This 89th edition of The Large Man Chronicles is dedicated to all the men and women who travel to make a living.
Just to be clear…
I get it. The whole traveling salesman thing must look pretty cool. I have been in every state in the lower 48, a few international spots as well. The first class upgrades, the $75 steaks, the sampling of micro-brewed beers from exotic lands like Tampa and Omaha, the year round golf, the hookers, etc. are better than spending one’s work week in a rail yard, or at a wastewater treatment plant. (I’ve worked those jobs as well) Travel and entertainment on the dime of a third party definitely has its privileges.
Here are some examples of the privileges I enjoyed just last week…
Left my house at 6:45 AM – EST. Headed from Pittsburgh to Odessa Texas, connecting in Dallas, easy check in, plane at the gate, all is good. Should be in my hotel room by 9:00 that night.
Board the plane, take aisle seat, 12B, and wait with anticipation for the beautiful and exotic Brazilian dancer who will surely have seat, 12A, right next to me. When I close my eyes I can see her dark brown skin, the color of mocha. I can see her expressive dark eyes. I can smell the shampoo in her sun streaked hair. I can imagine her accent and her broken English as she laughs at my quirky stories. As I wait for her, I feel bad for this woman who I haven’t met yet, when she discovers that I’m married, and this thing, this connection, will only last for the duration of our flight. We’ll shake hands, maybe share a quick hug, wish each other well, and our time in row 12 on flight 1481 from Pittsburgh to DFW will become nothing but a sweet memory.
Turns out, my Brazilian dancer was a Large white dude, dressed in cargo shorts, a pit stained tee shirt, bottle thick spectacles, and a frown. He looked at the seat numbers and snarled, “I have the window”.
“Of course you do.” I said, with a smile.
My smile was not returned.
This Large, white, non-Brazilian, dude, squished his gelatinous body against the fuselage of our ship, and against me…for 3 hours. I was privileged to have his company.
He was a nice enough man, for someone who wasn’t a Brazilian woman. He worked in the IT department of an energy company in Texas, and he believed the world, our Earth, was flat. He seemed irritated with me when I didn’t give him my approving, “No shit! Really? I never would have thought of that! Makes perfect sense!”
I politely smiled, and nodded. While I didn’t exactly nurture his irrational theories on the shape of our planet, I didn’t make any attempt to counter point his ridiculous reasoning either. I was nice. I actively listened when all I wanted to do was sleep or read…or punch him in the pie hole so he would shut the fuck up.
At 2:30 in the PM CST, we land. As we approach our gate, the captain spoke into the PA system with an extremely stern, south Boston accent, asking us to remain in our seats and “remain calm” until we are instructed to leave the plane.
When we stopped at the gate, a few of the people in first class unbuckled, and stood up, (as those people are prone to do, because the rules don’t apply to them) only to be immediately told by the flight attendants (and harshly so) to stay seated . I’m wondering, What’s up?
THEN…2 uniformed, and armed, marshals, board the plane, and with hardened, “not fucking around here” looks on their faces, made their way to the back. I couldn’t see much, but I heard harsh words being exchanged loudly. After a few tense moments, thankfully, 2 people were peacefully removed from the aircraft.
I don’t know if many of you Large Man readers are following the news lately, but adult confrontations in public are a bit discomforting these days. It’s not like a fight over a girl between 2 teenage boys in the high school cafeteria. No one in the back of the plane started the chant, “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT”. Other than the confrontational voices, and the sound of my heart pounding its way out of my chest, it was dead quiet.
It was a scary thing to witness. But the good news was that it helped take my mind off of the 400 lb. IT guy sitting next to me trying to convince me the world is flat.
I still had another flight to catch. I remember saying to myself, Thank goodness all drama is over for THIS day.
What a stupid thing to say. Even to yourself.
My flight to Midland was delayed about 4 hours. I got to my hotel room at 2:15 AM, CST, on Tuesday… which was 3:15 on my clock because I started the day in the Eastern Time zone. So, just a tad under 20 hours of travel time. You good folks can Google this if you like, but one can drive from Warren, PA to Midland TX, in 24 hours, and you can listen to a Jack Reacher novel on CD while you do it. The 400 lb. conspiracy theorists, and the heavily armed law men are only make believe in Jack Reacher novels.
Work to do. People to see. Hands to shake. Deals to make.
Out of bed by 6:30, rolling down I-20 by 8:00. Lubbock bound.
I love the sights, sounds, and people of Texas…there is no place like it, and each region has its own flavor, and the west Texas region may be the most distinct and charming. The day was a great day. My work day was rewarding, my activity made a difference. Privileged.
After Lubbock, I made my way to Abilene. While it was a nice day, still, I drove a few hundred miles after only a couple hours of sleep, so a beer, a steak, and a pillow were going to be welcome therapy for all the privileges I experienced over the last 40 hours. There was an Outback Steakhouse walking distance from my hotel.
The thing about Outback is that the one in Springfield, is the same as the one in Madison, and the one in Madison is the same as the one in Franklin, and so on. You get a consistent meal, properly prepared, with enthusiastic and polite service. Across the board, and across the map, it’s rarely exceptional (other than the one in Midlothian VA), and it’s never bad…except for the one in Abilene.
(Are you f-ing kidding me…)
First world problem, I know. In the interest of brevity, I’ll simply say my meal was nothing like I ordered. When this was mentioned to my server, when I was asked,”How is it?”, rather than taking her own action to fix it, she immediately called in her management team.
