The Maine persona is encapsulated in every Maine-bound plane.
First the plane is small. Not only small, it’s never full. But the people on the flight are overwhelmingly native. They’re Mainers through and through. I listen as the guy behind me talks to his neighbor. People talk to each other on Maine-bound planes. They talk with familiar accents and ask each other where they’re from.
“Oh your from Dover-Foxcroft? My cousin’s cousin lives there. I bet you know him. Bob’s his name.”
“Hell, Bob. Everybody knows Bob.”
This exchange goes on for sometime, at least halfway through the flight. Neighbors all over the plane carefully compare acquaintances, and always act somewhat surprised by their commonality. By the end of the flight, they feel like they’ve known each other for years because they’re familiar with so many of the same people and places.
Someone a few rows away might interject into another person’s conversation if they are particular close to an aforementioned person, or if they discover they live in the next town over. No one views this as eavesdropping or creepy. We’re a family on the plane — a Maine family.
Later in my flight, a woman woke up suddenly when a small boy – only about a year old – gurgled and screeched with delight. It was his first plane ride, and the small plane could not settle his need to tell stories or move around. On other flights, she would have been disgusted, annoyed. But this gray-haired, frazzled, Maine woman took the opportunity to embark upon a lovely game of peek-a-boo.
On a different flight, a man spent a full 20 minutes helping me try to find my phone. I was ready to give up before he was.
In short, the flight is filled with community. People engage with each other, knowing they’re not strangers. People are gracious and helpful.
And when the plane turns and we see the lapping ocean below, we all marvel as one collective group. People say good-bye as they exit the plane because we’ve all made new friends, and as I walk into the Portland Jet Port, a small, white sign with a moose and lobster reads: Welcome Home.
But I felt at home to moment I entered my Maine-bound flight.