Friday, January 20, 2017

Grapes on a Plane

So, today is the coronation of our new dictator.

I'm not happy about it, and as a result, I'm not happy with people in general. Add rushed airport travel into that general demeanor and I just wanted the whole rest of the world to go away as I sat in the O'Hare airport two full hours before my flight yesterday, bored to tears and ready to snap the neck of the next motherfucker who snapped their gum.

Just lovely and charming all around, I'll admit it. Being frisked twice in 24 hours will do that to you.

I had moved seats four times in the search of a more comfortable spot, before acquiring a highly coveted end row seat with a small table attached, with an empty seat beside it where I deposited my bags, creating my own personal moat to keep people at bay.

I was reading and some guy lumbered up, approaching the seat beside the one my bags were in. In a moment of softness, I emptied the chair between us in case a companion was joining him.

He set his grapes and water on it. I gave it a sideways glance and returned to my book.

"Thanks so much for making room for me," he said, too loudly.

"Not a problem. Always a long day in places like this," I said, barely looking up.

"I'll share my grapes since you shared your space."

I looked into the container his germy hands were in and looked up at him to politely decline.

He was older, maybe mid-60s, and his face was badly scarred, like it had been cut off and sewn back on. He was smiling broadly and obviously eager to talk. He reminded me of my dad. I set down my book and asked where he was going.

He told me about his youngest son who had just become a doctor and moved out to Phoenix. It's too hot for him in Phoenix but he's so proud of his boy and his new wife that he goes as often as possible.

I told him that I was there for a job interview and that it was too cold for me in Chicago and he agreed, despite living there his whole life, and we talked about Florida and how he dreams of retiring there -- "although I'll never be able to actually retire," he clarified. Same, I said.

I described our beaches and he grilled me about the humidity and the differences between coasts. We talked about our favorite beaches around the world and the places we had traveled and what we loved about each.

He did something in sales involving waste management that was becoming obsolete due to government contracts and I joked that it sounded like the Sopranos and he laughed a big belly laugh and said, yes, not far off but less glamorous and asked what I did. "I'm a writer specializing in content marketing," I explained. He shook his head and said he doesn't do computers but he could tell I liked my work by how I smiled when I said that, and he bet I was good at it, whatever it was.

About half an hour into our conversation, he said, "You know, this is nice. No one ever wants to talk. Everyone's on their little computers all the time. Seems like the only strangers who want to talk are the ones who want something."

He clarified that he wasn't hitting on me and I assured him that I knew and was very taken anyway, and that I was enjoying his company too.

"You sure you don't want some grapes? We got an awful long time left."

I took some grapes, mostly because he really wanted me to and also because I was hungry.

He told me how he was in Vegas and a guy approached him while he was playing a machine, and gave him a sob story. "I'll give you 20 bucks to go away, I told him. Don't come back. And I looked down and won $27,000. He came back."

"NO WAY! It was karma!"

He scoffed. "It wasn't. I wanted to get rid of him. I give lots of people $20 to go away."

"Would you give me $20 to go away?"

"No, because I don't want you to go away. I'd give ya $20 if you need it though. Do you?" He asked with concern and I laughed and assured him that I didn't, just checking.

We ate more grapes.

"So what did you do with the $27,000?" I asked. "Save it or spend it on something big?"

"If I was the kinda guy to save it, would I be flying Spirit?" Probably not, I agreed.

He told me about his past as a bookie, and how you had to call a dedicated number and all of the guys' code names like Joey Monkey Nuts and Billy Ball Buster. About how the internet had ruined it all, and that's one of the many reasons he hates computers. Then he hastily added, "Sorry, I know it's your work and all," as if I might take that personally.

"I get it," I said. "And sounds like Goodfellas or something."

He laughed again and nodded. "But less glamorous." He added. "It's all fun and games until you owe someone meaner than you lots of money." I told him that I've had that same experience myself, on a much less glamorous level.

"Yeah, life ain't easy, is it? You're a good girl, though, you've got a good head on your shoulders. You'll do alright."

We were on separate flights and mine left first. I stood up to leave and he told me his name was Randy and asked for mine. I extended my hand and introduced myself.

"Ashley, I hope this isn't creepy but I'm gonna miss you these next 15 minutes while I wait. Have a good life and when I don't retire in Florida, I'll swing by Naples."

"I'll miss you too. This was nice. Come golf and enjoy the warmth."

I'm glad he made me put down my drawbridge so he could set his grapes there.

No matter who is in charge or what is happening on a grand scale, there are millions and millions of nice people who are genuine and kind just like Randy and my job is find them and love them, even if they're kind of annoying at first.

Let's all be the kind of people who would share our grapes and our lives at the airport.

No comments: