A few months ago, my mom and I decided to chuck it all for a quick weekend trip, to get out of the end-of-summer doldrums. Granted, it sounds way more exotic that it was: we didn't book a last-minute cruise down the Rhine or jet off to an international film festival. Because it's easy driving distance for her, and cheap flying prices for me (thank you, Southwest Airlines!), we decided to meet up in Little Rock, Arkansas, to see the little comeback town (though I can't quite get with their slogan, "City Limitless") and check out the Clinton Presidential Library.
Now, normally, I'm one of those "please-don't-talk-to-me-I'm-zoning-out" people on the plane. Nothing personal; I just consider it "me time," similar to how I feel at the hairdresser's. I'll speak if spoken to, but all in all, I'd just as soon limit things to the passing over of your ginger ale and perhaps a "have a good afternoon" at the end of it all. Almost always lacking headphones, though, leaves one susceptible to conversation-starting, unless one is willing to feign sleep for an entire flight.
So, after all the takeoff razzmatazz, when the businessman-type next to me turned and said, "So, are you from St. Louis or Little Rock?" I gave a sad, internal sigh. Still, the flight's something like seven minutes long, and I figured it wouldn't kill me to chat for that duration. St. Louis, I told him. "And what about you?"
Well, it turns out he had lived recently in St. Louis but had now been transferred to Little Rock. With an actual resident at my disposal, I thought I'd get a jump-start on the 36 hours I had in town, and asked him what he'd recommend a visitor do, and what he thought about living there.
"I travel usually five days a week, so it's all the same to me living here as anywhere," he said, seemingly proud. "My wife seems to like it here. The neighborhood we live in here is a lot like where we lived in St. Louis."
Where, I asked, would that be?
"Well, we live in a gated community. It's a golf-course community. Right on the golf course. Seems like a nice neighborhood."
At least from what his wife says. Mr. Road Warrior then asked, "Where do you live in St. Louis?"
"I live in a hundred-year-old brick house near Tower Grove Park," I answered.
"Oh, so down in the city, then? We lived in a neighborhood just like our new one, in the county."
Now, I'm not going to go out on a limb here and say my life is definitively is better than this dude's: maybe he likes the suburban anonymity, where I like the frequent and messy and colliding interactions of urban density (such as we have in St. Louis). But given that he's swapped a behind-the-gates-in-one-'burb life for behind-the-gates-in-another, I honestly wonder if he's actually noticed anything besides a new home airport code.
"Where do I live?" I imagine him saying. "Oh, LIT. Great town. A Starbucks in every terminal!"