March 12, 2003

A Not-So-Great Conversation After a

A Not-So-Great Conversation

After a long three days of shmoozing with technology vendors, all hawking their latest products, my body and mind simply wanted to shut down. My curiosity about Indianapolis had run its course. I wanted to be home, sipping a beer, reading Time Magazine. And, most of all, I wanted to trim down my freaking goatee, which had long since hit the prickly length that made my mouth feel as if it was encircled by a stubborn layer of Oreo crumbs.

For awhile, I thought I was going to enjoy a flight without anyone sitting next to me. I was envisioning sprawling out on two seats, sleeping heavily. Then, she arrived.

She was, perhaps, 50-years old. An unremarkable woman with short blonde hair, and a decent body that she wanted to show off by wearing brown leather pants. I wouldn't have noticed her at all, except she cracked the bridge of her nose on her carry-on luggage when she went to stow it in the overhead compartment. Stuff like that amuses me. She sat down next to me and asked, in a slight southern drawl, whether her nose was bleeding. It was red, but it wasn't bleeding. She seemed neither upset nor relieved about that. I dismissed her entirely and folded my jacket underneath my head and fell asleep against the window almost immediately.

About a half hour later, I awoke. I awoke because the blonde woman was talking. And talking. And talking. And talking. She was talking to the woman across the aisle, and it was obvious to me that the poor recipient of the conversation did not want to be the recipient of the conversation. I wasn't sure what they were talking about, but what I gathered seemed trivial. I tried to go back to sleep, but, just as I slid my head back down, the woman grabbed my thigh, an act that practically jolted me through the seat in front of me.

"Oh, I'm sorry" she said. "I just wanted to ask you if it would bother you if I turned on my reading light."

First off, who asks a question like that? It's her reading light. It's her seat. Why would I honestly care if she turned on her reading light. The question, of course, was just a pretext. She wanted a person to talk to, and she had exhausted her previous target, so I was next.

"Are you from Minnesota? I used to be from Minnesota, but I'm not any more. I live in Indy, but I spent 30 years living in Missouri. I'm just going to Minnesota to see my grandson. He's turning two in two days. His mother, my daughter, she's 28. Actually, I have two other daughters. One's 23 and the other is 20. Well, I have to sons, too, twins actually. They're both 25."

None of this I asked for. I didn't prod her for information about her family. I really didn't want to know any more about her beyond the fact that she cracked her nose with her carry-on while stowing it in the overhead compartment. Now, I understand that there are people in the world who are obsessive chatterers, and I usually have a way of dealing with them, usually by feigning the need to go to the bathroom, or pawning them off on some unsuspecting soul. But, on an airplane, I'm stuck. She was right there, right next to me. Even if I went to the bathroom, she'd still be there when I got back. I was stuck. I tried to be polite.

"Wow, that's a big family," I offered, hoping that would somehow end her soliloquy. Nope.

"My husband, well, soon-to-be ex-husband, he keeps in touch with them when he can, but he's pretty worthless. I was gonna drive up to Minnesota, but I have such a heavy foot, I would have eight speeding tickets before I even get out of the state. I don't understand cops pulling over speeders anyway. They're always speeding, so why the hell should they care if I'm going 90? I just don't get it. I also don't get the whole racial profiling thing. It's not about this. . . *pulls up shirt sleeve and points at skin*. . .skin color has nothing to do with anything. They need to find a way to racially profile a person's heart."

You can about imagine how I wanted to react to that little bit of. . . whatever you want to call that. Yes, the next great breakthrough in law enforcement: Heart Profiling. By this time, I think, my ears were bleeding. She kept talking, and talking, and talking. I wanted so desperately to be back asleep against the window. Why had she been so silent for about half an hour before becoming Mrs. Chatterworth? The answer:

"I was in the bathroom when they came by with the drink cart. I almost missed it. They came back and asked me if I wanted anything, and I said, 'you better believe it.' I asked for two vodkas and a Pepsi. Those drinks cost $4 each, but they're worth every penny. Flying makes me nervous. I need to relax. My boyfriend, well, former boyfriend I guess, he wouldn't fly for anything. Hated flying. He wasn't afraid to fly, but he didn't like taking chances with all the people who fly. You never know who's gonna get on an airplane."

"And sometimes the weird ones sit right next to you," I finally said, pitching an easy one across the plate for her to take a swing at, but she missed.

"Exactly. There's some pretty wacko people out there in the world, and it's scary to think they could be sitting right next to you. I tell my children all the time, even at their ages, to watch out for strangers. This is a tough world we live in, and you don't know what's coming around the corner. Like my upcoming divorce. Who sees that kind of thing coming? You try to build a life, and suddenly, bam, everything goes haywire. It's like this economy. My boyfriend, well, former boyfriend I guess, got laid off last month. Never even saw it coming. He kind of deserved it though."

By this time, I was desperately hoping for a distraction. Even a box-cutter wielding madman yelling "Allahu Akbar" would have sufficed. I would have been first in line to tackle him, and I would have silently thanked him as we grappled.

ME: Dude, I can't tell you how happy I am that you tried to hi-jack this plane. After we beat you senseless and tie you up, I'm going to take your seat, and you can sit next to the chatterbox from hell.

HIJACKER: That's cruel and inhumane! I'd rather be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

ME: Tough shit, my man. Wait until she starts telling you about her soon-to-be ex-husband, and her former boyfriend, and her litter of unfortunate children.

HIJACKER: Allah! Allah! Why have you forsaken me Allah?!!

Well, I won't further bore you with the droning details of her one-sided conversation, except to say she kept at it until we walking through the terminal, and I made a dash for the bathroom, even though I didn't actually have to go. So desperate was I to get away from her, and ensure she wasn't waiting for me, I sat in a stall, reading a Discover Magazine, for 10 minutes. I didn't go to the bathroom or anything. I just sat there, reading and silently praying that she would be gone.

And when I emerged, she was gone. Thank you God.

Posted by Ryan at March 12, 2003 03:14 PM
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