Recently, I read of an air traveler who just wanted to read a book, but his seatmate asked the inevitable, introductory question, "Well, so what do you do?" In recalling the tedious, necessary chores he'd completed before leaving, an answer popped out: "I'm a janitor," thinking this reply would get him back to his book.

The ploy worked so well, he used it on subsequent trips.

What a good idea, I thought. Not that I create much interest… probably others assume this old gray-hair has never done anything exciting.

Two weeks ago, I was to fly to Omaha for my new great-grandson's christening, and my imagination raced. If I'm asked what I do, I can say, "I'm a writer." No, that's not good - everyone thinks he/she's a writer.

Yes, I needed an impressive profession… like, "I'm an oncologist." I scratched that; it'd be just my luck to sit next to a doctor, or nurse, or pharmacist, who'd report me.

I might be able to pull off, "I'm Roger Federer's mother." Few know what she looks like, or if she exists. But that would spawn tennis talk, a sport I know little about. I could claim, "I work for the government." A downer topic - all of us are taxpayers, moaning living costs.

Still, I couldn't drop the idea.

So I presented it to the members of a writing group I was leading, adding, "I need to come up with an impressive profession. So, here's an assignment - email me your input."

Did they ever!

Now, if you, too, are planning a plane, or train, trip and want a snappy answer for a boring seatmate, here are some of the members' suggestions and condensed comments:

A chimney sweep. "Either they'll laugh,and you'll have fun kidding back and forth, or they'll leave you in icy silence so you can read."

A sewer worker. "If your seatmate persists, mention latrines, septic tanks, mulch piles, outhouses."

An English teacher. "You sort of look like one. Be one."

A funeral director. "Tell them, 'My company offers everything from the ground down. Ask for details about our layaway-lot plan. Come visit us… while you still can.'"

A country-western line-dancer. "If you don't dance, bluff it. Airline aisles are too narrow to dance in, anyway.

A philosopher. "Most people don't know what that is, let alone how to spell it."

A librarian. "Say, 'My life is an open book. What do you want to know?'"

Pretend to be deaf. "Tell your seatmate you teach sign language, but that you can hear a little - IF they'll shout loud enough for those up in First Class to hear."

A cloud painter. "Say that, then see where the conversation goes from there."

The most innovative response: A reader who sent me two tiny "travel kits."

One contained breath mints; the other, a fat head of garlic (and a note: "If seatmate is less desirable than your book, chew well.").

But back to my plane trip: Before leaving, I printed out the above ideas and stuck them in my purse as reminders whom I should be. Here's what resulted:

On the first leg, my Asian companion didn't speak English so we just smiled a lot.

On the second, my seatmate slept, grunted when I wriggled past, dozed again.

On return, two excited girls talked upcoming college-plans - not a word to me.

On the final leg, my seatmate glanced up, smiled acknowledgment, returned to her book.

I opened mine, both of us engrossed in reading until hearing, "Prepare for landing in Portland."

During last week's trip, I lucked out... not only on seatmates but in getting a four-generation photo, starring my new great-grandson!

© Copyright 2014 by Isabel Torrey, a King City resident and long-time columnist.

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