Friday, June 29, 2007

American Idle

Traveling on a regular basis finds me standing around a lot in airports waiting in line to board a plane or to order, perhaps, the world’s sorriest excuse for food – and pay money for it. I recall one winter evening ordering what I thought was a chilidog. It looked like a chilidog, and it even smelled like one. However, my taste buds warned me that it was, in fact, an impostor, but I plowed through it overtaken by hunger. My stomach later objected in an “I told you so” sort of manner all through my subsequent flight by sending gas bubbles back up my throat and out my mouth. I, of course, kept it as low key as possible, but be sure those sitting near me stealthily inched as far away from me as FAA regulations would allow. While the heartburn and subdued belching weren’t pleasant, I was successful in going through the entire flight without having to engage in small talk about how I look just like a Hollywood sex symbol or my seat mate’s take on aluminum foil versus Saran Wrap.

By no stretch of the imagination could I be called a “misanthrope”, which is a fancy word for someone who hates all mankind. There’s another name for such a person: Michael Moore. However, I must admit that traveling has caused me to be ever so wary of engaging practically anyone during my sojourns because on the outside a person could look like an easy-going, funny individual who in reality is the king of the take-no-breaths-run-on sentence or the queen of the never-ending story. There are others lurking about whom you would do well to avoid – do not make eye contact if at all possible:

  1. Ms. Coincidence: The conversation will start out innocently enough, but if she senses (usually subconsciously) any lag she will start pointing out coincidences the two of you share. “I see you’re a big Yankees fan. I watched a Yankees game once in 1978.” This will go on forever. The only thing that will save you is a carefully planned diversion involving a herd of buffalo or cardiac arrest for either one of you.
  2. TMI (Too Much Information) Tom: Within ten seconds, he will either start showing you diseased or scarred body parts normally cloaked by clothing or telling you about his time in jail and/or prison. Either way, it’s too late to book a different flight.
  3. The Inquisitor: At the slightest hint of recognition, she will begin to ask you a thousand questions ranging from where you live to the name of your first pet to your favorite wallpaper pattern. Admittedly, there is the entertaining possibility of completely lying to this person and fabricating a totally new life history, but there are two possible pitfalls here: (1) she’ll circle back and ask you the same question – you better remember your previous answer because she will, and (2) you just might start wishing the life you made up were your real life. No good can come of this.
  4. The Loud Talker: Now, he has a loud voice, and there’s nothing you can do about that – at least not until Congress passes that controversial bill allowing you to shoot them at will – but if you’re the one who gives him the slightest reason to open his bullhorn-level yapper, you can bet everyone around you is wishing your name specifically will be added to that Congressional bill.

Just like airport chilidogs, you can’t tell which of your fellow travelers is going to cause you mild to severe discomfort and regret. You’d do well to avoid them all – fellow travelers that is, because there are some really good chilidogs just waiting to be found.

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