The People You Meet On The Journey: Part I

I finally got everything packed in my luggage and backpack for my trip to SXSW. I thought I had everything planned and taken care of. I was set! I was ready! I was good to rock and roll!

I was wrong.

Regardless of all my meticulous planning and preparation I wound up forgetting a number of items integral to my trip. Favorite tattered baseball cap? Sitting on the floor of my truck. Newspaper to occupy my time and keep me from being crabby? Resting on the back seat of my truck, dutifully waiting for my return. SXSW welcome packet? In my brief case. At home.

All things considered it was progressing fairly well at the airport. That was until I ran into a long line at the security gate due to a bunch of University of Maryland students taking a trip and fucking around. Hey, tall muscular douchebag who thinks it’s funny to talk really loud and horse around with your buddies: I hope you burn in Hell.

This post isn’t about my trip. Instead, this is about the 4 people I met during each leg of my journey.

Dulles to Charlotte
My flight to North Carolina could have been a nice, peaceful, uneventful trip. Could have been. Have you ever opened a fresh canister of coffee in a small, confined place? As soon as you break the seal the smell of coffee seems to be everywhere? That was similar to what happened to me. There was one small problem. I wasn’t dealing with something as aromatic as coffee. The guy next to me literally crapped his pants. And I was in the window seat. Trapped.

I believe the fellow may have had Crohn’s disease or something. We were sitting up front in the plane and he could see that there was a short line of people waiting to go to the front restroom. I watched as he would lean out of his seat and look to the back of the plane as people would get up and walk to the rear restroom. Suddenly, he had a pained expression on his face and he blanched. Seeing a man of color turn white is truly an event not to be missed. Sweat started to bead on his brow and that’s when I realized: I’m sitting next to a pooper. At this point you can’t do much about it. If he was to get up it would have been infinitely worse, somewhat akin to running about on fire. However, rather than fire it would have been the stench of poop.

I wanted to leap out the window. I wanted to claw at it like a cat trying to scramble up a tree. I looked at him. He looked back at me mortified. I did the only thing I could: I asked the stewardess for a blanket. It was like trying to keep the contents of Pandora’s box down. Luckily, we were about 10 minutes from landing. After landing, I was the second to last passenger to leave. I think they took him outside after and used the giant hoses used for deicing the planes on him.

Charlotte to Austin
I rushed myself to the men’s room after landing and I tried to make sure I didn’t smell like crap. Whew! I was poop free! Confident that my 2.5 hour flight from North Carolina to Austin would be uneventful I spent my short layover looking at magazines and buying junk food. Oh, how I love a road trip!

To my surprise, I had the exact same seat on this plane as I did the last one. As I walked down the aisle I motioned to the smartly dressed older woman sitting in seat 3D to let her know that I was going to be next to the window. We smiled at each other and said ‘Hello’ as she got up and I slid into my seat, gently easing my backpack under the seat in front of me. As she moved to sit back down she bonked her head on the overhead compartment. I immediately said ‘I didn’t do it!’, to which she replied, ‘Yes, he did! He pushed me on the floor!’ and we both laughed. The arm rest between our seats was up and she asked if I wanted to put it down. I said it didn’t matter to me and with that we left it up.

Throughout the flight we would have a little bit of chit chat, talking about where we were going, who we were going to visit, my wife and dogs and her children and grandchildren. I noticed things about her: well dressed, shoulder length peppery hair, a penchant for hard cover romance novels and a book mark that said ‘Bridge is for people with passion’. After the first hour of our flight she whipped out the airplane neck pillow and started to try to nap sitting upright. As I sat reading the latest issue of Wired I could see her nodding forward and fidgeting. 10 minutes had passed and she startled herself awake, rubbing her neck.

I turned to her and said,”You know, if you’re really uncomfortable you’re more than welcome to lean against me. I really don’t mind.”

“Oh, no! That is so sweet of you but I’m fine.”

Not long after that brief conversation she successfully fell back asleep…leaning against my shoulder and hugging her neck pillow. She spent the next 45 minutes like that, blissfully asleep and occasionally letting out a light snore. About 5 minutes before we were to land she woke up, stretched and looked around, a little shy. She apologized by saying, “I am so sorry! I didn’t know that I was going to do that!”. We both laughed about it and kept each other company walking to baggage claim.

When it was all send and done, we exited the airport and I kept her company as she waited for her children to pick her up. However, right before she entered her daughter’s car she leaned into me and hugged me good-bye. Although it was a little bit out of their way they offered to drive me to my hotel but I graciously declined.

I mean, come on…that would have been weird 😉

Part II tomorrow.