People From Around The World Share The Best Encounters They Had On A Flight

People From Around The World Share The Best Encounters They Had On A Flight

I don't know about you, but every time I get on a plane, I pray the seat next to me as empty. It's always so much better to stretch out, watch a movie, get a few hours of sleep, and not have to worry about nosey neighbors.

But, of course, very rarely, we get to have truly wonderful (or at least interesting) encounters with the people around us as we fly.

These folks recently went online to share stories of the most memorable encounters they had with other people on a flight. Make sure your tray tables are in the upright position!

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20. The Prophesy

I left for Canada when I was only 18 to pursue my post secondary education. I'm from Zambia, down South of Africa, so I'd travel home every summer break from Ontario back to Lusaka.

During my summer flight heading back home I sat next to this small Ethiopian lady who I later found out was very kind, smart and engaging. She spoke about how she's lived in Canada for decades with her husband and two daughters.

We spoke about life, relationships and several random subjects. We began to talk about how I felt about Canada and where I wanted to settle down eventually.

“Do you want to live in Canada?” She asked with a subtle smile.

“I'd like to stay here for a few years and work, then head back home,” I responded.

She chuckled while saying, “Wait until you find a beautiful Canadian girlfriend—that will change.”

I laughed and we moved on with the conversation. I didn't think anything of it at the time.

Fast-forward to 4 years since our conversation: I now have a beautiful Canadian girlfriend who's an amazing nurse, and will make an amazing wife.

Taza Yambayamba

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19. Passenger Pilot

I once sat next to a commercial pilot who was going to work. So people like me go to their jobs on bus, motor bike, or car. But pilots take flights to their work. Isn't that super cool? I am so jealous.

Anyway coming back to the story. We were chatting about our professional lives when the plane started to tremble, something that gets me scared. I brought my apprehension to his notice when he told me that this is the part that excites the pilot. Otherwise the flight would be really boring. To say that I was dumbfounded is an understatement. Well, he had an explanation.

“Flying a plane in a good weather is really easy, you can put the plane on autopilot and it will take you from point A to point B. It is during the bad weather that a pilot is responsible for keeping the flight safe.”


“Could you wish for anything else except bad weather while flying? You know like more normal wishes. How about that next promotion, the big house or that fancy car you want?”

Even though I was being serious. He laughed it off.

Our conversation went ahead and I asked him about his most interesting client. He mentioned that he once flew a young wealthy guy.

“This dude came in wearing worn-out t-shirt and jeans. We were curious to know how he made the big money and asked him. To which he replied that he was a part of a start-up which took off reasonably well. After the flight we Googled him, only to find out he was a co-founder of Google.”

Cracked us both.

Arshna Qureshi


18. House Visit

Not sure if this was the best, but it was certainly fun. I was flying first class with an airline employee friend of mine to see Beijing. A middle-aged gentleman was seated next to me. The first hour, he downed about 8 drinks. He told me he always gets good and pickled on this flight, passes out, and wakes up in China. He said he travels this route frequently for work.

A short time later, we began sharing our employment statuses. I happened to be a physician who worked in an inpatient hospital. Soon after that, he pulls out a photo of a young attractive Asian woman, and asks me if I thought she was attractive. Of course I agreed she was.

He then told me that for a modest sum, he provides her with an apartment, and then stays with her when he’s in China. About this time, I noticed he had a wedding ring on. Well, I’m no prude, but I found his arrangement distasteful to say the least.

Next, he tells me he’s not so foolish to think that he is the only person his “girlfriend” is with, and since I’m a doctor, he asked if there’s anything he should be concerned about.

I might mention, every 2 weeks I gave the patients in our hospital a lecture on STIs and blood-borne pathogens. So I had a lot of facts and figures committed to memory.

I proceeded to give him an in-depth dissertation on numerous conditions. This included estimates of the incidence of some conditions in China. And since I knew he was rather inebriated, I did some of the math to translate to actual numbers in a country of a billion plus people.

