Now I can. Airtroductions.com is a new service that allows me to discover who is sharing my flight to LA and to arrange, by mutual agreement, to sit together.
What a great idea. People here in Connecticut are dead set against exchange of most kinds. Products, no. Ideas, Lord no. Capital, ok. So my opportunity to meet and chat with new people, to do the anthropology of everyday life, is limited to airports and the places they take me.
I always strike up conversations with the person next me, and the results are often wonderful. Coming back from San Antonio, I found myself sitting beside a University administrator who writes historical romances and a guy who was just coming to New York to run an ad agency. I mean, really, you can’t hope to do better than that.
But often the pickings are not so good, as when you get stuck by someone who is stupid and noisy about it. On the way out, I resorted to my laptop and to my astonishment, the person to be just kept talking. I thought getting out your computer was a universal lingo for "fuck off and leave me alone." Apparently not.
Then I got to thinking: this is an exchange waiting to happen. I mean, we could make this an exchange system dominated by the free gift. If I’ve got something useful to tell you, I give it to you, consulting for free. But we could earn and store value with Airtroductions and spend this value to get to certain conversations we most want.
Naturally, it won’t be long before hotels start up systems of this kind. Often, we just want to eat in our hotel rooms but sometimes a free evening is a great opportunity to make contact with someone sensationally interesting and useful. And there is a better than average chance that in a large (& especially a grand) hotel, there is someone we would find sensationally interesting and useful. (You can see that this is where the exchange might come in here.)
The society of strangers is one of the signatures of industrial society and one of the pleasures of modernism. We don’t know who they are. We don’t want to know who they are. Those strangers are merely so many walk-ons for the drama of our own lives. (What, for instance, would Paris be without them? And so well casted!)
Only some of us belong to networks that constantly introduce us to really interesting people (and more networks). Which is to say, that the new technologies must help us make contact more efficiently than before. And anything’s better than, "are you going to eat that dessert, or could I have it?"