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So to summarize; in my last tale, I shared with you the sights sounds and smells of football. The football of my youth… what it meant to me, and how I missed it. I tried to explain to you that even though my last game was 38 years ago (almost to this very day), I’m still a football player…and I will always be a football player.

That’s pretty much it.

Some people might wonder why I needed the 1,700 words in our last chapter to tell you what I just summarized in 65…try not to pay attention to those people.

Friday Night, November 6th, 2015

My hometown’s high school football team got a bonus game. I don’t know why or how, but we were able to schedule an extra game against our historical rivals, the Owls of Bradford, PA. (I know what you’re thinking: Owls? Really? What were they thinking?)

This development was especially exciting to me, because I had missed the previous 2 games due to my day job’s travel requirements. The last game I saw under those Friday night lights, was a gut wrenching, homecoming game loss, to a team that our hometown boys clearly outplayed. (It happens. They’re kids). So the opportunity to see just one more, with a chance to end it on a sweeter note was a nice and welcome bonus for The Large Man.

It was cold, as northwest Pennsylvania football games, in November, tend to be. Because it was so cold, and probably because it was a non-scheduled game, the crowd was a bit smaller than usual. Also, there was no marching band, so that made the evening chill a bit more menacing.

I love our marching band. It might be because my daughter has been marching and playing piccolo with this band since she was in 8th grade. My daughter is the greatest piccolo player in the history of Pennsylvania high school marching bands…and although they don’t officially keep these kinds of records, she’s probably the greatest piccolo player in the history of American music.

Because my wife and I have had a kid participating in Friday Night Lights for the last 4 years, attendance is not an option. Why would it be? I still get a thrill every time I see that kid march onto the field, under those sacred lights, playing with her besties, being a “geek”…in the most awesome and proud sense of that word. I only wish my Mom had been able to see it one time (in this life), she would have loved every minute, and she would have cherished every note. I would have loved to share that with her.

So anyway…back to the game. This last game…

We won. That was good.

Because this “last game”, really was the last game. The announcer took some time to introduce and honor the senior players one last time. Then at the end of the game, the underclassmen formed 2 lines for the seniors to walk through, took off their helmets, and held them high as their teammates walked off that hallowed ground for the last time. It was a moving and powerful moment.

The “moving and powerful moment” was amplified by the soundtrack being played over the PA system, (remember, no marching band tonight) the song being played was Kenny Chesney’s, ‘Boys of Fall’. Until this night, I was not familiar with the song.

If you are not familiar with the tune, take a break, go to YouTube, or some on demand music source, and acquaint yourself. It is as beautiful a tribute to this game as anything I have ever seen or heard. And the timing of its play on this night was perfect.

So as I’m taking in this touching scene, hearing this song, watching these boys; my attention was drawn to one…#60. He’s a big kid, and just a freshman. I was watching #60, and watching his body contort and twitch as he watched his mentors, his elders…his friends, assemble for that last walk. I watched his face torque up a little, and then he reached up and wiped his eyes, doing his best to hold it together as he watched his brothers walked past.

I think #60 gets it.

The story of how #60 got here is ironic for a few different reasons, mostly because it’s something I predicted 3 or 4 years ago.

Ever since #60 was old enough to understand the words being spoken to him, he has been told to be gentle, or be careful.

“Be nice, (#60), that kid is smaller than you, sweetie, you have to be gentle”.

So #60 grew up to be a very big, very careful, and very gentle kid. He followed all the rules, he did his best to be calm, kind, and gentle, in all circumstances.

When he was 4-years-old, he was the size of a 10-year-old, and his uncles, and older cousins were totally jacked with excitement when they were considering the potential damage this kid was going to do to our family’s annual Easter piñata.

“Let all the other kids go first. It’s going to be over when (#60) gets his swing”.

When #60 took his turn, he gently tapped the Easter Bunny piñata, that was it…just a kind little tap. Everyone laughed and laughed. It was a family joke for years. It just wasn’t in #60 to hit something, he was supposed to be gentle, so he was.

When #60 was in 6th grade, I had an opportunity to talk with him about what school extracurricular activities he thought he might try to participate in. He considered basketball (tallest kid in the school, cut from the team…not aggressive enough). He participated in student government, and he played rec league soccer. I asked him (with permission from his mom) if he thought he would be interested in playing football. I explained to him that his size would make him a valuable asset to a team, and that he should consider it.

He told me, “I don’t really like football. I don’t really understand it either. I don’t think I would be good at it.”

“Fair enough”, I replied. “So answer me this; we live in a small town in western Pennsylvania, football is a big deal here. It’s very possible that you could be just walking to class one day, walking down the street, you could be anywhere, and one of the middle school, or high school football coaches are going to see you, see your size, and ask you to consider playing. What are you going to say?”

