Entry 1 Italy and Slovenia Fall 2009

US Airways Flight  704 

Monday, October 19

Alessandro Barbera

Charlotte to Frankfurt

Perhaps you’re like me? If you get seat 7H you are hoping for an opportunity to engage 7G in a conversation. As I entered the plane, I immediately sized up what I might be up against. There she was a little tiny, college aged girl with her bright green and rather ugly hat on askew in a rather (like almost everyone else her age) individualistic manner. She was already plugged in and scrolling her IPOD while surfing her IPHONE. She also has a copy of Dan Brown’s, “The Lost Sign,” opened in the middle. Grudgingly, she rose, stepped into the aisle so I took my seat next to the window. After settling in I tried to launch a conversation and was met by curt answers and back to her music, messages and fiction.

I have heard that people hate to fly next to a Christian. In fact, there have been Advice columns designed to help people politely ignore seatmates they would prefer not to talk to. I am one of those people.

It was at this point that there was some kind of commotion in the aisle with a very large (did I say large?) man talking aggressively with the little Korean (I think) Purser who happened to be absolutely splendid in handling oversized German men. I finally figured out what it was all about. Because of his size (about six foot eight and three hundred (schnitzel heavy but not bratwurst fat pounds) he was attempting to wrangle two seats in the bulkhead. There were none to be had. 

In the first seat of the second row was a young guy wearing one of those orange deer hunting ball caps. The hat was obviously too large for him and with his dark brown and almost black rather page boy haircut hanging out of it – he politely stood to offer his seat which the large German did not want anyway. Yet, the gesture seemed to offer an avenue for negotiation and all sorts of people were suddenly anxious to offer theirs as well. In the end there was a game of musical chairs with the German unhappy all the same since he was unable to gain two seats in the bulkhead, one for himself and another for his wife. With his one seat on the outside, aisle right in the bulkhead and his petite wife in the rear someplace, he took his seat and all was quite again and I was stuck with the little precocious, hip-hop, ball capped, fluent in German, college girl in the Purdue University sweatshirt.

I wish I had pictures!

This was the state of things for another five minutes until the Purser returned to the big German, whispered in his ear to which he quickly rushed to a seat in first class. Who said that it doesn’t pay to complain? Now, with this move she asked the young fellow in the orange cap to move to one of the two free seats in the bulkhead while she would move the German’s wife to his seat which he did. As the young man bent over I happened to see a large portion of his underwear (the term “under” means virtually nothing anymore), an Italian flag of red, white and green. Of course, I had already surmised as much as his accent had given him away.

When he took seat two and put on his bright turquoise ear phones I removed myself (my young female acquaintance was thrilled to have the entire two seats to herself), I slid into the now vacant aisle, bulkhead seat beside him.

I said, “Buona Sera!” to which he happily responded and for the next hour or so, we talked about what why he was in America and why he spoke English so well. Turns out that he is Italy’s top BMX athlete / performer and just returning to Torino from Orlando where he was in some sort of world competition. With these accomplishments most Italian males would be overly proud of themselves but my new friend, Alessandro Barbera remained his smiling, friendly, earthbound self.

I tried everything I could think of to get to him. He never asked one question and there was not a leading question that brought him to an avenue for the gospel. Though he didn’t understand it, he was a little curious about what I did, liked my artwork, we exchanged cards and he, swallowed by his turquoise earphones commenced to watch a spy thriller. Near the end of our eight hour ride and the media now off and the lights on with a Danish and coffee in front of two-hundred and thirty-eight, weary travelers I asked the German boys on the other side of us where they had been though I knew it to be San Diego. I had listened to them in the waiting room and overheard them say. The evangelist is always watching and listening.

Once the older of the brothers replied I further inquired what he was reading, an enormously thick book of about seven hundred pages. He proudly responded by showing me the cover and telling me that he was reading Sarte and a student of philosophy. This was a door opened big enough for me to go through so I began asking him questions regarding existentialism and free thought. I quickly demonstrated that there was no such thing as a free thought and few of us come to any personal opinion on our own. In a pleasant and favorable way I was able to show him how we are influenced at every move. I started by explaining to him that in cities like New York, Paris, London and Milan there are people gathered in board rooms deciding that in about three years time we will (almost everyone in the world) suddenly like the color “egg plant” purple or perhaps uncomfortable, tight legged pants. I proved that people were actually in cahoots on this sort of thing. I was able to show him by other examples how all of us are  being massaged in one way or another. This is called, social engineering. It is not only Madison Avenue but entire governments and educational institutions conspire to take advantage of you. There are people who actually determine how we should think about things. When I got to the university, supposedly the freest place on the planet, I convinced him that they didn’t mind if he graduated with more intelligence than that with which he came but what they really hope for – their main product (outcome) – is a certain kind of world citizen who will be agreeable to a rather universal way of looking at the meaning of all of life.

I didn’t know it but while I was talking over my young Italian friend, Alessandro, was all the while, taking it in. When we parted and left the plane, he waited for me and walked with me saying, “That was very interesting, what you were saying to those dudes.” As we walked went through customs and security we had LOTS of time for follow-up. He promised to stay in touch and stop by Charlotte at some point in the future. He gave me his card and it appears that he is a fairly significant fellow as far as the flipping of bicycles might go. He is sponsored by Red Bull, Fiat and a dozen other major corporations.

Here is my point for all of you out there. Over hearing the Gospel is a useful methodology so when together at a table in a restaurant, in a classroom, in every situation, in season or out of season, discuss together the Gospel. People overhear you. His word does not return unto Him void. His Word accomplishes His purposes. A word fitly spoken is like apples in pitchers of silver.”

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