“Were you saving these seats for us?”
I travel regularly for work, and because I’m usually on the road without my family, I end up in various discussions with strangers to fill the time. Since my days as a breakfast waitress in college, I’ve always enjoyed those snippets of single-serving conversations. Airplane travel can offer insight at 30,000 feet (sometimes from the pilot).
“Yes. I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours,” I replied, standing up so that the couple could join me in row 9.
This was my introduction to Dave and his lovely wife. Throughout the course of the flight from Orlando back up to Providence yesterday, I spent some quality time talking with these two and over-sharing to a frightening degree.
We talked about flying, and how none of us cared for it. We talked about the Patriots and how mother (and his wife) are hardcore fans. We talked about how his daughter has been an extra in several films and TV shows. And we talked a lot about food. After a discussion about what I do for work and what brought me into the diabetes space (see also: diagnosed 28 years ago, felt alone, founded a blog, found some friends), Dave admitted that his own diet could use a shift in priorities.
“We could eat better,” he said.
“We could eat a LOT better,” his wife said from the window seat, smiling ruefully.
“Everyone could eat better, but our fast-food society doesn’t exactly make it easy. You have to go above and beyond to make sure you aren’t eating junk. Junk is mainstream! Think about how screwed up our perception of ‘breakfast’ is; we dump sugary syrup onto pastry-esque pancakes and call it a healthy meal. That’s not a meal … it’s dessert!” They nodded, and I realized I was on a mile-high soapbox. “I’m so sorry. Food stuff makes me ranty sometimes. Like when I think about the kinds of foods marketed towards my daughter. Chicken nuggets and french fries and sugar cererals. Stuff is gross.”
“So she’s never had a Happy Meal from McDonald’s?” asked Dave, half mocking me, half actually asking.
“She’s had McDonald’s food two or three times in her life, but that’s it. And no, she’s never had a Happy Meal.”
He laughed. “You’re missing the chance to make her happy! But not the food – I get that you don’t want to give her the food. I used to make my own Happy Meals for my daughters. I’d take a toy that they hadn’t played with in ages and pack it in with their lunch. Instant Happy Meal!”
“That’s a good idea. I like that.”
“Yeah. Now you can write about it in your blog, right? I want to be in there. People would want to read more about me.”
His comments made me laugh. “Sure. I’ll write about you. But the blog post has to have some kind of resolution, right? Where we both promise to make changes and then we hold one another accountable? Or is that taking it too far?” I asked him.
Dave thought for a minute. “I can do that. Listen, my wife and I will make a change. We promise to eat something green with every meal. A vegetable, like spinach or broccoli or squash. Except that squash isn’t green, so we’ll have to be flexible with the color requirement. But a vegetable with every meal.” He made a fist and jabbed it towards the air with conviction. “A vegetable with every meal!”
“And I promise to make my kid a happy meal, like the one you described.”
He handed me his business card and I promised to send him a link to the post once it was live. (Hi, Dave!) The plane landed and we all went our separate ways, resolute in our decision to make positive changes.
This morning, as I packed Birdy’s lunch for preschool, I put one of her small, forgotten toys in the lunch bag, alongside her healthy food options (and a crappy drawing of Loopy drinking a mug of steaming coffee). I wondered what kind of vegetable Dave managed to work into his breakfast that morning, and smiled.
What’s the point of going through life without ever making eye contact, or making a connection? Single-serving or not, I’m better for having sat next to Dave.