One might think I am digging into the archives and pulling out a line from the Twilight Zone movie. But, then, that line was actually “Wanna SEE something really scary.” Still, I can see where there might be some confusion.
The real story here is something that happened a few years ago that makes me wonder if common sense is a thing of the past. What brought this to mind was the fact that I have a note on my “to do list” that I need to print out my flight info and itinerary for an upcoming trip.
You see, as we know, I travel quite a bit to do book signings and the like. Very often this travel takes the form of climbing aboard an airplane. It has been my contention at times that I’ve logged more miles in the air than some flight attendants I know. While that’s certainly an exaggeration, I still think it gets my point across. I fly a lot…
So, there I was, in an airport, in some city, somewhere. That’s about as detailed as I can get because I make so many connections on some of these flights that they all run together. I can usually tell you which airports will have a Caribou Coffee (my preference over Starbucks) but that’s about it. My travels are just one big blur otherwise.
Anyway, there I was at my gate, waiting to board. I’m not sure if I was coming or going to be honest. But, that’s not really important. What is, however, is what happened as we lined up, checked through, and started down the jetway to the airplane.
A pair of kids were in front of me. Now, when I say kids I mean twenty-somethings. Like it or not, twenty-something is a kid to me. If you are twenty-something, get over it. (I’m saying that because I recently insulted a teen-something by pointing out that a song she was raving about was on the Top 40 better than 15 years before she was conceived. The amusing part is, when she eventually arrives in her 40′s, she understand…)
So, anyway, there we were plodding down the jetway. Shuffle, shuffle. Wait. Shuffle, shuffle. Wait, wait. You know the drill. In such close quarters you can’t help but hear conversations around you. Of course, I’ll admit that I eavesdrop all the time anyway. I’m a writer. But, my point is that I simply couldn’t help but overhear the young lady lamenting the fact that she was seated several rows behind her co-worker, instead of next to him.
“I wonder if we can ask the flight attendant who is seated in 12B*,” she said.
As it happened, I was the person assigned to sit in 12B. Feeling magnanimous, purely because I know what it’s like to travel so much and have to sit next to people you don’t know – (remind me to blog about the woman who slept on my shoulder for two hours, and no, it wasn’t E K) – I spoke up.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Believe it or not, I’m sitting in 12B.”
“Really?!” she exclaimed as she turned around. “Would you be willing to trade seats with me?”
“Sure,” I said. “What’s your assignment.”
“Good deal,” I replied. “I’ll take 18A and you take 12B.”
“Thank you!” she said.
Now, you’d think that would be the end of it, but if it was then this wouldn’t be much of a blog, would it?
A few seconds passed and the young lady turned back around and said, “Here, take this so you know where to sit.”
The “this” as it turned out, was her itinerary. It wasn’t something she needed, apparently, since she was on the last leg of her flight, however, that’s not the issue. I told her I could remember 18A without having the slip of paper, but still she insisted. And, as you might have guessed, even THAT is not the issue here.
I looked at the paper and sighed. Then I folded it up and held it in my hand, because I was about to convince her to take it back.
“You know, Gwen,” I said. “You really need to be a little more careful.”
She turned around with a surprised look on her face. “How did you know my name?”
“I know all kinds of things about you, Gwen,” I replied. “I know that your last name is Harlan. I know that you live on Sandpiper Avenue in apartment 3D. And, you know what? I have your phone number too.”
Gwen backed away from me as far as the crowded jetway would allow. “Who are you? You’re scaring me.”
Her male traveling companion was glaring at me and trying to puff himself up a bit. I was at least heartened to see that chivalry wasn’t completely dead.
“Good,” I told her. “I want you to be scared, because you just made a huge mistake.” I held the itinerary back out to her. “You just handed me, a complete stranger, a document containing all of the information that I just spouted back to you, and more.”
It took a second, but the oh shit expression appeared on her face and she took the offered itinerary back from me.
“I guess that was pretty stupid, huh?” she mumbled.
“Yes,” I replied. “No offense, but it was. For all you know I’m a sociopath. I could be a rapist or a serial killer.”
Sheepishly, she asked, “You aren’t… Are you?”
“Fortunately for you, no. I’m actually a guy who writes novels about sociopaths, so I’ve done a lot of research on how they think. But, again, for all you know I could just be telling you that.”
She said, “Well, you look normal.”
I nodded. “They always do.”
Gwen sat in 12B and I sat in 18A during the trip. She also gave me as wide a berth as she possibly could – which is saying something on an airplane – when making a trip to the restroom later. I know she thought I was “old creepy guy” that day, and I’d like to believe she still does. Why? Because maybe she’ll think twice before making that mistake again, for the next time instead of a harmless novelist with too much info in his head, the “old creepy guy” might really and truly be someone to fear.
More to come…
* For the record, I’m just pulling that seat assignment out of thin air. I can’t remember what it actually was… Also, the name, etc are made up too. I can’t remember those either, nor do I want to… And, before you ask, the answer is yes. This is where part of the conversation that took place at the NOLA library in LITB/TEOD was gleaned. The proposition portion of that fictional convo was taken from a different incident, with a different girl, at a different airport.
Like I’ve always said – some of this crap I just can’t make up…