Night Flight to Quito

Secret Agent Man

Another red eye flight from Miami to Quito, Ecuador. 

I was not looking forward to this, but at least there was no one sitting in the middle seat. I would be able to spread out a little.

As I buckled up, I turned and said hello to this better than average looking, early middle aged guy, sitting next to the window. We were both very happy about the empty seat between us.

I usually don’t talk much on overnight flights. People usually like to sleep, but James seemed wide awake.

This guy looked interesting.

We exchanged pleasantries, and then we talked for a while about me, and what I was doing in Ecuador. He seemed truly interested.

Then the subject changed to what he did for a living. 

He handed me one of his business cards. It had a raised, official government gold seal on it. And then he told me about his exciting life as a government agent. 

He had just come back from the Middle East a few weeks ago, and we talked about that for a while. His group had developed an upgraded “system” that was being implemented by our military. It was his job to train the men in the field. This took him to many dangerous areas in the world. He was often in harms way.

This was a very smart man, and his stories were very interesting.

I finally asked him if it was ok for him to be telling me all these things. He smiled and said I seemed like an ok guy to him.

Then he asked me if I was married, and if I had any kids. I shared with him a little history about my resent past, my surprise divorce, and we talked about how quickly life can kick you in the gut. He still seemed very interested.

It was like we had become close friends in just 20 minutes.

And then he looked over at me and said he was having a personal challenge with his girlfriend of 5 years. He said he loved her very much, but her multiple addictions were causing all kinds of problems, and he didn’t know what to do. Drinking and shopping were the two big ones, but later in the conversation, gambling was mentioned. He then admitted that he liked to gamble too.

He said everything was coming to a head. Five years of spending had turned into more than $60,000 of credit card debt. There had been multiple episodes recently, because of her alcohol addiction. One as recent as two nights ago. He kept saying how much he still loved her, but now this was affecting his job, and his security clearance. He really did not know what to do.

As I sat there, full of empathy for this man, and his girlfriend, all I could do was listen. I think that is what he really needed. Just for someone to listen.

How quickly the subject had changed from our original conversation, which had started with introductions, less than 30 minutes ago.

And we talked for another 30 minutes, and then we were done. We both pushed our seats back, and tried to sleep.

Three hours later we woke up to the captain saying he was about to land in Quito. Our seat backs came forward, we were back to pleasantries, we touched down, and then I never saw him again.

I hope my listening helped him.

He probably doesn’t know it, but he helped me a lot with his story. It certainly put my current situation into perspective, and helped me, get a little closer to normal again.

And maybe his story has helped you a little bit. Having a little perspective can sometimes make our problems look so small, compared to the people around us.

Thanks James. It was very nice to meet you.

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