Ah…air travel. The bane of every Island Girl’s existence. Okay, maybe not every Island Girl hates flying, but I do. Not because I am afraid of being up in the air – I’m not. It is because I find it so damn uncivilized. At least on the US-based airlines that service my rock. I mean, could Delta and United make the seating space ANY damn smaller? It is a savagely uncomfortable experience.
Yet if I want to get off my chosen island, a plane is pretty much the only option. And since I’m not up in first-class (those days are long gone), I endure my time in coach. And while cramming my 5’9″ frame into a space designed for a toddler for hours on end is rather torturous, it is not without its benefits. To wit – blog inspiration.
On a recent return flight to my island in the sun, I had the luck(?!) of being seated behind an older American couple en route to, as it turns out, their newly adopted island home. How did I know this? Not because I engaged in conversation with them, because I did not (I rarely chat with strangers on airplanes). But, of course, I didn’t ever have to speak to them to discover intimate details of their lives. How is it possible that I learned so much about this pair without even establishing eye contact?
Because the male half of this duo (complete with a snazzy sun visor perched in his newly acquired shaggy hairstyle – the one you know he is growing out in a final act of rebellion against his four decades of compliant corporate haircuts) was loudly announcing to anyone who would listen that he and his wife were, in fact, “ON THEIR WAY TO THEIR HOME ON BONAIRE. BECAUSE THEY NOW LIVE ON BONAIRE. SINCE OCTOBER!!!” (Yes, all caps because the guy was standing up and talking really, really loudly.)
In fact, he simply could not contain his boastfulness about his “seasoned” islander status. Almost as if he believed he and his wife were the only people on the whole flight who actually lived on the island. (They were not. I recognized at least a dozen fellow rock dwellers also on the flight. All of whom were quietly sitting in their seats. Just like visor-man should have been doing.)
At this point, I just sighed and adjusted my headphones (fervently wishing I had remembered to pack the noise-canceling ones), hoping to block out his proclamations for the duration of the four-hour flight. I’d like to say my strategy worked, but alas…his running discourse, partially directed to the gentleman one row behind and across from me who made the mistake of asking about the island immigration process, was like the constant drone of an annoying mosquito in my ear. One I desperately wanted to, but could not, squash.
Now I hear yourself incredulously asking “Huh? Visor-man was chatting with a guy two rows behind him? During the flight?” All I can say is…yes (and emit another very loud and long sigh).
But the thing about visor-man is that he is not one-of-a-kind. There is a constant flow of new island transplants who fill this role on a regular basis (although most refrain from actually being the in-flight entertainment). You know who I’m talking about. The fresh arrivals who want everyone within earshot to know that they have made the phenomenal leap to islander status (no, I don’t need or want to see your island ID card, thanks).
They also want you to know every intimate detail about their new lives. From what they used to do (don’t care) to how much their new island home cost (again…don’t care) to how frustrating it is that most grocery store items are labeled in Dutch (you didn’t see that one coming, newbie? On a freakin’ Dutch island? *smh*). For example, I now know the exact neighborhood where visor-man resides…since he announced it, repeatedly to anyone who asked (nobody did), on the plane.
Most annoying, though, is that these island newbies also want to be sure that you know that they know everything there is to know about living on their particular rock of choice. Let me be bold and suggest that residing someplace for a few months (or even weeks) does not qualify you as a wizened island sage. Get back to me after you’ve stuck it out a few years. Then we can compare war stories. Maybe.
Now, let me be the first to say I totally understand the unbridled enthusiasm of moving to a rock. I was there once, too – an island newbie brimming with unfettered excitement about this new chapter in my life (before the island eventually beat me into submission…but that’s another blog post for another time). I made the requisite Facebook posts, sharing obligatory beach pics (in January) and humble-bragging about my new status. Hell, I even started a website about it.
But might I suggest that there is a fine line between enthusiastic and annoying?
There is, and it is a line you really don’t want to cross. At least not if you want to make friends on a rock. Or successfully weave yourself into the fabric of island life. Or not have people taking evasive action (complete with dangerous shopping cart maneuvers) to avoid having to chat with you (and translate all those oh-so-confusing items) at the grocery store.
It isn’t hard to stay on the right side of that line, either. Just act normal. Look, listen and learn before you open your mouth. And when you do prepare to utter something witty, don’t talk so damn loud (yes, Americans, we are a loud, boisterous bunch by nature…toning it down a bit once we leave the confines of US borders is always a good idea).
But there will always be some new arrival who hasn’t quite mastered the art of quiet integration. Those who arrive, guns blazing, and proceed to regularly annoy the rest of the island population through various means. I suspect these are the same folks nobody threw a going away party for back home when they announced their intent to depart for the tropics (if a party was thrown, undoubtedly it was after said people departed). The same ones nobody will throw a going away party for when they eventually announce their intent to leave the islands (which will happen – it always does).
It is to these folks I say…
Best of luck to you in your new island endeavor. You’re going to need it. (And for heaven’s sake, sit down and shut up on the damn plane. Flying is already miserable enough. Plus, as it turns out…you never know who might be sitting behind you.)
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