Normally I would not ever do such a thing, but when he told me about his “arrangement” and I saw his wedding band, I guess I couldn’t help myself.

Suffice to say, he did NOT appear to sleep on this flight to his destination.

Mark Menestrina


17. Hats Off

I was seated next to guy in a cowboy hat one time who only spoke Spanish (I believe). He had a conversation with me the entire flight, breaking down in tears at one point, and all I did was look at him and nod occasionally. At the end of the flight he shook my hand and gave me the cowboy hat.

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16. Gives You Wings

Mine was when I was 10 years old. My parents divorced when I was very young, and my dad moved to another city when I was 8. Every year my dad would fly me down to visit for a few weeks in the summer, and that was the only time I got to see him.

My dad and I were waiting at the gate for me to board the plane to go home to my mom. When they called for boarding, I started to cry. I had to do this every year, and every year, it tore me apart. I walked down the jet way, sobbing as I got to my seat.

Not two minutes later did a flight attendant come up to my seat and inform me that the captain had invited me to sit in the cockpit. They took me to the front of the plane and introduced me to the pilot and copilot. Behind the door to the cockpit there was a fold-down seat on which I got to sit for the whole flight. They even gave me a headset to wear so I could listen to the air traffic controllers. The flight attendant brought me snacks and juice, and the pilots talked to me about everything they were doing.

After the plane landed, before I got off the plane, they gave me a set of pilot wings. I was still upset about my dad, but the crew from that flight was able to help me forget about it. I will never forget the kindness and compassion they showed me that day.

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15. Kids Take Over

I was 10 around the time this happened so it seemed awesome! My family was flying back on a Southwest flight to Dallas from St. Louis with a stop over in Little Rock. After the stop in Little Rock, the entire plane was empty except for my family, another family, and two kids flying by themselves.

The flight attendants let the four of us kids (we were all around the same age) sit up anywhere on the flight and walk around as much as we wanted! They also gave us all the peanuts they had for that flight along with cool playing cards and other Southwest mementos, then they showed us around the plane and the cockpit. The attendants even let us mess around on the PA systems and we sang the Southwest theme!

That is why Southwest is and always will be my favorite airline company. It was the funniest flight ever and I'd love to do it again.

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14. G Man

I sat next to a retired FBI agent who had worked in bank fraud for most of his career. I asked him if he had any particularly memorable cases. He spoke about a guy who had embezzled close to 6 million dollars, stashed it overseas, was sentenced to federal prison for 5 years, and ended spending three years in prison after which he was released. Only about 1.5 million was recovered, the rest was untraceable. When the guy got out, he left the U.S., presumably to go live off of the stolen money. He sent a post card to the FBI agent that simply said “Thanks for the time to work on my tennis game”. You could tell from the way the story was told, it still irritated him that the guy “got away with it”.

David I. Bell

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13. Riding Shotgun

Just weeks after 9/11, in November 2001, I had recently started a new position in finance for a company in San Jose (California) but was traveling with two work colleagues in Europe. We had an overbooked flight on a European airline from Copenhagen to Vienna. The gate agents named over 20 people including me and told us they had a smaller plane than planned and we would likely be denied boarding. I was held back as my two colleagues boarded and took their seats in the first row.

Just before closing the doors, the gate agent came up to me and asked in a low voice if, in order to make the flight, I would be willing to ride in the cockpit in the jump seat between the pilot and co-pilot. I told her that not only did I not mind, I would have been willing to pay extra for the privilege. As I boarded last, and turned left to enter the cockpit instead of right, I briefly made eye contact with my colleagues in row 1 and the look on their faces was absolutely priceless (they seemed a bit concerned, as they did not yet know me well but certainly knew I was no pilot).

While the co-pilot did essentially all of the work, the pilot was a gracious and verbal host and described every step of the flight and use of the autopilot. The vast view of Europe from the cockpit as the sun set from high altitude was stunning. I told the pilot that I was quite surprised, as post-9/11 the US airlines were understandably frowning on allowing passengers into cockpits, to say the least. I asked the pilot why I was asked, and he told me that he had instructed the gate attendant to identify the person denied boarding that looked the lowest-maintenance and least likely to complain about the uncomfortable jump seat.

