I met Mike yesterday on a flight from Phoenix to JFK.
I slumped into the middle seat of the 8th row. A tall, elderly gentleman turned to shake hands with me from his aisle seat almost immediately: "Hi there. I'm Mike. I'm blind, and I need help figuring out my new iPhone," he said with a smile.
"No prob," I said.
The woman to the right of me was already on the case. Her name was Rhonda. Mike's Siri wasn't working without wifi, and he needed Siri to operate it because he couldn't see. Rhonda googled solutions while I tapped away in different parts of his phone settings. After ten minutes, Siri still wasn't available, and our plane started to taxi. I asked Mike what he needed to do on the phone. He replied that he needed to call his wife just to let her know he was safely on the plane.
"Well, you can do that on my phone," I volunteered. "Will your wife answer a call from an unknown number?" I asked.
"Yes," he knew immediately. He patiently gave me the number to dial, and she answered on the second ring. While on my phone with his wife, Rhonda and I reset Mike's network settings and his Siri started working properly. Double win.
Mike and I proceeded to talk for almost our entire 5-hour flight. We were equally captivated by each other's life stories. He had a dozen questions about my life as a performer. I learned he'd been a successful VP of some major international chains before an accident with a friendly neighbor's firearm blinded him over 35 years ago. He was on his way to Long Island to be matched with a new guide dog (his last one had been retired for 2 months). He was preparing for two weeks of getting to know his new pup. We talked about baseball (he was very good at it and I was and am still terrible). We talked about dance. We talked about California (he used to live in LA) and Arizona, where he currently resides, long retired but active with the Sierra Vista Commission For The Disabled and Knights of Columbus.
We talked about how much business has changed with the tech boom and internet marketing. He told me how his dreams have evolved since he went blind (he most commonly dreams that he is blind but watching himself from above, which I found interesting). He told me about visions he had while he was in a coma for 6 days after the accident. He told me he walks 3 miles/day but much prefers having a service dog to using a cane. I told him about audition grinds, Broadway shows, and social media. We talked about long distance relationships, the North Cali Coast, great grandchildren, Kenny G, and his wife's hybrid dog breed: the 'Chiweenie' (worth a google image search).
It was nice to connect with someone living such a different life from mine. Easy fuel for my curiosity, creativity, and soul. Together with Rhonda, and a very kind flight attendant named Sharon, I helped Mike disembark, gave him a genuine hug, my email so he could send me a picture of his new dog once they got acquainted. He already emailed me to say the dog's name is Otto and "they tell me he's very pretty".
I don't have a picture of him (pictured below are the mountains in his home town of Sierra Vista, AZ), but I gotta say, Mike looked A LOT like my Grandpa on my Mom's side, who passed in 2012. Tall, freckled arms, sharp nose, prominent brow, and an overall similar manner. It was like the icing on the cake of our endearing chance encounter.
Mike: just further evidence for my life's theory that kind people of all types are lurking around every corner at all times. :)