My Name Is Matt Stabile, And I Watch Bad Movies During Flights

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When I travel I make a point to talk to as many people as possible. Shopowners, hostelmates, street performers, it doesn’t matter. I once tried to start a conversation with an actor from a telenovela during a shoot in Colombia, but I was quickly escorted away by security.

There is one exception, and that’s when I’m on a plane. You can chalk it up to the fact that I’m afraid of being “that guy” who someone had to sit next to during the flight, and who is the subject of the response to the inevitable, “How was your fight?” question.

However, it’s also equally due to the fact that I really enjoy the small amount of time I have on my own during the flight. I’d like to say it gives me time to finally catch up that autobiography of Nelson Mandela I’d been trying to read for months, or to finally delve into that copy of Infinite Jest that had been sitting on my bookshelf for since college. But, instead, I actually use the time to catch up on really bad movies that I avoided like the plague back on terra firma.

Now, anyone that knows me knows that I am a self-admitted film snob. I will spend upwards of 45 minutes picking out a movie on Netflix, just so that I don’t waste my precious time on a bad movie. But, when I’m en route, all of this pretension seems to go out the bulkhead window.

For example, I watched Mamma Mia during one flight across the equator, then sat still for another two hours for a Michael McConaughey romantic comedy on the return flight. This recent trip to Barcelona, I packed in not only The Tourist, but also found time to catch a Japanese crime drama that was either shot by the main actor’s nephew for a high school project, or the Japanese thriller genre has a long way to go. I also admit to watching an episode of Samantha Brown’s travel show during this return flight. There is absolutely no justification for this act of treachery, and I’m prepared to lose several faithful readers based on this fact alone, however I feel I must hone up to this fact for the sake of transparency for the site.

I’ve tried to watch the same caliber of movies that I normally watch at home during a flight, but it never works. I began Gandhi on my way to Hong Kong, but only got as far as his return to India from South Africa (I hope everything turned out all right for him in the end). I recall switching to Sex and the City 2 at this point — and making it to end, surely a feat of physical exertion unmatched by any living human being, at least one at 40,000 feet in the air.

I write this not only as an act of contrition, but also as a transparent call for help. I simply ask that if you happen to sit next to me during a flight, or see me sitting alone next to an empty seat, my eyes fixated on the tiny screen ahead of me, dutifully poking at the touch screen, you kindly turn to me and began a conversation. I may act disinterested — I may even blatantly slip back in my earphones and turn up the volume — but for the sake of my well-being, ignore these actions and save me from whatever Jennifer Aniston vehicle or Ben Stiller sequel I am likely to stumble across. The world will be a better place.

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