On the Road Again

I can now get around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Baltimore-Washington International airports with only brief glimpses at the signs. Does that mean I’ve been traveling too much?

Mikey and I arrived none the worse for wear. The same cannot be said for the Hare Krishnas who tried to accost Mikey near the baggage claim. Just ask Brian, who had to help clean up the mess. We then encountered a waiter who tried a little too hard to anticipate our desires and a bartender who didn’t have the knowledge to fulfill our desires. (What kind of pinhead hires a bartender who doesn’t know drink recipes? And what kind of bar hangs a “tiki bar open” sign but doesn’t know how to mix a single tiki drink like the Hala-Kahiki serves? But I digress.) We also learned that the Garmin nuvi supplied by Budget is a piece of crap (I blame its link to MSN) and makes a better dashboard video game than it does a navigator.

As a writer, one of the best parts of travel is collecting stories. People stories, to be exact. I’m not a big fan of people in general, but it’s hard not to do a little people watching and come away with some character ideas. Typically I’ll use someone I’ve spotted — or at least a situation or characteristic I’ve applied to them — for bit players in some of my work. In fact, it’s difficult for me not to come away from travel with a story.

Take, for example, the poor fat folks on my the first leg of my flight. A rather large man sat near me at the gate. Later, I boarded behind a rather large woman. Now, I use the phrase “rather large” generously. Think pre-Weight Watchers Kirstie Alley and pref-coffin John Candy and you’ll smell what I’m cookin’. A rather cruel twist of fate put these two people in the same row on the same side of the aisle fn our tiny little plane. Neither were pleased, and the gentleman quickly asked the steward for a seat reassignment. They had to wait five minutes for boarding to finish, at which point the gentleman fled to another row. They groused about the seats in the meantime, and of course it was the seats which were too small.

Yes, it’s always the seats. Oh how I wish I could read the angry letter the woman threatened to pen. One can only hope she includes a picture to highlight her plight.

On a similar note, I have to thank the obsessive-compulsive man I sat next to on the second leg of my trip. I’m not exactly a small man myself, and while my ass fits in the seats, my shoulders tend to encroach upon the armrest DMZ. This poor guy sat in the middle seat and appeared to shun all human contact, as he practically folded in on himself between me and the guy on the aisle. If he could have shrank away any further, he would have become an Escher version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. This left me plenty of space, which proved especially valuable while sitting on the tarmac for twenty minutes with the engines (and the fans) off.

I have to say, the first leg of my flight wasn’t too bad, either, though I owe that to my tolerance as a father. I sat next to a rather attractive young mom (you know the acronym I’m alluding to) traveling with a baby and a toddler. Her husband and the toddler sat across the aisle, and once the fat man changed seats, she asked if I wanted to do the same. I told her not to worry, it wouldn’t be a problem because I am plagued — er, blessed — with three rugrats myself.

Ten minutes later, baby stabbed me with a slobber-sodden Biscoff Delta Airlines cookie. Mom helped clean the sleeve of my t-shirt, and I did not wig. All three of my children have done (and continue to do) the same to me. Baby screeched that she was hungry. Again, I did not wig, for I am used to such things. Then mom started breast feeding.

Surprise! I still didn’t flinch. I’ll be honest: in most situations, were you to put a breast in my face, you would get a definite reaction. I am a straight male, ergo, boobs are my Kryptonite. Having directly witnessed three years of breast feeding, however, I don’t get too excited when breasts are paired with babies. I’m no Nursing Nazi, but I fully support and encourage such behavior and I say kudos to this woman for putting her baby’s needs ahead of über-conservative pinheads who can’t separate supper time from sex. My wife would have complimented this mom on her bravery, and I thought about doing the same for about half a second before a) noticing her husband was much bigger than I, and b) realizing it may very well have resulted in a collection of uniformed officers waiting for me upon arrival. I imagine it’s just fine for a woman to compliment another woman for breast feeding, but I fear any male endorsement would just come out as another way of saying “Nice tits!”

There are other stories. The co-ed with the underlined omega tattoo, which I automatically ascribed to nefarious occult practices rather than the far more likely sorority logo, only to find it may have an astronomical meaning after all. The guy who came rushing at me, whom I suddenly expected to proclaim “I’m tripping balls, yo!” The collection of bleached-blonde beach bunnies, all traveling separately, who congregated near the same point for several seconds then quickly disbanded, as if all summoned by the same signal. The tall woman in the pant-suit and the shoes with the peek-a-boo toes who turned the head of every man in concourse A of Hartsfield-Jackson International, and knew she did it. The mature gentleman showing off his XO laptop for a woman in what I’m convinced was some elaborate pick-up scheme. The meth addict in the too-small sun dress who just finished turning tricks behind the Krystal stand. The wide-eyed young man staring into space as he listened to his iPod, which no doubt included subliminal orders to kill (recorded by Steve Jobs hisownself and broadcast via iTunes).

I’ll admit I’m a little off on some of those. What can I say, I live in a sinister world.

I’m a horror writer, after all.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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