The experience added to an appreciation of flying that contributed to my later earning my pilot’s license (to fly Cessnas not jets) back in California. And I never forgot that surprised look on the faces of my two co-workers upon entering and exiting the cockpit. They told me they spent much of the flight wondering what on earth I was doing up there and when was I going to emerge.

Eric Ball

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12. Answer The Call

"Are there any trained medical personnel on board?"

Hmm? Say what now?

I was flying from Portland (home) to Jacksonville, FL for a criminal justice conference. Since the lady next to me seemed like she'd be one of the annoying "I want to talk about my children and nothing else" people, I had slipped on a pair of shades, put in my earbuds, and opened a book. A long but supposedly enjoyable flight.

However, as we flew somewhere over Denver, a different passenger's flight took a turn for the worse. Poor girl, probably thought she could tough it out or that she's prepared for it, but that wasn't the case. She was diabetic, and had gone from "okay" to "feeling kinda sick" to "hypoglycemic" to "unconscious" in the space of just a few minutes. Her father, who was sitting behind her, didn't realize what was going on until the person next to her asked if she was alright.

Dad now goes into full-on panic mode, as 35,000 feet in the air in a small metal tube really isn't a good place to have a diabetic incident. The flight attendants then go into their own emergency mode, but realize that this situation is more serious than just having the girl suck on a Jolly Rancher. Now, this whole time, I'm still sitting there, listening to Tool, reading a Dale Brown novel, and not really paying attention. Until the announcement.

And no one moved..

All I have is wilderness first responder, first aid, and CPR. I'm not a medic. But the flight attendant looked pretty concerned, and no one else was doing anything. That leaves it up to me. Sometimes I hate other people for their lack of compassion, concern, and common sense training.

I got up, jumped over the lady sitting next to me, and ran to the front of the plane where the commotion was. I showed them my cert cards (which even I knew looked pretty lame) but they just seemed grateful to have someone else help. She was in bad shape. Pallid, cold to the touch, sweating hard, dilated pupils, heart rate sky high and fluttery, difficulty breathing, and going back and forth between V, P, and U on the consciousness scale.

We tried to get candy in her mouth, but that really didn't seem to be doing anything to remedy the situation. She wasn't swallowing, even when she was in her more away state, and I didn't want her to choke. At this point, I didn't think there was anything we could do, so I asked the flight attendant about when we'd be landing. "Another several hours." Ummmm, no that's not going to work. She then ran up to the cockpit, and after a few minutes, the pilot put on the seatbelt sign, came over the intercom, and told everyone we were making an emergency divert to Denver.

I'm guessing the pilot was former military, because he threw that 727 into a dive like he was strafing a target. I know that the approach to Denver is kinda steep anyway, but that guy came in like he was flying an MC-130 doing a combat delivery.

We got to the gate, and were met by a bunch of actual medics. They whisked her and her dad out extremely fast. I was asked to deplane so I could answer a few questions from some government-type officials (which were mainly "what happened?" and "do you have your ID and certs?"). A few minutes later I was back in my seat, and we took off for Jacksonville.

It wasn't exactly the best flight of my life. But I won't ever forget it.

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11. We All Depend On The Kindness Of Strangers

I was flying back home after visiting some friends for a few days. Those few days were completely packed with debauchery so I felt absolutely terrible the morning of my departure.

The first leg of the flight was a short one. As soon as I sat down I grabbed a barf bag. The entire flight I was sweating bullets hoping that I could manage to chew back the vomit that I knew was just waiting. The sweet, old lady sitting next to me saw my condition and mistook it for a fear of flying.

As we were entering final approach, I felt that dreaded feeling start to build up and my mouth started watering badly. I couldn't hold back anymore and just emptied my stomach contents into the bag.