He contemplated what I said, pondered my question, and answered with unwavering confidence, “I’ll just tell them ‘Thanks, but I don’t like football’, and I’ll tell them my parents won’t let me play”.

I said, “OK. I think you should be prepared for that conversation. It sounds like you’re settled and grounded. I respect your decision.”

This seemed to make #60 happy. He was rehearsed, and prepared. We discussed the possibility every fall, and he remained steadfast, “No football for me! I don’t like it, I don’t want to like it. I won’t play!”

Flash forward about a year, maybe a year and a half, #60 was on the middle school track team, throwing the Frisbee (I think in track and field, they call it “discus”) and the spear (they call that a “javelin”). He was finished with an event, walking towards the locker room, when he was stopped by a stranger.

“What’s your name, young man?” asked the personable, yet imposing figure of a man, who #60 had never met before.

“I’m Jack” replied #60 as he extended his hand. “Who are you?”

As they shook hands, the stranger said, “I’m Coach Latimer, my players call me Coach Lats. I’m the high school football coach. You’re a big kid, have you ever thought about playing football?”

And just as #60 had rehearsed over and over again whenever his Large father brought up the subject, he was about to say, “Nah, not really…football just isn’t my thing”.

He looked Coach Lats in the eye, and said, “Sure, I mean, I’ve thought about it. I think I’d like to try.”

“Well that’s great! We have a bus that takes kids from the middle school up to the high school for weight lifting. It’s a voluntary activity, and you would be welcome to join. We just need a permission slip from your one of your parents. I’d love to see you there!”

#60 was less “steadfast” when face to face with Coach Lats’ charm.

“OK. I think I’d like that. I’ll talk to my parents tonight. Thank you.”

I was out of town when this chance meeting (that I predicted, but did NOT orchestrate) went down. Later that evening, when my son (#60) called me to tell the story, he was as excited as a lottery winner. When I asked what changed his mind, he didn’t really have an answer. I held the phone in my hand, looked at it, shook my head and laughed. Kids.

Talking to his dad over a 3 year time frame: “NO…I don’t think so…just not my thing…I don’t like it”
Talking to Coach Lats over a less than 5 minute time frame: “OK!”

And so it began.

I could write a book about #60’s August. (And I just might) I didn’t know how it was going to go, I didn’t know how this kind and gentle giant was going to react the first time he got knocked on his ass. Nobody knew how he was going to work through the pain, bumps and bruises of his first full contact practices, and then 2-a day practices. He was going to have to endure all of the brutality of the sport, before he ever understood or could comprehend the beauty of the game. I have a lot of admiration for the adults who found a way to coach #60 through August of 2015. I have a lot of appreciation for a handful of older kids who encouraged and helped him. It was tough, but somehow, #60 made it.

And then…
On a muggy August evening, at the first scrimmage …

Coach Lats called his name, putting #60 in at defensive tackle. It was a rough debut, but #60 entered the fray head up, and head first…nervous, but unafraid. As a father, I will never forget that moment.

He also entered the fray to sincere and enthusiastic cheers and “whoops” from his teammates…his brothers. After getting pushed around a few plays, he came off the field and was greeted halfway by some seniors, congratulating him on his first action. When I asked #60 about it the next day, how it made him feel to have that support, he looked me right in the eye, and a single tear rolled down his cheek, “You have no idea, Dad. It’s hard to explain. It’s like I’m the biggest person in the room almost everywhere I go, but I always kinda feel invisible. But now, I don’t know…I feel different. I feel like I belong. You don’t know what that feels like.”

Well…yeah, son, I do. I know exactly what that feels like.

I didn’t tell him that, I just let it be his. It’s his time now, and believe me, he has earned it. I didn’t think #60 would make it through August. That’s an accomplishment I will always respect. Not everyone gets to be a football player, but #60 does. This second half belongs to him, and his piccolo playing big sister.

I don’t know if #60 is going to be a good football player, or a great football player, or just a football player. Time will tell, and it’s his own journey.

Here is what I do know: You need 3 things to be a great football player. You need talent. God provides most of that…you can certainly develop it, but to be great, some Divine assistance is usually necessary. You also need a little starch … a bit of a mean streak. It’s not a game for the “gentle” or the “careful”. But above all, you need passion. You need passion for the game, passion for your teammates, and passion for the moments they create. You need to play this game with passion. Without passion, it’s just a sport.

We’ll see if #60 can uncover and develop those first two, but he has the passion. #60 showed it as he honored his senior teammates, as he struggled to contain that emotion on their last night, his last night with them, and his first night truly understanding that he’s a “Boy of Fall”, a football player… and he will be for the rest of his life.

