I think all the best character studies start with crooked politicians, twisted sex, or a fallen UFO.
But, I met this one dude on an airplane that caused my world to spin. It was pre-9-11 so you might understand some of the gaps.
I mean this guy really caused me to reset my thinking bobber to zero, forget my childhood, and think about life and where I was wasting mine.
It was on a flight to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I had a consulting gig up there with an unnamed computer company. My gig is physics, but I had to know the hardware, firmware, software, and device drivers.
Forensic science it was. Quite the trip based on oodles of Geek time gained over years, with the studying of facts that most normal people will go to sleep over. (My wife used to say I was better than sleeping pills)
Anyway, they call the flight, I grab my toolbox of goodies, and head as quick as they will let me for 13C. I am on the tallish side, claustrophobic as hell, and would rather get licked by a team of chickens than to board an airplane.
I throw my toolbox in the overhead, drag out my newest book by King, reading glasses, my earphones and ready my “nest” for the next couple of hours.
You know that brief time when the center seat is empty, and you think you co-own it with the window person?
Yep, I was feeling like sprawling a bit, spreading my hips, and legs, and arms and nest into 13B.
This dude suddenly appeared at my arm rest, seeming to want to climb over my legs.
I sprang into action,
“Wait, wait, you need in? Let me get out of the way!”
He clambered over me anyway and with a whoosh of relief, he was in 13B.
I had to rebuckle that damned seat belt anyway, while he was inhaling gallons of air. Obviously, he had sprinted to make the flight.
Though I was mightly irritated, I decided I needed to calm down to be the good passenger in the next seat.
I began, “Hi, I am Nick. Are you going to Minneapolis for work or play?
He stared straight ahead allowing me to measure him in my mind.
Straight brown hair, with thick geek glasses, the leaves also thick to support the weight.
Skinny, maybe a buck forty, and shortish, maybe 5’7”.
His skin got my attention.
It was about the same color as those little fishes they dig out of that protected cave in Arizona. You know? The blind ones, because neither they nor their genes have seen sunlight in maybe a zillion years. The ones that stopped any progress within 50 miles to preserve their tiny useless butts?
The 737 plane door closed.
People were settling into their nests.
The flight attendants came on the PA.
“Welcome to Delta air, our flight time is expected to be 2 hours and 47 mins, please follow along on the safety briefing card in your seatback…………”
You know the drill.
They finish, the pilot does his thing……. “We are so happy to be serving you this evening…..”
Then, my Martian speaks up,
“So, this flight is going to Minneapolis?” His eyes never look my way.
I consider my most intelligent response,
“Well, yeah! Where did you think it was going?”
He said, and I quote,
“I was trying for Memphis!”
“Memphis? Why would you get on a flight to Minneapolis if you were trying for Memphis? Oh, right, they share the same first letter!” I asked as innocently as I could.
But, the hairs on my arm were already standing up.
I had a mother in law that could go from sane to crazy before you could smell the coffee while you were still dreaming of Brenda, the office manager.
“Well, I can make Minneapolis work, I have time.” He said comfortably.
They are miles apart. How can you make them work?” my concern level was rising.
He says, just like he was talking to a 5-year-old child,
“It really doesn’t matter where I am, I can make it work!”
The little yellow tractor backed us away from the gate, and I knew my last good chances for getting off were gone, now.
He and I, sat in a very uncomfortable silence, while the plane taxied to a central route where we waited in a long line to take off.
“This is your captain again, we only have one in front of us now, we will be leaving the ground very soon! I hope you enjoy your flight time with us, we will certainly enjoy flying you there!”
My thought, “Will we make it? This might be my time to die!”
The power comes, we hurtle down the runway, ever faster, the front wheels leap off the runway, a few seconds later, the rear wheels leave.
We are flying!
More pregnant silence from 13B and 13C.
Finally, I had to ask.
“Dude, what do you do for a living that one city is as good as another? And, why did you make this flight at the last frigging second?”
He still will not turn his eyes my way, but he has become more visibly relaxed at this point.
“Well, I don’t own watches or clocks!’
So intelligently, I respond, “What? Well, how do you know when to catch a flight?”
He says, “Well, I guess. Sometimes I show up early, sometimes late!”
“But, you don’t know which city?”
He says, “Sometimes I guess at the day. You know, Tuesday or Wednesday? So, I guessed the time pretty close but missed the day for this flight?”
As the conversation continued, I found out he was:
A software designer – super geek.
Independently wealthy – a successful super geek.
Without any significant other – geez, I wonder why with the personality of toast?
Bought and sold his houses every two years – no load to weigh him down.
He did not own anything to carry into the houses – nothing to think about for his load.
He bought whatever furniture they had, window treatments and so forth.
Owned no pictures of his mother or father or possible siblings – no connections to earth!
Yes, that trip was only 2 hours and 47 or so, but I cannot tell you how glad I was for the wheels to touch down. I had been ordering all of the Vodka the flight attendants would let me have.
13B made my skin crawl and caused me to question every reason I was doing what I was doing.
Hell, I could run into Canada, and live in the woods with Woolf, Caribou and such.
I could eat tree bark, drinking from yonder creek.
I could throw every measuring device I had ever accrued in my life, to include my favorite Mickey Mouse watch.
Cars? Clothes? House? Wife? Children?
They were all just weight on my soul, dragging me down, causing me un-told troubles and anxiety.
In 13B, I had more than met my match.
I had met my Martian!
My life would never be the same.
Help me, Momma! I am coming home.