Earlier tonight I was thinking about all the random people that I've sat next to while flying alone (like most of you, I always go for a window seat, so undoubtedly, I only have one neighbor on any given flight). Generally, they don't strike up a conversation or make any other attempts to interact, but on occasion, I have pretty interesting interactions with the people I sit next to on airplanes. The first example that comes to mind took place aboard a DL 763 flying SLC-SEA in 2003, where I talked at length with the gentleman next to me about bands that he'd seen around Seattle back in the 80s/90s. We also engaged in a pretty lively debate about the speed of sound, which upon looking up once I'd arrived home, wasn't anywhere close to what I'd insisted it was during that two hours. We also got into a fairly extensive dialogue about drinking, and it was only at that point that he mentioned that he would have been more than happy to buy me some "refreshments" from the flight attendants when they'd come around earlier...dammit.
More recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a girl about my age (cute too) on an ASA flight from ATL-LFT when I was on my way down there to volunteer with the Red Cross in the wake of Katrina. The girl in question had just been settling in for her first year at Tulane when the hurricane hit, and in light of her school's closure, she'd spent the last week jetting around the country looking for a new school to enroll in. In the preceding two days, she'd been to Louisiana, Indiana, California and Oregon on the hunt. She told me that she'd decided on Purdue (my dad's alum) and was heading back to New Orleans (it was still in complete disarray at this point) to collect her belongings, drive them all the way to Los Angeles for storage at her parents, then drive to Indiana to begin classes that following Monday and find a place to live (my flight was on Thursday...four days away). It was about that point that I realized that my life isn't quite as bad as I often make it out to be.
Anyways, I'm sure plenty of you have (more) interesting seat neighbor stories (than mine). Fire away.