on the empty seat in the middle the tall guy sitting on the isle seat (let's call him Tom the Engineer as I know now that his name was Tom and he was a Mechanical Engineer) said he was  hocked to find empty seats on this flight as his flight from earlier this morning had gotten cancelled. I told him I was thinking about the same thing especially since the 3:30 pm flight had also gotten cancelled. I explained how I felt lucky to be able to get here on Wed night while so many flights had gotten cancelled right before the snow storm that night and mentioned that although the traffic was heavy yesterday morning for my colleague to get to us in a hotel by the airport from Short Hills NJ, we could make it to all of our meetings. He said he lived here but was travelling to meet her daughter in Berkeley before he went to a conference in Vegas. He said his time with his daughter was going to get shorter now with the delay as he was going to meet her and soon leave for Vegas the following night. I asked if his daughter studied there and he explained that she actually taught in Richmond Hill CA in Teaching for America. He explained that these were classes for under privileged kids where class sizes were 35 students or more in high school. Right after he proposed that this should have sounded like normal to ME but it was quite unusual in US. I was astound!!! How could he judge my background so easily and so confidently after 2 minutes into the conversation? What did he know about me? Where did he think I was from? Did I look under privileged to him?  I corrected him quickly that all of my classes had had 25 students at most. I didn't tell him though that because of the unexpected obsession of my high school classmates with math & physics my last two years in high school were pretty crowded with 33 students, the school anticipated less than 20 students in math & physics and 40 in bio sciences which would be devided in two classes.  But we chose differently, unexpectedly so. I didn't tell him that out of those 33 all-girl students a couple pursued pure math at university, a couple pure physics, one pure  chemistry, a couple mechanical engineering, a couple civil engineering, a handful computer engineering and the rest electrical engineering and all in very high ranked schools. Didn't tell him either that almost 90% continued to graduate studies and may be half have gotten their PhDs and from very good schools around the world. Oh am I not proud of my "under privileged" 33-student high school class! Well done girls!
And now there is this Tom the Engineer guy judging me based on what? How I look? And what does he know about the people with my ethnic background any way? Assuming he had guessed correctly!
When he finished talking after that I just turned toward the window and watched the snow covered run ways. Didn't feel like wanting to talk to him any more. Felt sad a bit actually.

Later, when they brought the snack cart he was shocked that they wanted to charge him for the meal. He asked me if it was the routine lately for the coast to coast flights! I didn't ruin his honest curiosity by telling him this had been the case for most longer flights for the past 6 or more years. I comforted him by telling him
that in my opinion the meal quality was not very good although Continental was one of the better ones in that regard. I couldn't think about enjoying my meal by myself after that. I thought his flight had gotten cancelled from this morning and he was under the impression that he'd eat something in the airplane and he didn't. So I
opened my bag and offered him one of the half turkey sandwiches I had bought from the airport earlier. He thanked me for the offer but said he was a vegetarian. Then he asked what kind of business I was in and
chatted a bit but I answered with short sentences and didn't ask follow up questions of him while explaining his work in energy industry. No curiosity what so ever.

I cannot stop but thinking, what two so very opposite companions in my last two flights!
Ah and there remains 3.5 hours of flight...

... 2 hours later
He started chatting again. I suppose he was bored. Figured out at last that I was Iranian blessed with  Canadian citizenship. I couldn't refrain from asking, so I challenged him where he thought I was from
initially when he didn't know. He hesitated much and said he was not good with accent; although per my previous plane companion, Dr A.A., my accent doesn't sound too Iranian any way, he said he thought I was
from Spain. Hmm. Dr A.A. thought I was from Costa Rica! I guess Spanish and Costa Ricans look more alike than either of them and Iranians?
Any way, good thing is that I'm not mad at him any more. I think the main reason why is because through a couple more q and a from his side he concluded that compared to other Muslim countries Iranian women didn't seem to have problem to study or work. I'm glad I could persuade him this much. I bet he learned something new. I offered my salad to him too and he accepted one tomato wedge. So, friends ;)

... An hour later
We chat some more, he was less prejudice now. Told me about his wife who was a Chemical Engineer and took her years to finish her masters with kids and all. About her sister who was a biomaterial scientist. And a bit more about his daughters. He thought it was very ambitious of me to emigrate from Iran to Canada and then to Bay Area. I never thought of it this way but now that I think about it I think he is correct.


marzieh golabbakhsh said...

We are proud of you.
I enjoyed your post and my eyes bearst into tears.

midnight/... said...

Thanks khaanoom gol! You are too kind!
Oh but why tears my friend?

marzieh golabbakhsh said...

nostalgia my friend

maman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maman said...

The things that you didnt say to the guy about our school made me emotional

maman said...

and as I think and think I am not sure why! it just happend (Marzieh)

midnight/... said...

Aakhei! I know, good school it was eh?
And you know what maman? I always thought you were Marzieh!:) how sweet that you are writing too! You are such a sweetheart.