So here we are…it’s the second half, and I’m back on the bench. This time, it’s the best seat in the house.

Thanks for reading.
TLM

Well it’s, turn and face the stars and stripes
It’s fightin’ back them butterflies
It’s call it in the air alright yes sir we want the ball
And it’s knockin’ heads and talkin’ trash
It’s slingin’ mud and dirt and grass
It’s I got your number, I got your back
When your back’s against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall

‘The Boys of Fall’
Written by Casey Beathard and Dave Turnbull
Recorded and Performed by Kenny Chesney

Its (not) Just a Game

The high school football season is over in my home town. No Friday night lights for a while…and I’m a little bummed. Would you like to know why?

OK…

Thirty-eight years ago, I played in my last high school football game. Well, I didn’t actually play in the game, but I was dressed and on the sidelines, and I would have competed beside my teammates had I been called. That game was a state championship game. We lost a heart breaker, 12 – 7 to the crimson clad Crabbers of Hampton High School in Virginia. I was a boy of fall, and even though my active gridiron journey ended on that chilly December afternoon in 1977, I am still a football player, and I will be for the rest of my life.

Every time I smell fresh cut grass on a muggy August day, I am reminded of who and what I am. I can close my eyes, and I’m walking across that hard as rock practice field, the parched, sun ravaged grass crackles under my cleats. I’m holding my helmet by the facemask and bouncing it off my thigh pad, and I’m on my way to that grueling afternoon practice.

I remember how hopeful we would be if there was even a chance of rain in the forecast. Just the thought of rain’s relief in late August or early September during a practice would fill your heart with hope, and hope can get you through just about anything.

And, oh my… when you saw those clouds forming in the western sky, and you smelled that moisture on the breeze, you somehow found a way to make your tired legs move a little quicker. When those clouds delivered on their promise, and you heard the first notes of that tic, tic, tic, song of raindrops on the top of your helmet, it was like being born again. You pushed a little harder, you ran a little faster, and those shoulder pads popped a little louder. The dust washed away, the heat took a break, and you loved being there.

Later, in those early days of November, there would be the sound of fallen leaves as they rattled and skittered their way across the field, that sound let you know it would all be ending soon. By then, the brown leaves were pretty much the only vegetation left on our practice field; that dry and crackling grass we trudged across in August had given up sometime in October. No matter what color the uniforms are on the field, the game of football is a game that turns gradually from vibrant green to autumn brown. This happens every year, it’s just part of the deal. It’s a beautiful, and a sad transition.

The sights and the sounds and the smells of practice were taken for granted back then, mostly because the joy, pain, and privilege, of being a ball player were all beyond my scope of understanding. I was just a boy, trying to play a sport. Sometimes, I think I just played because I thought I was supposed to. The best way to describe how I felt about the sport back then, was that I both loved, and hated it. Now I only miss it. I miss the game.

I miss it most when the leaves start to turn, or when I see a young girl in a cheerleader’s uniform, or when I smell an outdoor fire. These things are the language of fall, and fall is football.

*****

Every autumn I play in my high school’s annual graduate golf tournament. About 150 classmates get together each year to play a little golf, raise a little money for charity, have a few drinks, and tell a few tales. Obviously, the “tales” are my favorite part.

This year, the foursome playing behind me had 2 guys in their group who played ball with me “back in the day”. My buddy, Chris, was one of the guys.

Chris has a memory about the two of us, and he just loves to share it whenever the two of us are together…and he can gather an audience.

Here’s the condensed, less profanity laced version:

“OK, so we’re a week or two away from the start of the season, and (The Large Man) is pretty much stinking up the joint, and he’s running out of opportunity to be a regular player. The dream of being a starter is LONG gone. He’s slow, he’s nicked up, he’s a senior, and he’s getting desperate.

We’re doing 1 on 1 drills, and as he comes up to the line, the head coach starts strolling our way. Large Man is playing Z, (wide receiver) and I’m playing strong safety. The dude has the nerve to say, “Let me catch this, Chris. Coach is watching, and I need to look good.”

What am I supposed do? Large Man’s been good to me, he’s cool, so I’m willing to help him out.”

Chris is a spark plug. I would bet that Chris pays nothing for his electric bills, he’s his own independent source of energy. Chris is still involved in the game as a high school coach, (a recent state champion coach) and with his intensity and energy to draw upon, I would imagine he’s one of the best out there.

He owns these piercing blue eyes that are so full of life, I think if you look at him directly in his eyes you might turn into a unicorn, or a flying monkey, or a…stone. In a good way, he seems to spend most of his life with a “shit eating grin” on his face…you know the grin I’m talking about. He sports the grin of a dude who is just happy to be wherever he happens to be.