The best part? Once I did start puking the old lady started rubbing my back telling me that everything was going to be OK and we were almost on the ground. The guy sitting across the aisle from overheard her and started to encourage me as well. After we had landed he patted me on the back and said something along the lines of, "You got through it, man! Be proud of yourself!"

Greatest flight ever.

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10. Played Yourself

I flew to Brazil in Business Class on a Brazilian airline. The section was filled with local businessmen who had just finished their work in New York and were returning home. One younger businessman continually boasted in a loud voice about his extraordinary accomplishments in New York City, essentially letting all the older and more experienced business travelers know that he was the ultimate businessman.

He would stand in the aisle, gesturing wildly as he told his story. I could see some expressions of disgust as he carried on about his achievements. The stewardess moved from row to row collecting all the coats to hang in the closet. I noticed that, like mine, they were all waist length woolen black coats. The stewardess was careful to mark each hanger with the seat number.

I did not give her my coat, because I was still chilly and decided to wear it for awhile. I was sitting in the middle section of three seats. There was no one in the middle seat. The man two seats over in the aisle seat was the bragging young man.

About two hours later, I became warm, took off my coat, folded it, and laid it in the empty seat next to me. I had my arm resting on the coat. Eventually, the young man awakened from his nap, glanced over, and saw me leaning on my black coat. Thinking it was his, he ceremoniously grabbed the coat, jerked it out from under my arm, stood up and ranted about how I had “ruined” his best black coat by leaning on it.

He stood in the aisle and kept snapping the coat to be sure to rid it of any lint it had picked up off the seat. Then he took a close look—”This isn’t my coat,” he said. I replied, “Of course not. It is mine.” He threw it back at me before sinking into his seat. I loved the look on the other businessmen’s faces.

Margaret Mathews

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9. Never Fly With Your Girlfriend's Dad

When I finally got out of AIT in the Army, and ended up in permanent party, the place where I was assigned was making a spot for me. Until the post opened up, I got snookered into being a typist in the Public Affairs Office. I actually enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t the MOS I signed on for.

They asked me to take photos at the nearby airfield for a story they were running about the new choppers the medics had. While snapping pics of choppers in the air, my girlfriend’s dad (he was a warrant officer and helicopter pilot) asked me if I wanted to go on a flight. Figuring I’d get good pics, I said okay. I signed the appropriate paperwork and let my captain know what was going on. He approved the venture and I hopped on the chopper.

Flying over the desert, I got some amazing shots. I even got a photo of a wild mustang running through the dunes.

Through my helmet, I heard the pilot and co-pilot discussing practicing a power failure. They told me to get ready.

They flew up to a thousand feet in the air then instantaneously dropped to three hundred. Imagine dropping in an elevator, only with no brakes and no elevator corridor. My stomach went up to my head. I could almost taste my scrotum from the inside.

After we landed, the pilot asked if I was okay. I assured him that I was, and that the drop was like being on a roller coaster, and that I had fun. I thanked them for allowing me some amazing shots, and departed.

When I got around the corner out of eyesight and hearing, I did what any daredevil kid would do…

I tossed my cookies.

I can’t prove it, but I think the pilot was picking on me for dating his daughter.

Just sayin’.

Dennis Manning

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8. A Perfect Storm

I was on my way home from the UK, where I'd been staying with my long distance, long term boyfriend. Of course, I was inconsolable, sobbing even in the airport when the nice lady patting me down asked where I was "off to", (she told me to go make myself a cuppa, which just made me cry harder), and then I get on the plane.

Of course, I'm sitting next to three children. Oh, great, look at that, a small baby behind me, and one two seats up and to the left. So I'm sitting there, hoodie pulled up, silent tears streaming down my face, when the most glorious thing in the world happens... I get my period.

For the next nine hours, I sat there, bawling the entire time, knees to my chest under the shitty airplane blankets, in a pool of my own blood. I think the little boy next to me tried to talk to me once... he said, "Hi. What's wrong?"

He couldn't have been older than twelve. I was not in my right state of mind, and I just looked at him through red, swollen eyes. His mom looked over in that moment, swatted him away, and for the rest of the trip, I felt three pairs of eyes (there were three kids next to me) peeking up at me.

