Illustration: Adobe Stock

Our options are slim while strapped in a confined space on a long flight, right? We can watch movies, work, sleep, listen to music, have one too many, or check out the line for the bathroom.

Almost everyone can recall being stuck next to a stranger who wouldn’t stop talking. The opposite happened to me on a nine-hour flight home from Europe. Nobody talked to me—heaven. (I was close enough, after all.)

I viewed two movies and finished my book. I thought about writing a column but decided against it. Maybe it was exhaustion, but my brain felt flat. Searching my brain, aka the “inner workings” of Ceil would have been an exercise in futility.

The drone of the plane’s engines made me feel sleepy. I sat back, closed my eyes and fully expected to drift off. Didn’t happen!

I perked up when I overheard a conversation between two women in the adjoining seats. OK, I tried not to listen, but the conversation was so titillating that I became wide-awake. It was the real-life version of “50 Shades of Grey.”

I’ll skip the details and give you the Cliff Notes version. One gal was leaving her husband after she caught him messing around. The other gal felt like a coward. She packed her things and neglected to tell her live-in boyfriend that she was moving out of state with a new guy.

When it was time to deplane, one gal said to the other: “It was nice talking to you.” The other answered: “Likewise.” And that was it!

As I watched them go their separate ways, the realization that they were strangers shocked me. Who hangs their dirty laundry out on a plane, and why?

I wonder: How many intimate conversations fall on the not-too-deaf-ears of hairdressers, manicurists or bartenders? I’ll bet the number is staggering.

I suppose, you’re not going to discuss your extramarital affair with your spouse. In that case confessing to an outsider may be cathartic. But remember: When it comes to letting the infidelity cat out of the bag, the secret-sharer is just as much to blame for blabbing as the person who betrays their trust.

Confiding in strangers is a no no for me; confiding in family or friends can be tricky. C’mon, confidences are broken, daily. It’s the “I heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend” scenario.

If you have been a recipient of this kind of betrayal, it’s my guess that “friend” isn’t your friend anymore. Once trust is broken, it takes a lot of patch work to repair it—and sometimes, it doesn’t hold together.

Folks, why do customers confide in their hairdressers, manicurists’ bartenders or strangers? Are we lonely in our marriages, friendships or relationships and in desperation turn to whomever will listen?

My uneducated guess is we are intuitively healing ourselves of broken trust by seeking intimacy that we no longer believe in. So, our hairdressers, manicurists, bartenders or the “lucky” stranger become our priest or therapist.

Confiding in a spouse, partner, friend or family member and sensing that they don’t understand us can be unsettling. We’ve all been there at least once in a lifetime—and once is enough!

If you are pouring your heart out to a (…fill in the blank) who we think is listening and they abruptly change the subject it’s off=putting at best. The trap door to our heart snaps shut and we are silenced.

I am going to take some poetic license and give my own interpretation of Frank Sinatra’s hit song: “One More for my Baby and one more for the Road.”

I visualize a guy or gal walking into a dark bar. The bartender is a tad bored and resigned to making drinks until the wee hours.

It’s no surprise to the bartender when the customer says: “Set ‘em up Joe, I got a little story you should know, we’re drinkin’ my friend to the end of a brief episode….” And then the verbal upchucking.

The bartender may hear about someone’s affair, illegitimate kids, time in prison, family secrets, feuds….and yada yada.

Seems like we are afraid of intimacy. We will share with strangers on social media, but often, we don’t share intimate details with family and friends.

I am not jaded, but careful. I have, like many, been burned both ways by knowing too much—someone just had to tell me something for my own good or having a confidence breached.

Frederick Nietzsche says it well: “There will be a few people when at a loss for topics of conversation will reveal the more secret affairs of their friends.”

And there you have it — and I have my column.

This proves my hypothesis: Even secrets we hear by eavesdropping have wings!

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.