The Six-Year-Old on Flight 252

When I felt a bump against my leg mid-snooze on the tarmac of JFK last week, my eyes flew open to a little boy climbing over my knees to the seat next to me. After a summer working in New York City, I hadn’t talked to a child under ten in months. We sized each other up. I gathered from eavesdropping on the flight attendants’ conversation that his father sent him back to chill in economy while he schmoozed with business people in first class.

After the little boy settled in his seat, buckled his seat belt and whipped out an iPad, he crossed his legs, turned to me and said, “Hi I’m Nate. I’m six years and four months old. Who are you?”

I was totally taken aback.  Can six-year-olds talk like adults?! Wasn’t he supposed to be playing with legos or something? I told him my name was Patty and that I was 21 years old, and immediately his eyes lit up and he said, “oh good, you’re a kid too!”

We chatted for a little bit about our favorite colors, little brothers, his best friend, and the fact that he beat Call of Duty II and III. (Apparently he was too young to remember the original one). Then he pulled out a huge white toy riffle that his dad bought him in NYC, and showed me all the cool shooting features and sound effect buttons.

After an extensive iPad/iPhone/iTouch discussion (we were already up 20,000 feet by now) I told him that I needed a nap, and before plugging in my earbuds, I jokingly mumbled for him to wake me up when the drink cart came around, not even thinking my request would click with him.

Sure enough, 20 minutes later, Nate tapped me on the arm. “The cart lady is almost here,” he said, big brown eyes staring up at me. Then he shot his hand in the air, just like a student in a classroom, and the flight attendant asked him what he’d like. He replied, very seriously, “I’d like two drinks. The green one for me,” [meaning sprite] and then gestured to me saying, “and what do you want?”

The flight attendant stared at me and I almost couldn’t pull off my straight face. Here I let a six-year-old (definitely the youngest man ever) get me a drink. He ordered me a diet coke, and we proceeded to have a surprisingly mature conversation about the first grade, until he spilled his sprite on his pants.

When we landed, Nate gave me two giant hugs and invited me over for a “playdate” before disappearing into the crowd to find his dad. I guess the saying is true, you never know who you’ll end up sitting next to.

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