August 23, 2008

My Eternal Flame

I boarded my flight from Manchester and found a little old lady occupying the window seat next to my aisle seat. She was dressed like any little old lady, except she was wearing Birkenstocks - with pantyhose. We made pleasant conversation as we settled in, listened to the safety demonstration (she read the safety card carefully), and took off. No, I wasn't really in England on holiday, more of a business trip. Yes, she'd been to the U.S. once before, to Orlando about 20 years ago. I didn't ask her what she did, since she seemed to be about 70. (Turns out, she was only 63 and had recently retired from teaching ESL in Manchester.) I asked where she was headed in the U.S., and she said, "New Castle." "Uhm... in the U.K.? Newcastle-upon-Tyne?" "No," she said, "New Castle, Delaware." "Oh, do you have family there?" I asked, thinking that was a really random destination for someone going overseas. "No, I'm going to meet some people from a church. I've never met them in person before." I replied with simply, "Oh, interesting," not really caring to ask any more about her church.

While they rebooted the in-flight entertainment system (yo, wtf, US Air - it never works the first time), we chatted some more, since I hadn't had coffee and was too tired to do work. Her name, she said, was Christine, and she was delighted that we had nearly the same name. The meal came (thankfully, with a load of caffeine), and we both tucked in. After a few mouthsful, Christine turned to me and said, "May I ask you, have you experienced eternal life?" Christ on a cracker, I thought, I can't get away from this woman because it's a full flight and I have a tray table of food in front of me, and now she's gonna try to convert me. I said no and hastily added that I'm an anthropologist and, as such, am very interested in religion. I've studied numerous world religions, cultures, and languages, and I think people around the world approach problems in different ways. She started to say something, so I continued by explaining that my mother was raised Russian Orthodox and never felt connected to the religion and that my dad searched for spirituality throughout much of his adult life. Fortunately for me, this seemed to satisfy her, because she only shook her head slightly and said, "You should have a relationship with religion, not just an observation." "Right," I said. "So what do you think of this cobbler? Do they call it cobbler in the U.K.?"

I never did ask which brand of churchiness she was hawking (maybe Episcopal? what is it that all the non-Catholics in Britain are?), but she was reading "The Victorious Walk" (which you too can buy here for as little as 4 cents!).

So yeah, it's been two weeks of non-stop crazy, weird, or downright strange people. I hope the flight from Philly to Raleigh is less insane.

3 comments:

Lynn said...

Episcopalians are members of the Anglican Communion in the US. Anglican is the mother church for kings and other folks who wanted to be able to dump their wives.

How exactly can one have experienced something eternal? If it's eternal, wouldn't you have to continue to experience it? Eternally? Oh, yeah, eternal is so last century.

I love the sweet old English lady putdown: You should have a relationship, not just an observation. One or two lumps with that, KK?

Sara said...

I had a guess as to where she was talking about when she referred to "New Castle". And, I was right. Having lived in New Castle county (home of the Bidens), I had an advantage. Make that *the* Bidens.

David M. said...

"I never did ask which brand of churchiness she was hawking (maybe Episcopal? what is it that all the non-Catholics in Britain are?)"

did you protestants?

Love the blog :D

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