The flight from Bangkok to Frankfurt was half-full, and I had three seats to myself, room to stretch out, in theory. Yet even when the seats are empty, they are so rigid that it’s hard to relax and succumb to sleep.
In the row ahead of me was an older German couple. They both had white hair, and though I couldn’t hear most of their words, I could hear them each say “Bitte?” frequently. They sat with an open seat between them, her by the window, him in the aisle seat, and with the loud noise of the engine they could barely hear each other and had to keep repeating their words. I love the word bitte for its many uses—“please,” “you’re welcome,” and the way they were using it, more like “Pardon me?” or “Come again?” They sounded kind and respectful when they said it; they never devolved into an annoyed “Was?!” Continue reading