Dear Stuart,

A few weeks ago I travelled across the Atlantic to a far-away country in Asia. The flight over was a nice 3+12 hour flight. I really wanted to sit next to someone interesting who would tell me hilarious stories and give me food. This story documents my adventures with my seat-mate.

Scene: airplane

I sit down next to an elderly Asian woman. She looks about 90. Great, I think. A nice grandmotherly figure to keep me company and bake me cookies during the flight.

It was not to be.

I try to strike up a conversation in English. She looks at me blankly. Blankly bordering on annoyed. Clearly she does not speak English. I try Hungarian but she seems more confused. I default to using hand signals. I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to hand signal at this point but it seems to be working. She starts digging around in her bag. Yes! I think – cookies!

But instead she pulls a pair of headphones out of her bag. She says, “I don’t like” (pointing at me) and then puts them in her ears. Then she puts a blanket over her head. Not all that different from the reaction I get in America. Anyway, the elderly woman eventually emerges from her blanket when the first meal is being served. I was personally pumped for the meal, not just for the food but because I had no adults or responsible housemates to make me eat dinner before dessert. This is what I live for. I was about to take a bite of the chocolate mound thing when the grandmother jabbed my hand with a fork. I looked at her. Her eyes pierced my soul. I held her gaze as long as I could but eventually had to back down. I lowered the chocolate to the tray and opened the main course. She watched me out of the corner of her eye for the entire meal. It was really creepy.

Fast forward three hours. Grandmother is now trying to listen to music on the radio but her headset isn’t working. I offer my spare set to her (which is currently plugged into my ipod). She misunderstands and takes both the headphones and the ipod. No matter, I think. I’m not using them. I show her how to switch songs and let her have at it.

About an hour later she hands the ipod back to me, smiling. I look at what she had been listening to. This was on repeat:

Sweet jesus. I’ve unintentionally corrupted a 90-year-old. I hate those days when you realize you’re going to be reincarnated as something gross like a slug or Danny Devito. I spent the remaining 9 hours of the flight making paper cranes and seeing how long it would take for an almond to dissolve in my mouth.