Three people standing at my high-top bar table, staring intently at my plate, then the one who seemed to be in charge says, “Sir, I understand we didn’t prepare the meal to your liking. Would you like me to do something about it? It looks pretty good to me, seems juicy.”
Really, does it?
(Are you F-ING KIDDING ME!)
Don’t ask me if I would like you to do something, tell me what you are going to do…or better yet. Just do it.
No big deal. Off to bed. Wednesday will be better.
…was better. New faces, new places, and the prospect of new revenue. Doin’ the job I love.
Back to Midland/Odessa.
If you ever find yourself in downtown Midland, give Luigi’s Italian Restaurant a try. The place is always busy, and they don’t take reservations, but it’s definitely worth the wait. If you can, invite my customers, Michael and Blaise, to join you. You’ll enjoy the experience even more. Privilege.
I walk back to my spacious and comfortable room on the 10th floor at the Double Tree, in bed by 10:30…and finally, some real R.E.M. type sleep by 11:00. Don’t even remember turning off the TV.
At about 1:30 AM (CST) I’m dreaming about flying home. In my dream, I’m sitting next to a beautiful and exotic Brazilian woman, with the sun streaked hair, mocha skin, and everything… as I caress her cheek, she playfully smiles at another one of my funny, funny, jokes, she grows fangs and her face contorts into a scowl, and she begins to scream at me at the very top of her lungs. Her howling is loud and shrill and even…almost like an alarm, and every time she screams, a light flashes inside the airplane’s cabin…almost like some kind of strobe.
It’s so startling and real, it jolts me awake. I sit up in my bed, in the spacious and comfortable hotel room, realizing that the Brazilian woman was just a dream, but her earsplitting screams continue.
“Ohhh”, I say out loud…to myself.
The loud and shrill screaming and the flashing lights from my dream were actually the hotel’s fire alarm. I make my way to the door, in only my orange and white striped Tommy John’s and my Pablo Cruise, Worlds Away, tour t-shirt. There is a recorded message on a loop blaring over the PA system: THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. IMMEDIATELY MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE NEAREST EXIT. DO NOT USE THE ELEVATOR. THIS ISN’T A DREAM. MOVE YOUR ASS, LARGE MAN.
I may have imagined some of the message, but the orator was extremely serious. I had to go.
I was about to close the door, from the wrong side, when I realized I didn’t have my room key, or pants. I regrouped, dressed, all under the calming, WHAAH, WHAAH, WHAAH, of the alarm, and the flashing strobe, and the harsh man’s voice telling me not to take the elevator. I got myself together, stepped out the door, and made my way to the stairwell.
Did I mention I was on the 10th floor? Have I ever written about all my knee surgeries? Did I tell you that even though I was in west Texas, it was in the upper 20s outside? Probably mid 30s, low 40s in the stairwell.
I was privileged to walk down 10 flights of stairs, at 1:36 in the AM, Central Standard Time, in jeans and a t-shirt.
It’s kinda funny…I remember thinking to myself:
WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT ELSE CAN GO WRONG ON THIS STUPID FUCKING TRIP? THIS SHIT DOESN’T HAPPEN TO ANYBODY ELSE! I WAS SLEEPING LIKE A BABY! I WAS GONNA GET A LITTLE SUGAH FROM THAT BRAZILIAN CHICK…IN MY DREAM, BUT STILL! … FUCK!
That’s what I was thinking, but outwardly, I remained calm. There were other people in the stairway, I didn’t want to create any more panic or fear than we were already feeling. Again, I’m not sure how much any of you are following the news these days, but emergency alerts, fire alarms, and flashing lights…not really the fun kind of exciting.
I made it to the lobby. I stepped out of the stairwell, and walked down the hallway to the cadence of the alarm and the accompanying flash of the strobe. As I stepped into the hotel’s lobby, it all stopped.
After 10 flights.
The same “serious” voice said, loudly…almost as if to mock me, “ALL CLEAR, ALL CLEAR, ALL CLEAR”. Just 3 times. And that was that.
I was given the privilege of taking the elevator back. But when I got back to my spacious and comfortable room, I was too wired to go to sleep. It was about 2:00. I was privileged to have a few HBO channels…it was 4:00 before I could get back to sleep. I don’t remember what I dreamed about, but there were no Brazilian dancers.
I think you get my point.
More stuff happened. Some good, some bad. I had a shitty dinner…warm beer, cold soup, award winning burger – NOT! When I asked the waiter what kind of micro-brews they had, he asked me, “What’s a micro-brew?” Like some kind of a fucking savage.
Oh, and not for nothin’…my daughter’s Christmas concert was Thursday night. Missed it. Privilege.
First thing in the morning, back on a plane. As I waited for another 400 lb. white boy, with khaki shorts, and a pit stained t-shirt, my luck turned. Along came Danielle.
Danielle is a beautiful, young, New England born, business woman. When she walked up and pointed at the window seat next to me, indicating that it was her spot, I said, with a smile, “You have no idea how happy I am to see you!”
“Wow! Really? Why is that?” She replied, with a brilliant smile of her own.
I told her my story. She laughed, ’cause she could relate. Then we chatted about business travel, growing up in the east, the merits and drawbacks of west Texas, and all the different people we meet along the way. It was a pleasant, if too brief, 1 hour flight. That, actually was a privilege.
Connect in DFW, bid the lovely and charming Danielle a safe journey. Hop on the next jet airliner, “takin’ me to my home….” I land in Pittsburgh where it all seemed to start. Waiting by the turnstile for my bag…
…and waiting in line at the baggage office.
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