The People You Meet On The Journey: Part III

Heebie-jeebies, I really need to get back to a writing schedule. I am teh suxxorz.

My final leg home consisted of a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Dulles. After hugs with Mindy I took the Dallas SkyLink to my gate. There were a bunch of high school kids, a few guys from Lockheed and your usual assortment of travelers. One of them stood out from the rest. He was a stockily built man with a camouflage backpack, baseball cap and wearing his sunglasses indoors.

As we boarded the plane I slinked into my window seat and made myself as comfortable as possible. Who should be my traveling partner but the guy with the baseball cap. He was a big ol’ boy and we made fun of the fact that if I fell asleep and accidentally nudged him he’d snap my neck. Which brings me to one of the odd parts of this flight – the arm rest between the seats wasn’t down. The large fellow said he didn’t care about it so we wound up taking the entire flight sitting next to each other with nothing to set a boundary between us.

It turns out the guy’s name is Jason. He was from Louisiana and had just spent 6 weeks in the states enjoying himself. It turned out that Jason worked a security firm and was on his way back to Iraq. We talked a lot during our trip and I got to find out a lot about him.

Jason has 2 young daughters, ages 4 and 7, that saw him off at the airport. He said it killed him to have to say good-bye to them. They were the reason that he was going back. He was in the service before, took a few years off to work as a painter and then came to the conclusion that he needed to provide a better life for his littler girls. So he is doing what he thought was best – sacrificing himself for his family. This is his third year/tour and he has no idea what is in store for him.

We sat there talking with the sun slowly hiding from the horizon. We played a game of ‘what would you do if a terrorist was on board’ and ‘who on the plane do you think has explosive in their underpants?’ whenever someone walked by. We shared stories from magazines. I bought us beers. We laughed and talked and joked.

And then he cried.

At that point, there really isn’t much that I could do so I let him cry. After a few somber minutes and quiet talk about his family’s future we started chatting away again. Before you knew it the plane was landing and it was time to part ways. Once we were off the plane and out in the terminal this big, burly man shook my hand and then hugged me, all the while thanking me for the good company.

I don’t know how or why but people like to talk to me. They feel comfortable and let down those barriers that people normally erect to keep out strangers. I feel like a much richer person for it.