On the way over I flew the plane, just like I usually do.
Of course, I don’t mean I actually flew the plane, I just sat in my seat and paid close attention to all the workings of the flight. The angle of the wing flaps outside my window, the subtle interactions of the flight staff, the level of the clouds far below.
I’m not a particularly nervous flyer but I often have this almost subconscious feeling that the flight somehow needs all of my attention, focus, and help in order to proceed satisfactorily.
It’s silly, I know, but it got me over.
This week, I went to London to see some old friends.
It was the archetypal ‘flying visit’. Getting in one afternoon, gone again early the next morning. There was no particular event or anniversary. It was just a confluence of calendars and train timetables that meant some people could all land in a Soho pub at the same time and have a drink or three. It turned out to be a truly lovely evening with truly lovely people.
There are, of course, some other people I would dearly like to meet up with and someday, hopefully, we might manage it. But this particularly thing could only have happened if it was short and fast and very, very small. The alternative was that it could not happen at all.
For some people, the oddest thing about this would not be the meeting up or even the travelling to do so. It would be that a few of us had never-ever met up in person before. For my part, I had only ever shaken hands with one person in the room. Still, I knew them all so well. They were friends, the best of friends really. For eight or nine years now, we have come to know each other across the expanse of Social Media. Not in any intense, phosphorescent way but rather in that long term slow burn that comes from stories and small happenings and music and sadness and fun.
People who don’t know any better might well say, “Ack, those are not friends at all. They are strangers and the meeting you describe was just some pathetic exercise in novelty and futility.” How wrong anyone who thought that would be.
It is true that there is some danger in jumping to conclusions on Social Media about who is a friend and who is someone who talks back to you when you speak. But time addresses most of those questions. By my own little definition (hard-worked-out) if your heart swells a little at somebody’s good news and shrinks a little at somebody’s bad, and if that feeling is in some measure reciprocated, then there is friendship there. It helps, too, if nothing more is needed from the friendship than just that. That there is never anything more to lose nor anything more to gain from the friendship than the friendship itself.
Perhaps friendship, in the end, is a bit like a boomerang. You throw it out and if it comes back, it is probably real.
Whatever about any of that, we had a lovely evening. There were laughs and smiles and stories and gossip and, if I am anything to go by, a subtle level of fascination at how people are a little different in the flesh than they are on a computer or a telephone screen. How there are aspects to them that one would not normally see across the social ether. But because they are good friends, all those little differences only serve to make the people even better than they were before.
There is, apparently, a drug that is released through increased levels of human interaction and eye contact and such. I don’t know much about it although Joe Hill’s book ‘The Fireman’ talks about it quite a bit (and is also very good.) It’s called Oxytocin. I think I may have overdosed a little on that drug the other evening. In these few days that followed, I have felt somewhat elevated and empowered and with a slightly better regard for myself than I would normally have. Is that crazy? It seems even more likely because, now, three days later, it finally seems to be wearing off and its absence seems to conversely help to prove its existence.
To widen it out a bit. I think it’s a good thing to reach out and meet up and bond a little, particularly with people you regard highly. I think it’s like a small work-out for the soul.
I think, in the tight airplane seats from which we view the world, many of us share that feeling I had. That we all have to watch everything warily all of the time to make sure that the world continues to fly okay. If we take our eyes of the bigger picture for a moment, if we stop reacting and worrying and fretting, then everything will somehow fail.
It ain’t necessarily so. Take a moment, trust the auto pilot for the shortest of times. Have a slice of pizza or a slim glass of Prosecco or a languid stroll in a park. The world will glide along by itself for those few moments and, when you come back, you’ll be stronger and better equipped to make sure it continues to fly right.
Thanks to the people who rendezvoused in The French House in Soho the other evening. It meant a lot to me because it meant a lot to you. It wasn’t hard to tell.
Let’s do it again some time.
* * *
On the flight back, early the next day, I read my book and listened to my old classic ipod and didn’t pay very much attention to anything else at all. The plane was okay. We got home just fine and thus a singular day trip was successfully completed.