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  • After a flight I gave a stranger my phone number. 
  • We went on a date and shortly after I flew to San Francisco to see him. 
  • We’ve been married for 25 years and have an adult daughter. 

Dressed in a navy blue skirt and conservative black heels, I buckled my seat belt on a flight from Portland to New York and started building my fortress.

My window seat ensured I’d have at least one side without a neighbor. On the other, I crammed my briefcase into the space by my armrest, so it formed a wall between me and the middle seat. Then I unfolded a newspaper. My efforts formed a tent that said, “Privacy, please.”

As a frequent flyer, I knew how to avoid a seatmate talking nonstop for 10 hours when all I wanted was to read my book. I wasn’t expecting to meet a stranger that would change my life.

A guy sat near me

The flight was about to take off when a guy my age rushed onto the plane. He wore a sloppy periwinkle t-shirt, and his hair was a mess. Our eyes met briefly when I heard the flight attendant urging him to hurry. He plunked into an aisle seat and settled in. Miraculously, no one claimed the seats next to me, so I disassembled my tent. In six hours, I’d be back in my cozy apartment for the first time in a month.


An hour later, on the pretext of stretching my legs, I walked up the aisle to get a closer look at the guy who almost missed his flight. He was laughing at something his seatmate said and glanced at me through the thickest glasses I’d ever seen. His smile felt like a magnet. After lunch, he paced the aisle too, steeling looks at me before returning to his seat.

Lights dimmed, and the movie started. Back then, everyone on a long flight watched the same film. We were landing when he sat down next to me. “So,” he said, grinning, “what’d you think of the movie?” He’s bold, I thought, dropping in like he owns the place.

I gave him my phone number

“I liked it,” I said. We talked for only a minute before he had to dash back. But first, he handed me his phone number, and I scribbled mine on the back of my card. As a joke, I added, “For a good time, call me,” and wondered if he’d see it. After we landed, I saw the back of his head disappear into the sea of humanity at JFK. This stranger is named Gary, a freelance cinematographer from San Francisco.

Two nights later, we ate dinner in midtown. “Spend the day with me tomorrow,” he said. But I couldn’t. My sister was visiting, and I wouldn’t ditch her.


The following weekend, though, I flew to San Francisco, my first behind-the-scenes experience on a film shoot. While the crew shot take after take, I counted the minutes until I could kiss the director. Six months later, I quit my job, moved to California, and started life as a freelance consultant.

We’ve been married for 25 years

Both of us wanted a passive income to tide us over between work projects when we found a fixer-upper laundromat for sale. On our very first day, it flooded. Even the parking lot was underwater. We bought new equipment, fixed the plumbing, and painted walls. Then, we opened a drop-off service and procured a delivery van. Soon, hotels, massage therapists, and wineries solicited our service, and revenues outstripped earnings from our professional work.

Gary and I have been married for 25 years, and our daughter is on her way to becoming a filmmaker. I’ve never returned to corporate work and still have a soft spot for that in-flight movie, “A Simple Twist of Fate.” It’s a heartwarmer with Steve Martin about how a single moment can change everything.

Nancy Brier is an entrepreneur who lives in Southern California. For more of her work, please visit www.NancyBrier.com