It didn't particularly make me feel better, but in retrospect I appreciate their concern.

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7. Divorce In Midair

I was seated next to a young married couple flying out of a weekend in New York. Their passive aggressive bickering ("we wouldn't have this problem if we were in first class") gradually grew into a full-blown marriage counseling brawl, or perhaps a lawyer was the only thing that could have resolved things between them.

I was trying to tune it out and look at the landscape but could not help but hear the "If you want to leave me for her, just leave! Leave and never come back!" and "I'm not a problem drinker, YOU'RE THE DRINKER!" As we were landing in DC the wife turned to me and tried to get me to explain why I'm such a good person and her husband was such a terrible person. I said "I don't know, but excuse me I'm looking for monuments"

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6. The Wonderful Oz

The older woman next to me, her TV wasn't working but her volume was. So she asks if she can watch my TV whie she listens to it on her headphones. No problo, Rob Lowe.

Well, unfortunately we watched as Dr. Oz was talking about the risks of butt sex and how to talk to your kids about it. This stuff doesn't faze me. I'm not embarrassed, and the old lady can ignore it and do something else. Whatevs. But of course Dr. Oz's comments prompt that old biddy to chat me and up and ask questions about backdoor action.

"Why would people do that? It's so risky and dangerous. Can you believe kids these days are having it that way? People shouldn't do butt stuff. Nobody could possibly enjoy it."

"I don't know. Yes it is. No ma'am. Yes ma'am. No ma'am. Please don't make me talk about this, ma'am."

On and on she goes about butt play and I'm starting to get anxious to change the channel but this lady is deeply engrossed in the topic that it would be rude to change the channel. So now I'm hooped. Then the toxic lush on the other side of me decides to order herself a nice glass of red and a snack of dill pickle chips. You ever smell the hot breath of wine and dill pickle? It is a smell I can't stop smelling.

I screamed at her in my head forever. "LADY ITS A TWO HOUR FLIGHT! ITS NOON! WINE AND CHIPS!? Wait a minute...are you watching the same channel...?"

So those two broads, the wino and the elderly, strike up a conversation over my lap about that quack Dr. Oz's next topic: cancer. They shared their history and bonded, listening to the TV and talking about what they just heard and sharing their thoughts and feelings on the matter. As I stared straight ahead at my TV, I wished Dr. Oz a fierce and painful demise.

Although this flight was bad, it was nothing compared to landing in Winnipeg in January.

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5. Unwanted Love Triangle

I was on a Southwest flight back to college. I was exhausted from being around family for an extended period of time and was looking forward to a solid 3 hour nap. On southwest, you choose your own seat. So, looking forward to nap time, I find an aisle seat, next to an empty seat, next to a marine mindlessly staring out the window.

"Perfect," I thought as I sat down, a trip in silence. It wasn't to be. Some boisterous, 18~, cute girl (I was 19 at the time) sat down between me and the marine and immediately starts talking a mile a minute to the guy, while introducing herself to me. I was exhausted, I wanted sleep, she was paying most of her attention to the marine. I tried to make myself unapproachable.

So I put in headphones, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.

Suddenly this girl is not trying to share the armrest as much as grab onto me. I half stir, annoyed at the apparent end of my tranquil flight... and we haven't even left the ground. Realizing she's roused me and I've relented to paying her attention, she begins to inch away from the marine and towards me. I'm still resenting the fact that I'm losing nap time.

It is, however, immediately apparent the marine was creepy and ham handed. As I'm taking off my headphones to what I thought was entertain this cute girl slowly creeping further and further into my personal space, I hear the marine proposition her to "join the mile high club." This went from no nap time to entertain a cute girl to rescue cute girl from creeper.

She and I talk for a bit and actually hit it off, meanwhile the marine is trying to insert himself into the conversation to once again win her attention. Slowly, she's inched her way further and further away from creeper marine, that she's put up the armrest between us and is laying against me.