But as he continues his favorite “Large Man” story he struggles to contain the laughter that’s percolating behind that grin.

Chris continues:

“So we line up, he’s gonna run a little curl pattern. I know what’s coming, I give him a wink to let him know we’re cool. They snap the ball, he runs a clean pattern and I stay off him – just a touch…made it look like he juked me. I come scrambling back to him as Dahl (the quarterback) hits him, right as he makes his turn. A perfect strike! Chest high, ball right in his hands…we gave him a Christmas present, and it’s not even Halloween yet…

…and the asshole drops it.”

Chris is laughing as he speaks now.

“Before I even touch him…LAY A FINGER ON HIM, the asshole drops it!

The ball goes through his hands, hits his chest and facemask, back through his hands, and lands harmlessly on the ground. Well, not harmlessly, because the head coach just walks away shaking his head, and both of our position coaches are chewing our asses. Me for “…letting his slow ass as beat you!” Large Man for dropping the ball. He goes back to the huddle, Dahl slaps him on the side of his helmet, and doesn’t throw him a ball for the rest of practice…probably for the rest of that year.

Hey Large Man! Is that true or is it not? You remember that? You pass droppin’ mother f%$#&r!”

Yes. It’s true. I remember the moment well. Not with the same affinity I remember the cheerleaders, the smell of the rain and the grass, and the bouncing of the helmet off of my thigh pad and all…but I remember.

I am the Chronicler of Large Man history, but I can’t tell that story any better than Chris tells it. And even in my shame, it’s a great memory. That’s the thing about football, sometimes even the bad stuff is good.

God gave me 2 perfect knees. Football took them from me. My back hurts, my shoulders ache every day. My pride is bludgeoned every time I get together with any of my old teammates. But it’s OK.

My lifelong best friend, DJ, who was an all-star teammate (cornerback), and maybe as great an athlete as I have ever known, will tell anyone who will listen that I was “impossible to cover”. He has told me that I probably should have played more, because none of the teams we played against had athletes slow enough to cover me.

It’s not a compliment.

And yet, I would not trade this pain or that humiliation for anything. If I had it to do all over again, I would. Even if I played less. It sucked to sit on the bench as a senior, knowing that it was all coming to an end. I wish I had some stories about my game winning touchdown catches, and how my team carried me off the field in glory…with confetti falling all around me, but I don’t. I had some moments, but they’re significant only to me, and that’s okay. To me, they are as important as my job, my house, and even the people I love. They are bullet points on my human resume. They are part of the mortar that holds together the building blocks of who I am. I’m a husband, a father, a friend, a salesman. And I’m better at all of those things because I’m a football player.

I guess I’m a pass droppin’ mother f#%&*r too, but there’s no sense in belaboring that point. I choose to leave that bullet point off of my “human resume”.

My buddy Chris can tell that story over and over again, DJ can make us all laugh about my less than fleet feet, and while it may be humor shared at my expense, it’s something we went through together. The kinship that is formed between men and boys who participate in the game creates a bond that is rarely broken. It’s like a souvenir. It’s not something you can hold in your hand, like a silver dollar given to you by your grandfather, but it’s like that.

These memories are emotional keepsakes, and at least for me, they make my knees and shoulders hurt a little bit less. These memories are a like spiritual Bengay. That alone makes it worth it. That’s why it’s not “just a game”.

The game has taken a bit of a turn for me this year, but that’s a story for the sequel. Please stay tuned for, The Second Half – coming soon to a computer screen near YOU!

The Large Man Chronicles had a technical issue a few weeks ago, and we lost ALL of our Gmail contacts. ALL OF THEM! If you like receiving the Gmail alerts and links, please send me a note at thelargeman@gmail.com and we will add your email info to the distribution list.

Thanks for reading… Happy Thanksgiving…God Bless…

Big Love,
TLM

Sometimes it’s OK to get emotional about things that make no sense. Every now and then you need to allow yourself, and the people you care about, to be irrational. My children will be angry about this opening line, because my general modus operandi with them has been, “I don’t nurture irrational behavior.” However, that specific M.O. was a teaching strategy, so as not to raise self-centered, self-absorbed, psychopathic, participation trophy gathering, divas. (I think it may have worked, we’ll see. Those two books are still being written.)

But when dealing with a loved one, a friend, or anyone for that matter…it’s critical to have an understanding that while you may think Chevy Van is the cheesiest, stupidest, pop song of all time, they may have lost their innocence in an actual Chevy van, and that song may evoke a beautiful memory, and that memory may bring a tear. Offer a hug, and let it be…it costs you nothing.

