As I settled in to my packed Christmas flight home to Florida today, I knew it was too good to be true when the seat next to me was the only one empty on the entire sold-out flight. And sure enough: minutes before departure, a flight attendant ushered an unaccompanied minor to the seat next to me. Even better: this was the first flight he had ever been on alone. Why me?
But it turns out that as far as seatmates go, 7 year old Malakhi wasn’t half bad. Although I wasn’t ever quite able to finish even a single article from the magazine I brought on board, Malakhi was very entertaining.
He showed me how he could fold his drink napkin into first a swan and then a dove. I tore out a page from the in-flight magazine to give him more material to work with, but he crinkled his nose: “too flimsy to work well,” he said. So then we turned to the page in the magazine with a map of the US and tracked the path of the flight. He kept alternating his attention from the map to the view out the window, confirming that we were indeed over a stretch that had us over the ocean.
As we approached Orlando at 7pm, Malakhi looked out the window at the lights and talked aloud about what he saw. He tended to see the swirls and patterns of streetlights as letters, shapes, or animals. We talked about it and agreed that it was like looking at clouds: each person might see something different. “Yeah, but these lights are way more better than clouds,” he said. And he was very right.
Earlier in the flight, when the cabin crew gave us drinks, Malakhi got an apple juice and I had a diet Dr. Pepper. They also gave him a cookie. “You’re lucky,” I said. “Normally you have to buy the cookies. They gave you one for free.”
Malakhi was quiet for a little while. And all of a sudden he said, “Check it out: I’ve got my apple juice, a free cookie, and here we are over the clouds. This is the life!”