Travel Demons, Me, and Projectile Vomit.
I was sitting today at Sacramento International Airport, and a gentleman sat down next to me. Directly next to me.
Now, there were 80 empty seats in the very posh gate area, but he decided that seat next to me was way better than the empty one across the way. I was listening to my music, jiving to It’s a Good Day to Swim (or something like that). I could tell he was talking to me because his lips were moving and he was looking at me.
I guess I have to respond. I pulled the earphones from my lobes.
“That’s a big carry on bag,” he said, indicating my camera bag (which is a huge Tumi roller board), “way bigger than mine.”
Ok, he didn’t look special needs. He looked very normal. Greying hair, a greying beard, shorter build, dressed well.
I bit. “Well, it’s my camera bag, full of equipment,” I said, giving it a kick, “and so is this monster.”
“I have tomatoes in mine.”
And with that, he told me all about his journey to find the perfect tomato, a luscious vegetable (theyy are vegetables, right? Or are they fruits? Whatever) he’d grown up with but never could quite find. On this trip, EUREKA, at a fruit stand — he found the exact heirloom variety he’d been hunting since he was a kid.
It was THAT tomato that was in the bag. The distant relative of the tomato he grew up with. And, he was taking it to his brother. Together, they would harvest the seeds, and grow a field.
This just proves I am my mother’s son. People always talk to my mom — and she can’t HELP but talk back. Interesting people. Weird people. But all of them with a story.
I was on my way to Las Vegas, NV from Baltimore, MD, on the last non-stop flight to leave on a Friday evening. I was rejoicing. I’d grabbed up a primo seat in the very front row, the one where you sacrifice a tray table for extra leg room, and the middle seat next to me was EMPTY. AND, they had slammed shut the cabin door. That means it would remain EMPTY the entire 5 plus hours to Las Vegas.
Pound. Pound. Pound.
Someone was pounding on the cabin door.
Pound. Pound. Pound.
The flight attendant, who was starting to organize the safety information, looked over at the door. She heaved, and opened it.
“THANK YOU,” said the late arriving passenger, “OH MY GOD, I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO MISS THE PLANE.”
The flight attendant pursed her lips, and told her to be seated.
Of course, she plopped in the first seat she saw, the middle one directly next to me. She wedged herself in.
And burst into tears. She cried the entire way to Las Vegas. I tried the “I’m listening to my music” trick, but she kept talking to me, anyway.
5 plus hours. I’ve never sat in that front row since.
“Why are you heading to Las Vegas?” I asked the cool looking woman next to me as we flew from Nashville toward Sin City.
“I’m opening a restaurant on the strip,” she replied, and then gave me details of everything — the menu, the wines she’d be serving, who would be working there, where it was going to be located, what the logo would look like, everything.
On another trip, I tracked down the restaurant. I was shown a primo table when I produced the card the owner had given me on the plane, ratty from riding in my wallet for several months.
The food was absolutely horrible. Worse, it wouldn’t stay down, and I had to sleep next to the toilet in my hotel room.
“What do you do?” asked the heavy set African American sitting next to me, sharing the exit row. I told him, babbling on about event photography and the business.
“And, you, Sir, what do you do?” I asked.
“I’m the President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.”
“Really?” I said, now totally intrigued, “I graduated from UMBC.”
With that, we compared notes — and I was invited to speak at the campus about starting my own business.
“Excuse me,” said the well dressed man next to me, “but have you found the word of Jesus our savior?”
“No,” I said, “but I did find $5 in these jeans that must have been washed with the clothes. Isn’t finding lost money soooooo coooool?”
He never uttered another word.
The kids jumped up and down on the seat directly in back of me, pulling my headrest up and down and screaming. Matthew got up and moved to another row, I sucked it up.
When we reached Las Vegas, everyone tried to make a beeline for the door, something impossible to do on an airplane.
“Oh, kids, you were soooooo gooood on this flight,” said the mom of the monsters in back of me.
“Yes,” I said (very quietly, I’ll have you know) to Matthew, “their heads didn’t spin around and they didn’t projectile vomit.”
“THAT IS NOT FUNNY SIR!” Screamed the mother, “THAT IS NOT FUNNY AT ALL. OBVIOUSLY YOU DO NOT FLY A LOT.”
I just looked at her as she continued to give me a dressing down. I turned my back to go down the plane, up the jetway, she continued. In fact, she didn’t stop until I went into the mens room.
The next morning at the Golden Nugget’s Starbucks, I was getting my morning coffee.
“I’ll buy that!” said the man in back of me, “I got it covered!”
I looked at him, not sure where this was going. “I was on your flight,” he explained, “and you are so funny! And, you were so right!”
The man reached over, around my seat, and shut the blind to my window.
I got up from my seat, turned around, and looked back, shocked.
“Oh, I’m sure you don’t mind,” he said, “I’m trying to sleep.”
“Actually, I do mind. That’s why I sit next to the window — to look out.” I opened the blind.
He didn’t say a word, but took his air vent, and the air vent next to him — two of those little jet nozzles — and turned them directly onto my shaved head.
They remained that way, blowing cold air on colder head, the entire flight to Las Vegas.
My window shade remained open. I pulled a hat out of my bag, and stuck it on my head.
Sometimes you just want to listen to music as the world slips by under the jet’s wings. Sometimes. But, here’s the thing. You do meet the most interesting people on the road. Some are nice. Some a little crazy. I actually try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think people that don’t travel a lot just get nervous. They become possessed by some travel demon. They are sure they must get their bag as it drops right at the mouth of the luggage carousel. They are positive they will be stripped searched at TSA. And they become INDIGNANT when I bypass them in line (hello, FLY BY!) and get in front of them at the ticket counter. I get it. The travel demon’s possession is temporary. I’m sure they revert back to their normal selves upon leaving the rental car check out lane. But not one second before then.
Truth be told, I still love to travel — travel demons aside. I guess I am my mother’s son. No, this seat is not taken. You are welcome to it. Please…sit. What did you say you do? My music can wait.