On the way to Dubai I sat next to a woman from Vietnam. I helped her find the socket for her headset, so she asked me where I was from. I said, the UK. She said, oh, London. I said, no, further north. She looked thoughtful for a moment, clearly rummaging through her head for something she knew about the north, then said: Edinburgh.
I smiled, no, a small place, but didn’t offer anything else. I was tired. I didn’t want to make small talk with her, but it was my own fault, I’d helped her out. Small acts of kindness always lead to awkward conversations. As if the act itself isn’t enough. You need a small chat since you can’t pay them for it.
Then I thought: why not say something, something made-up to keep the chat going? Let’s say Kerfuffle. I’m from Kerfuffle. Then she’d go, oh, I don’t know that, where is it, and I could describe it in lavish detail, wax lyrical about the waterfalls and rolling hills, so she’d go, oh, it sounds lovely, I should go there sometime. And then later, when she’s back in Vietnam, she could say she heard about this place called Kerfuffle in the UK, it sounds lovely. A man told her about it on the plane.
But then maybe she’d have friends who knew the UK well, or knew the word Kerfuffle, ones who’d then say, I think someone’s pulling your leg. And they’d get their phones out and Google Kerfuffle to prove it. Or email her later about it so she wouldn’t lose so much face.
Then she’d look at the link or the word and think, but he said so much about it, it can’t be a lie. But then maybe it was, and he’s now laughing at me. He was such a kind man too, helping me with the headset. And she wouldn’t know whether to remember me as that man that helped her or that dick that lied to her, so in the end, I said nothing and slept the rest of the flight.
When we arrived, she said, have a nice trip and I said, you too. I was going to be a nice man, not a dick. In her memory at least.