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.


12 thoughts on “Kerfuffle

  1. You had my attention at kerfuffle! I hadn’t heard this word before this summer when I heard it on PBS, and now I keep looking for ways to work it in to conversations. Great story 🙂

  2. I think the last sentence makes it. There’s so much more about this character that we don’t know, so much vulnerability in his caring whether a stranger remembers him as a nice man. It makes him sympathetic to me, because I relate to that sense of deep self-doubt. So deep that maybe the judgement of a stranger would be more accurate or carry more weight than whatever he thinks about himself.

  3. I guess I wouldn’t assume other people’s opinions necessarily reflect any particular reality. Often they say more about the person holding the opinion.
    Why would I care about someone’s opinion about a tiny thing I did like this? It only makes sense to me if I had done something I felt deeply conflicted about. Am I a horrible person? Or maybe someone said something awful about him. Is it true? Am I really like that? No, I’m a nice person. See, the lady on the plane will tell you.

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