Always open doors for people. Men for women, women for men, men for men, anybody for everybody. It’s just nice, and in a world where hateful and crazy people get all the press, this little act of courtesy and kindness sends a subtle message out to the universe that most of us are good and kind. Acts of kindness and grace are the best way to teach kindness and grace. And when you’ve held the door for several people, and someone grabs the door, and tells you to, “Go ahead…” allow them their opportunity to be kind as well.

Never make a scene at a wedding…especially if it’s not your wedding. Don’t argue with your spouse, date, or table mates. Don’t get drunk and loud and stupid (well…stupid anyway). The bride has been dreaming of this day since she was old enough to dream, and the parents of the couple have just spent a TON of cash, don’t be the reason things weren’t awesome. I just went to 2 weddings that were amazing. Now I want them all to be amazing. If I have to explain this any further, please cancel your subscription to The Large Man Chronicles.

Sometimes commercials are better than the shows they are sponsoring. Insurance commercials seem to have replaced beer commercials for entertainment value. Flo, the Gecko, Mayhem, the Farmer’s guy…each character seems better than the next in that trade.
BUT, there is at least one exception: Dos Equis’, World’s Most Interesting Man. That spot is the best. Everything I’ve ever written (and ever will write) is completely subjective – except for my opinion on the World’s Most Interesting Man. You could make a movie out of that character.

Always lean towards forgiveness. The weight of a grudge is most certainly heavier for the one who carries it.

Never give me frozen yogurt as a substitute for ice cream.

Sometimes it’s okay to stay put.

Always kiss with your eyes closed.

Never kiss with your eyes open.

Sometimes people you love will disappoint you and let you down. You can still love them. But don’t let that love bring you down too. This is a tough one.

Always remember that rules and statistics and facts and figures about people are based on the average, but no individual whom you interact with is “average”. Don’t use a cookie cutter approach when dealing with people – we’re all unique, like snowflakes. Every boss, every teacher, every coach, every doctor, and every mentor, needs to have that sentence coded into their DNA, or at least have it printed on all their letterhead. (After paying the appropriate royalty fees to me, of course)

Never doubt the positive effects of charity. Be as charitable as you can be, and then do a little more. But don’t put all of your hope there. Charity treats the symptoms, it rarely cures the disease. I’m not sure why that is. If you have an example to the contrary, please share it with me. I would love that. But still, don’t give till it hurts, give till it feels good.

Sometimes I want to pinch myself when I consider all the awesome and amazing women I have around me. I would like to pinch them too, but I don’t objectify women – because my daughter says I shouldn’t. I really like the ladies though, probably because I grew up with, and in close proximity to, really strong, smart, and pretty, women and girls. Lucky me.

Always trust your gut. Unless you have a history of making really bad decisions. Then don’t. If you have a history of bad decisions, seek the council of someone who loves you, cares about you, or has nothing to gain by seeing you fail. Don’t seek the council of people who don’t have your best interests at heart. AND PLEASE … don’t pretend you don’t know the difference. You know.

Never give up on yourself. That’s like the worst thing you can do.

Sometimes I hit the repeat button, if a repeat button is available, when I’m listening to Stairway to Heaven.

Always listen to Stairway to Heaven when it comes on the radio.

Never change the station when Stairway comes on.

Sometimes …by Brittany Spears, may be the dumbest song of all time.

Always …is a great song by Stevie Wonder from Songs in the Key of Life.

Never…is a pretty crappy song by Heart. I’m not sure what album it’s on.

Sometimes the grass actually is greener on the other side. Just like a pretty girl, a toasty autumn campfire, and a roaring waterfall, an opportunity is usually worth taking a look at.

Always avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, like I just did with the previous point.

Never let arbitrary grammatical rules get in the way of making an important point.

Sometimes it’s OK to quit. Sometimes; but please apply common sense here… pretty please.

It’s always good to quit doing harmful things to yourself, like smoking, or drinking, or playing the banjo. It’s never good to quit learning, or growing emotionally and spiritually, or to quit playing the guitar.

All I’m saying is that sometimes…when you’ve exhausted every option, and your endeavor is only causing pain, maybe it’s okay to walk away. If your job pays you a buttload of money, but you wake up every morning and then go home every evening hating every minute of every hour in between; stop doing it…quit. If any relationship is unhealthy, has been unhealthy, and has no hope of ever being healthy; stop.

Sometimes we force ourselves to stay put and stick it out in bad situations for reasons we can’t even identify. We do it for a sense of duty, or an allegiance to a standard of living that we don’t even understand, probably put there by someone we don’t even know. Adhering to a code of behavior that serves no purpose to you or your loved ones…well…it serves no purpose.

