8.13 Confident Jeff

When I walk into an airport, I am a different person. I don't mean in a metaphorical or existential sense, I mean technically. My official name on my passport is Jeffrey Paul Dore and so when I am checking in, going through security or customs, I must remember to answer to Jeffrey. With all our technological advancements, computers are still not able to parse out names. When booking tickets, you usually have to include both your names and for some reason, every time, my name spits out as Jeffreypaul Dore. Checking in beforehand online or through the machines at the airport are deemed unusable by me. The machines can't determine that my name is not Jeffreypaul and reject me each time.

So, we certainly don't have to worry about machines taking over Terminator 2 style anytime soon. One of the last times I traveled south of the border, upon checking in to a real actual person, she said, "Oh, good luck with making that flight." I mean, okay, if I wasn't going to make it that's on me, but I certainly didn't need the additional anxiety.

What this flight check in person didn't realize was that I had a Nexus card. At customs and security there are separate lines for those of us privileged to have one of these cards. I swept through the lines, past tired and frustrated people holding their shoes in their hands. I made it to the gate almost forty-five minutes early. So screw you check in person and thanks for providing an extra spoonful of anxiety during this excursion.

Sitting at the empty gate, I thought about these two things: first, that for most of my life my name is Paul, but at this particular moment in time, I'm Jeffrey. Second, although I appreciate the Nexus advantage, it still makes me somewhat uncomfortable, that I'm cheating in some kind of way. I felt like a different person and perhaps, specifically at airports, I am a different person. Maybe if I dropped the act of being the usual weird and awkward Paul, I could become someone else? Maybe I could become Confident Jeff? Confident Jeff doesn't suffer fools lightly. Confident Jeff tells it like it is. Confident Jeff would have told the check in person, "Stuff it, check in person, Confident Jeff doesn't wait for planes, planes wait for Confident Jeff."

Confident Jeff sounds like a jerk already.

I have traveled a fair amount and through all this never really met many people. You know, a moment you'd see in a movie where two people meet on the same flight and fall in love. Actually, scratch that, things like this have happened to me. I was flying south a while back and saw this woman waiting in line to board the plane. I thought, I really hope that I'm sitting next to her. On the plane, I found my seat and got settled in. That woman I saw in line made her way down the aisle and stopped at my row, setting her bag under the seat in front of her. After sitting down, I didn't have to do anything - she started talking to me. We instantly had many things in common and talked about books, movies, writing and all kinds of things. Halfway through the trip, she wrote down her email address, saying she wanted to get in touch when we were both back in Toronto and didn't want to forget to give me her information. We had one stop over and she got off the plane, I was to keep going.

That night, when I finally got access to some wifi, she had already emailed me. Was this it? Was this the great story that we were going to tell everyone? That out of all the planes and destinations and rows and seats, we ended up next to each other?

Movies have been lying to us for a long time. Have you met one of these couples? The kind where they seem so proud of the way they met that it seems like the foundation of their entire relationship rests on this? It doesn't last, let me tell you. In my particular experience, this was a pretty incredible person I met on the airplane, but it wasn't right. You can only hang on to certain things for an impermanent amount of time before it loses all relevance. I did feel very deeply for this person, but in the end, I screwed things up as per usual. No Hollywood ending, no reuniting on top of tall buildings. Just reality.

What would Confident Jeff had done? He doesn't seem very in touch with his feelings. I think this person initiated a conversation with me on that airplane precisely because I wasn't Confident Jeff. I was just Paul - weird and awkward as usual. I mean, look at the mugshot on that passport - what a weirdo.

Paul Dore