The marine was STILL trying to win her affection with all the subtlety of a freight train. The girl either got really fed up with him or enjoyed my company because she eventually just turned around and kissed me. Repeatedly, throughout the trip. My bewildered self barely registered it since I was exhausted and planning on being asleep... yet here I am an hour later with some random attractive girl on top of me.

I got her number, called her once, but she lived really far from where I did. Nothing came of it.

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4. You Earned It

We were flying home from Iraq, an entire plane full of Marines, and we had a pillow fight with the crew over New Jersey while coming in for a landing. Best flight ever.

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3. You're The Captain Now

I took a discovery flight, which is basically where you pay a small airport a fee and they will take you up in a little Cessna and fly you around town for a while. I was probably 17 and my pilot was sitting in the co-pilot's (or whatever you call it in that little plane) chair. He said he was going to let me taxi to the runway which I thought was epic. I steered the plane on the ground in what was no way, shape, or form a straight line all the way to the runway.

When we were cleared for takeoff he gave me a crash course on how to get a plane off of the ground and then just sat there in the passenger seat with his arms crossed and looked at me like I was dumb. That dude did not touch the controls until right before we landed an hour later. One of the coolest things I have had the privilege of doing.

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2. What's Lost And What's Gained

It was a delayed flight from Jakarta to Singapore I took few years back. When I boarded the plane, I was exhausted and cranky. So when my seat mate (who had seated on the aisle seat) reluctantly stood up when I wanted to sit my window seat, I cursed him in my head. But immediately regretted it, because I suddenly realized he has a prosthetic leg.

He was in his early 40s, and seemed friendly. After I settled on my seat, he smiled at me, and that was how my life-changing conversation began.

After few ice-breakers, I managed to summon the courage to ask him what happened to his leg. He was comfortable enough to share his story.

He was an executive working in a company in Jakarta. One day after a meeting, he was walking out in front of JW Marriot Hotel when he heard a deafening explosion. The next thing he knew, he woke up in the hospital without one of his legs. The day we took our flight was the anniversary of that bombing and he said he didn't want to spend it in Jakarta. I could see the pain in his eyes when he sipped his drink.

So I asked him again, “Then why do you come back to Jakarta?”

Because if I were him, I wouldn’t want to come back this dangerous city which have taken my leg. I would hate the government and the people.

What he said next changed my life forever.

He said, “Now I’m working with your government, giving education and seminars at remote village. Because that is where the terrorists recruit their people. My role is to educate them so that they wouldn’t join the group.”

That day I learned that it wasn’t what happen to us that determine our life. It’s how we respond to what life has given us.

Sometimes life hits us with a frying pan, sometimes it throws us lemon. We can choose to cry on a corner, be depressed, and think how unfair life is. But we have a choice. We always have a choice. We can use the frying pan to cook a delicious dish, we can make a jug full of lemonade.

Whatever happened to us, we can always choose to use that experience to make us a stronger and better person. Always remember what doesn't kill us make us stronger.

That man, he lost his leg, yet he stands up taller than anyone. He made the right choice.

Candrika Adri

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1. Toys R Us

I was not entirely thrilled that I had a middle seat. Oh well, whatever. Window was occupied by a woman, aisle was still empty as I settled in, but it eventually filled up. I don’t think I was in my seat for more then 3 minutes when the woman in the window seat nicely said “You smell good”. It was an AM flight, I had applied my everyday cologne that morning as per my usual ritual, careful not to overdo it, but enough to make it pleasant to anyone close by.

I thanked her for the compliment. We started chatting. She was on her way to her father’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. We talked candidly about midlife, aging parents, death, and the ritual of burial. When the conversation shifted to “what do you do”, it turned out she worked as the national marketing manager for a classy, elegantly designed, and well engineered adult toy company. We proceeded to have a fascinating conversation about social attitudes about toys, cultural and regional differences, how to market to men vs. women, generational differences, etc. A complex and subtle landscape.

We spent the entire flight engaged in a wide ranging, engaging exchange of thoughts and ideas.

David I. Bell

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