Wanna know why? Okayhere’s why:

If we’re lucky, we’ll live about 90 years. Also, if we’re lucky, we’ll need to spend one third of that time sleeping. You gotta sleep, and 8 hours of sleep a day is good for us. Most of us will spend one third of those 90 years working, and even the very best jobs in the world are still work. So that just leaves one third of your life to do fun things…to eat steaks, to build campfires, to go skiing, to love your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your neighbor, or your neighbor’s wife or girlfriend or boyfriend. You only get 1/3 of your life to make homemade ice cream, to watch James Bond movies, or all these new Marvel Avenger flicks…to see the Rocky Mountains or the Grand Canyon, or Wicked on Broadway, or Clint Black in Warren PA, or Earth Wind & Fire at Red Rocks…to cuddle with babies or puppies…or to watch baseball. Only 33.3 % of your life can be spent playing hide-and-go-seek, or ding-dong ditch (ringing doorbells and running away), or building model cars or airplanes.

You only get one third of this life to just sit and stare at the ocean. ONE THIRD! Shrimpin’ boat captains get more ocean time, but you know what I’m saying.

If you are lucky enough to live to be 90, after sleeping and working, you only get 30 years for fun. Sometimes, it’s OK to quit things that aren’t fun…sometimes we should dare to be happy.

Always share The Large Man Chronicles on as many social media outlets that will support the format. Facebook is a good one. If you want to tell me how much you love it, post it on Facebook. If you want to tell me how much it sucks, send me an email at thelargeman@gmail.com …. Nah…I’m just kidding, you can say it sucks on Facebook too. I enjoy having my soul crushed in a public forum.

Never get in a car driven by someone you don’t know if they have tattoos on their face, or drink milk more than a week past its expiration date, or ask a woman if she’s pregnant, or fight with your mother, or go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, or think that I don’t appreciate your attention to these Chronicles I love to write.

I think that’s it…
Big Love,
TLM

Things I Miss

I knocked off work 2 hours early so my son and I could play some golf on a lovely Monday afternoon. We get to the club and find out one of our selfish and thoughtless local women’s clubs decided to have a fundraiser golf tournament for The American Cancer Society. So no golf for me today. I haven’t played in a couple of weeks and I miss it. Now I have 4 hours on my hands, so I thought I might write a Chronicle about some other things I miss…

Downloading/opening email when I get to my hotel room:

For the last several years I get it fresh all day on my phone, this makes my evenings pretty much work free…so I sit around and think about all the exercise I’m not getting. I kinda miss the surprise of what went on all day while I was on the road. Maybe it’s also that I miss being disconnected. I don’t believe all this connectivity is healthy. It’s been said a thousand times, but it’s a marvel to me that we have all these tools to makes us more efficient in our jobs and yet it seems like there is less time, and more stress.

But on the other hand…In some ways, it seems the more connection circuits I have, the less connected I feel – especially to my friends. Maybe we take the connections for granted, we know they’re always there, so we feel less motivated to reach out. I don’t think it’s supposed to work like that.

Turning Wrenches:

I’m truly a blue collar guy doing a white collar job in a blue collar industry. When I was a kid, and even as a young adult, I worked on my bikes, my cars, and my stuff. I briefly worked in the maintenance department at a municipal facility while I was working my way through colleges I didn’t attend as I pursued the business degree I never earned. I miss the satisfaction that came with manual activity, and fixing things. I have never quite equaled it on a laptop computer.

My Babies:

Actually, all babies. I miss being around babies and little kids. When you have babies and little kids, you’re usually hanging out with other people who have babies and little kids…and they all kinda become your kids. It takes a village.
When your kids get older, the hanging with the children becomes more novelty than regular practice. I miss having someone sit on my lap for the magic of a story, and there being nothing more in this world that this child wants or needs but the words on the page as interpreted by you. This is a cruel fate, but a fate deserved for all the times I cursed the thought of having to read ‘Goodnight Moon’, or ‘The House That Jack Built’, “…just one more time, Daddy”. I would give just about anything for “just one more time.” If I knew that Heaven was going to involve reading books to little kids, I would probably be a better person.

Political *in*correctness:

I have become a coward in this new millennium. Back in the 70s, we could make fun of anything.

Here are some examples of Facebook posts, or LMC lines that I have written, and then deleted:

Just after Caitlyn Jenner’s “announcement”…Inspired by Caitlyn, I had gender reassignment surgery yesterday… got my fucking period today. I think I’ve changed my mind.

Just after Cecil the lion controversy…I’m so outraged by the cruelty regarding Cecil the lion, I can barely enjoy my veal.

