Monday, September 30, 2013

Appearances on the Plane

It had been a long, long week on the road.  I was at the end of it; on my last leg of a three-legged trip to get me home.  I was flying from Billings, Montana to Minneapolis - and I was 1:45 away from getting back to the duck camp and my buddies.

I was seated in window at an exit row, and had someone seated in aisle.  When I had checked in earlier that day, I was heartened that the flight was not completely full, and that there was nobody seated in middle of our row.  Since it basically takes status or a paid upgrade to sit in the exit row last minute, I was hopeful that I'd be able to stretch out on the flight.

Those hopes were dashed in the form of a 6'2", 250 pound Montana native, with a linebacker's build and shoulders that went on for days.

He threw his girth into the middle seat, and instantly squished me against the window.  "Hey, theses seats got room down here," he said as he lifted his legs, "but none up here," he completed by leaning his broad shoulder into mine.

Judging by how he spoke, my bet was that the man cramming me into the window was a touch mentally challenged.  And, just my luck, he was a talker.

Immediately he started, "Whoa, that's a really nice shirt!  Where did you get a shirt like that?"  "I'm not exactly sure," I replied, "My wife bought it for me."  "Your wife?" he replied, "Man, she must love you!  What a shirt.  My wife would never buy a shirt like that for me.  In fact, I don't remember her buying me anything like that.  Not even close.  But I don't buy anything for her, but still, she never has..."

And on and on.

I hate talking on planes.  I'm an introvert, and a horrible one.  I just want to sit there with my Bose noise cancelling headphones and get to where I'm going.  When someone strikes up a conversation, I tense up as I know I'll soon run out of things to ask and there will ultimately be that awkward silence.  I'd much prefer a silent seat-mate.

But not this trip.

On and on my seat partner kept talking.  About his home, family, raising kids, work, everything.  And when he did so, he did so in a loud and inappropriate voice.  So much so, that a couple of people even turned around to look at who was making so much inappropriate noise.

The stories continued, and I tried to be as polite as possible; all the while dreaming of moving my headphones from around my neck to over my ears.  And the whole time I kept wondering to myself, "I wonder what's wrong with this guy?"

Almost immediately he told me.

"See this tooth?" he said while pointing to a mouth full of dental mess.  "I'm finally gonna get it fixed.  Gonna get all of them fixed.  I got a settlement in a wrongful termination case.  My old company discriminated against me due to my combat injuries.  But I won.  And now I'm gonna get my teeth back the way they used to be."

In looking more closely at his face, scars were now obvious.  They were even more so when he removed his cap to wipe his brow.  The guy sitting next to me was a soldier that had experienced some pretty damn significant trauma to his head in battle.

I felt, and still feel like, a total jerk.

By the end of the flight, we had hit it off, and my seatmate had actually invited me to hunt with him at his family's ranch - 100,000 acres in western Montana.  We slapped backs and parted ways, with him looking for his connecting flight, and me looking to understand what the hell happened to my humanity.


  1. Listen man, don't get down on yourself. We have all been there one way or another. Like asking an overweight female when she's expecting, or the guy who stepped in front of me on a concessions line followed by me asking if he was blind, in which he turned around and took off his darkened glasses to reveal cataract covered irises. They are all the little pre-judgements we make before really getting to the core of the person in question. It doesn't make us bad people at all. They are lessons that make us think. These instances help to prevent us from inserting our nikes in our mouths yet again. It's okay. And from what I gather, you completely redeemed yourself in finally figuring out this dude was a good guy who had been through a lot. If only the rest of us could learn from our errors. Keep the faith YPD.

    1. Completely off subject, but I have to say, I hope tomorrow we are treated to a righteous post pertaining to Nobamacare. Govt shutdown whatever. I'll support anything to prevent this unpopular, toilet paper worthy legislation anyday.


Please feel free to include any thoughts you may have. Know, however, that kiddos might be reading this, so please keep the adult language to yourself. I know, for me to ask that language is clean is a stretch...