Confessions of a Techie

Going on the ride of your life.

The Happy Airplane

The Buddha said “I am not in the world – the world is in me”

After spending a great week in Santa Monica I flew back today on a connecting flight through Philadelphia. I was a little late to leave my hotel, but the cab driver assured me with a big smile that I will get to the airport on time. He took a special shortcut and stepped on it as if his life depended on it. Sure enough, we got there early. And with the same big smile he helped me get my stuff out of the trunk and wished me a safe journey.

Inside the terminal, the lady at the check-in desk greets me with a fake frown: why am I paying for an extra bag? "Next time", she tells me, "bring a big carry-on. Your bags are light. You can save some money." I tell her about the presents I bought for my kids. We laugh and joke about it. She gets me a good seat and sends me off with a smile as big as Texas.

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I get on the plane, and it's the "happy plane". People are smiling at each other, joking. It feels like a school trip. The couple sitting next to me are Arlene and John, retired educators from Philadelphia. Ten minutes after take-off Arlene and I are engaged in flowing conversation. I learn about her kids, her marriage, her lifestyle, her family. Her brother recently of passed away after battling cancer. Her daughter travels around the world. She recently became a vegetarian, but John, her husband, is a meat lover. He and I talk about Jerusalem, the wailing wall, and its history. Probably the first time someone discovers I'm from Israel and talks about something other than the conflict in the Middle East. The spirits are high and the vibes a good. Almost in an unnatural way.

I get up to get some coffee, and a guy in the exit row literally pulls me over by the sleeve. He has three empty tiny bottles of Jack Daniels on his tray, and a white pair of earbuds in his ears. He asks me about the AC/DC T-shirt I'm wearing. I tell him about the concert I went to. We hug (?!!) and he hands me his earbuds and says "you gotta listen to this". I put one in my ear and hear Neil Young going full steam. He commands "both ears!" I put both earbuds in and listen to Neil go as my friend plays air guitar in his seat. We talk for a few more minutes about music all wired up with teenage excitement. And then I remember the original reason I got up from my seat. I go get that coffee.

I continue down the aisle, and I'm completely baffled. W h a t - i s - h a p p e n n i n g??  Did someone slip something in my drink? Is this some kind of twisted dream? I look back at The aisle. People are standing and talking with each other, smiling and occasionally joking with each other. This is not normal, I think to myself. When I get to the end of the aisle I see John. He pulls me closer so I can hear him better through the noise of the engines at the back of the plane. He says "you have very special smile. When you walked in the plane I immediately noticed it. You have a happy soul".

And then I get it. Yes, this is possibly an airplane that's happier than average, but that's not really what's going on. It's me - I'm the Happy plane. I woke up in a good mood this morning after spending a great week of work in LA, and I'm happy about seeing my wife and my kids tonight. I'm smiling, and the world is smiling back. Big time. The Buddha said "I am not in the world - the world is in me". And it's true. The world lives in our minds. We create it. And when you create a world of happiness inside of you, the world outside of you catches on it, and universes of happiness are born in the people around you. Any plane can be the happy plane, if you smile. 

Ran Zilca is a research scientist, entrepreneur, and author.

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