I love sarcasm in the face of controversy. My whimsical, old school, soul tells me Bruce to Caitlyn is a crazy situation wrought with humor, in fact, Caitlyn herself drops little barbs here and there. But my conscience tells me that the world is changing, and everything doesn’t need to be a joke, or not everyone (me) is entitled to joke about everything. I think it’s kinda like black people and the “n word”, they’re allowed, I’m not. I understand.

And even if it is funny, I don’t wish to offend or disappoint anyone. I writhe with conflict in the battle of things I should and shouldn’t say. I really miss not caring about it…and it’s not that I don’t want to care about whose feelings I might hurt, because I do. I have good friends who are passionate animal rights advocates – the kind of people who have that Sarah McLachlan Humane Society commercial on DVD and watch it on Saturdays just to remind themselves of “the struggle”. And they’re not even posturing to get laid; they really care. A leveraged joke using Cecil as the fulcrum might upset one of these friends – I don’t want to do that. I think that kind of empathy is one of my few qualities. What disappoints me about me, is that I care about all the political correctness hall monitors and what they might think. The people who say that we “… can’t say that” – whatever “that” is. The people who take a position on a cause they don’t understand, but it’s trendy. Why should I care if I offend them?

I’m not just a coward, I feel like I’m selling out my beliefs to a degree. The people I offend with my Caitlyn jokes are mostly the same people who skewer Tim Tebow for his openness regarding his faith. Tim is as brave as Caitlyn…just not as trendy. This makes my head want to explode.

But my head stays intact, because bottom line; I just don’t want to fight, and I don’t want to offend. I want to smile, laugh and hug, without conflict. Like a little pussy.

Rock and Roll Guitar Heroes:

John Mayer? Really? This is the best we have? JM is a fine musician…I actually met him in Nags Head when he was just a 19 years old, sweet kid, full of humility and amazing talent. But I digress…fuck John Mayer. I want to hear a young gun who can make a Stratocaster scream like a tortured banshee in heat.

Where is this generation’s Pete Townsend, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Keith Partridge, Joe Perry, Rick Nielsen, Brian May, Santana, or Jeff Beck? I could go on and on…so many from “my generation”, and so few today. I’m sure they’re out there, it’s just that Taylor Swift has all the shelf space.

For the record, I’m not a Taylor hater…I actually like her, and I love her game. I just hate her shelf space, and what corporate music and capitalism is doing to the soul of entertainment. Aretha Franklin would probably not make it in the music industry today. Those may be the saddest words I’ve ever written.

And Speaking of Music:

I miss going to a venue with a real name. I went to concerts at The Capital Centre, (named for its location, not the “One Card”) and RFK stadium, and Merriweather Post Pavilion…not the corporate Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, and Citibank Stadium, or AT&T Theater in the Round co-sponsored by SONY Entertainment & Chick-fil-A. I understand capitalism, I love capitalism…the C in my “given” name stands for capitalism…but is everything for sale? Would James Brown have become the Godfather of soul if he had recorded his ‘Live at the Apollo’ album at PepsiCo Park? I DON’T THINK SO…
A corporate venue lacks soul…this is always true.

And One More Music Thing:

Albums. Black, vinyl, record albums. The artwork, the liner notes, the lyrics printed on the inner sleeve or the inside fold of the cover…lyrics written just for me. I think I’ve mentioned this before in another Chronicle, but it bears repeating. Man I miss that stuff. When I was younger, the only thing better than kissing a pretty girl was a new record album.

The Sins of My Youth:

Malt Duck, Miller pony bottles, Schlitz tallboys, Stroh’s…and sweet stinky weed (only on rare occasions).

I swear beer tasted better when you weren’t allowed to have it. I post lots of pictures on my Facebook page of beers that I’m in the process of enjoying; but I’ll tell you… the best beer that ever crossed these lady loving lips was the beer I drank after every home football game my senior year of high school. My buddy and I would drink one each before we went in to change for the game, and we left four on ice in a crappy, squeaky, dirty, white, Styrofoam cooler. After the game, on a cool October night, under the dim industrial blue and yellow sodium vapor streetlights of my high school parking lot, thinking about the girl you were going to ask to dance that night, we drank that ice cold Budweiser… so cold you could track it as it traveled down your throat to your belly. Almost 40 years later, no beer has ever been more appreciated or has tasted so good. That was pure adolescent magic.

The Junk Food of My Youth:

Red licorice, Charms Sour pops, candy cigarettes, Big Buddy Bubble Gum, 7 Up, Dr. Pepper (the drinks don’t taste the same today) a cherry Slurpee, Chilly Willies. Junk food was better when I was a kid. I would pay $50 for that foot long piece of cherry or banana flavored Big Buddy gum. It would be perfect if my sweetheart, Kathy, or her friends (and mine of course), Cindy or Pam had it folded in the back pocket of their baby blue corduroy Levi’s for about an hour and then broke off about a 3″ piece and gave it to me. When Big Buddy bubble gum was “seasoned” in the back pocket of your Levi’s for an hour or two, it softened up for immediate chewability. It had to be Levi’s… cords were a better seasoning vessel than denim, and it only worked in the hip pocket. Softened bubblegum from your favorite girl’s hip pocket was better than just about anything you knew about when you were 13 years old. An indisputable truth.

