I particularly apologize to anyone I sat next to on a plane before they allowed us to keep our electronics on airplane mode before take off. Now I can turn on my teen movies (Twilight, Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect, etc.) and practice deep breathing and counting and keep my weirdness mostly contained. But before this I always had to make at least cursory polite conversation with a person sitting next to me. This was not part of my quest to be a nicer person. I had a totally self-serving motivation: if we hit turbulence I wanted someone I could grab onto and talk with until we hit smooth air again. I have "accidentally" grabbed a stranger's hand/arm if they were on the armrest and just not let go. No shame. No regrets. I was your nightmare air passenger.
But occasionally this would backfire on me and I'd end up in conversation with my seatmate for the entire flight. Because this was something I faced fairly often, I developed a pretty refined set of rules about this. If the flight is under 1.5-2 hours and we keep up the conversation past takeoff, I turn myself over to the experience and let it happen. Think Elsa singing let it go. Sometimes these things just need to happen.
This is how I made friends with a lady that hugged me after our flight (a full frontal two-armed hug). This is how I made friends with a lady that gave me a stack of Chik-fil-a coupons. This is how I made friends with an old man that tried to set me up with his grandson (he was a teenager... so a no-go). This is how I made friends with an older gent that suffered from gout (and how I learned what gout is). This is how I made friends with a businessman who got kicked out of Canada (he didn't have the correct business paperwork). The list goes on. These are instances where my niceness wins out.
The flip side to this rule is that if the flight is longer than 2 hours, I will try to end it, because I really only want you as my safety net. In other words, we don't need to be besties, I just need to establish some sort of relationship so I can casually play off a future awkward encounter. As in "oh goodness, I'm so sorry I didn't mean to grab your hand! It was just on the armrest and I hate turbulence, so I just grabbed it. Oh why, yes I've always hated turbulence, let's chat about it in this breathy high pitched voice I use when trying to keep calm and hope you pick up this conversational ball for the next 45-60 seconds." Is that so wrong?
In these situations, I let RBF out in full force. This had to happen when a lady kept trying to show me home videos on a flight to Paris. She also cried during take off. I'm bad, but I'm not THAT bad. This past flight (65 minutes) I sat next to a fascinating man that installs museum exhibits. I had so many questions! How does one get in to such a field? Were you a mover? A museum curator? An archeologist? How much do you travel? Where do you travel? What's the coolest thing you've ever installed? What's the most fragile? What's your favorite museum? Did you watch Night at the Museum? Do you think they really come to life at night? Ben Stiller - better in Night at the Museum or Zoolander? Do you struggle with spelling museum like I do? Don't worry, I didn't ask that last one. Instead I watched Pitch Perfect 2 with one headphone in so that I could simultaneously talk to him and laugh out loud to myself. The perfect combination.