Idle chatter is more revealing than it used to be |

Idle chatter is more revealing than it used to be


Flying has always been a means to an end for me, sometimes very mean … and downright nasty.

It started propitiously enough, more than propitiously, with the realization that my tiny little window seat was part of a triplet shared by two very attractive shareholders, one blonde and the other with a tattoo etched horizontally just above a biologically vertical etching that all of us share.

The peripatetic and perpetually panicked traveler, who recognizes every airborne bump as a precursor to a fiery end, welcomes such diversions as these, and so I most certainly did.

Indeed, I was just beginning to relax my death grip on the armrests after takeoff and enjoin my seatmates in pleasant conversation when the blonde turned to the etching and calmly let loose a string of expletives, interspersed with the occasional verb or noun, expressing her displeasure with some recent misbehavior of the etching who, I quickly understood, was her sister.

(I was going to write here that I hadn’t heard such profanity since spending some civilian time with the 101st Airborne in Fort Benning back in the 1970s, but I can’t recall any troop there who spoke as blue as the two semi-ladies sitting next to me.)

Sorely tempted to reach into my briefcase, pull out my well-worn pocket Bible and begin intoning some of the ancient Psalms, discreetly of course … just slightly louder than the two jet engines right outside my window.

The flight took exactly two hours and one minute to complete according to the pilot. He might also have announced that the gentleman in 2F aged considerably more during that same span.

Suddenly, feeling even older than I actually am, I reflected on the change in conversational customs over my long life span.

In addition to young women talking like the stevedores of yore, countless traveling comrades think nothing of broadcasting the most intimate of conversations as they shout into their cell phones.

I am no technological junkie, but I am certainly aware that recent advances in mobile communication allow for conversation at decibel rates less than that used by tank commanders or NFL referees. Why are all these people shouting?

I’ve written before that I’m reasonably certain that very, very few folks are actually interested in where you left your watch last night or what time you will be arriving for dinner.

Such information should be conveyed in a whisper and not shouted into the ear of the beleaguered and now ancient pastor standing in line right in front of you.

Incidentally, twice in the three days I was in L.A., I watched in horror as cell phone-using Californians risked their very lives for the sake of a conversation.

Once a young woman, engrossed in her call, proceeded across a six-lane boulevard on her bike completely oblivious to the cars swerving to avoid her.

Only hours later, a man driving a Mercedes, at somewhere around interstate speed, raced through a four-way stop with nary a look neither right nor left. He was shouting into his cell phone. I am sure it was important … probably a matter of life or death.

While typing this brief tome in the terminal awaiting my return flight and desperately hoping the two sisters had taken an earlier flight, a woman in a red jumpsuit walked into the lavatory excitedly conversing into her cell phone.

A few minutes later, she emerged still engaged in animated conversation. Had she never hung up?

Now that’s real potty talk!

Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He canbe reached at

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