Your Thoughts:

When I first got on Facebook, I thought it was so cool to see what was on your mind. You wrote down your thoughts, you talked about, or shared pics of your kids or your grandkids, you shared a music video, or maybe just wrote down a few lines of a song you liked. I really miss that stuff. You wrote about your work day, a visit with a friend, or a funny/sweet/intense/notable moment. Now it’s videos of cats laying beside a pitbull, pictures of food or beer (GUILTY!), postcards about how we should let go of people who don’t treat us nicely, political bullshit, or how much we like wine or guns or flags…or, how much we don’t. Social media was once a real connection, now it feels like a bulletin board in the lunchroom, and everyone is at Wendy’s.

***

I miss lots of other stuff too, but that’s all I have for now. I miss taking the time to write The Large Man Chronicles, sharing all the crazy, sick, twisted, & stupid stuff that rolls around my head all day. But I think I can do something about that.

I HAVE A LARGE ASS… .

…comment section below. What are some things YOU miss? TELL ME!

Thanks for reading!!
TLM

Preface:

This is an old Large Man Chronicle, written 6 years ago. A writer needs inspiration, few things in my life have inspired me the way my children have. I remember the look on my little girl’s face the first time she looked up at me through her new glasses, and I can’t specifically tell you why it was such a special…and inspirational, moment, but it was. Thankfully, I can close my eyes and see that pretty little face, in that perfect father daughter moment, just about any time I want; on a plane to Dallas, on a shuttle to the rental car counter in Kansas City, or in this hotel room in Boston. That image is burned into my memory forever, and as long as I have it, and a few others like that,  I’m never too far from home.

In some ways, I think it’s a little presumptuous to tell tales about my kids, it feels like I’m showing you my home movies. A good writer would never assume that such personal things are interesting to the masses. But I re-publish this rather poorly written & structured tale, and I ask you Large Man readers to just “indulge me” on this one. Because, I didn’t know it at the time, but I became a writer on the day this story took place. I remember that pretty face, and I remember the ride home in the car, and I remember not being able to stay away from my computer. I didn’t “want” to tell this story, I HAD to tell this story. The Large Man was born sometime around my little girl’s 10th birthday. I will never be able to properly express the gratitude I have for that sweet and simple, little moment. Game changer.

Today, that “little girl” turns 16. She still inspires me, she is still my light. She is a perfect mix: she’s 24% the best things about my Mom, she’s 25% the best things about my wife, and she’s 51% her own unique, twisted, special blend.

Happy Birthday, Alex Rae, I love you to the moon and back. Thank you for making me proud, every single day! And thank you for making me a writer – your gift to me is endless.

Here’s ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’ , my personal favorite of ‘The Large Man Chronicles’. Most of you have already read it, if you haven’t, give it a look and tell me what you think.

*   *   *   *

March 2009

I just went to the optometrist and picked up glasses for my 9 year old daughter. $250.00 f-ing dollars on glasses for a 9 year old child. I remember wanting glasses when I was her age; I even purposely failed my vision test at school. Now that I have to wear them, it’s a little less thrilling. So, yes she was excited, something new. Yes, she was very appreciative. I’m thankful that she understands and recognizes, and appreciates, that she could pick out whatever she wanted. And yes, she asked me if I wanted to go to the electronics store and look at big screens to take away some of the sting of the $250… “Since we’re already out”, she offered as a consoling gesture. I guess it warms my heart a little to see that happiness, but DAMN!!!…$250.00!!! Plus, I know that braces are just around the corner. What’s the point in even looking at big screens?

BUT, this is my world, my station in life. My little girl is spoiled, maybe not rotten, but spoiled. And that’s okay. I thank heaven for this spoiled little girl every day.

My daughter is going to be 10 years old in a few weeks. That is, if she agrees to it. She usually has her own set of plans, her own rules. Those rules and plans are generally different from society’s accepted standards of practice. She wears what she wants to wear; she eats what she wants to eat. She cares very little about anyone’s opinion of her choices. She has very little need for approval. Report cards and teacher conferences confirm that she is a pretty smart chick, and never a behavior problem. She has a quirkiness that an artist has, that skewed view of the world that will forever make her special, and can sometimes make her an outcast. She is the light of my life, and has been since the day I met her.

Alexandra Rae was supposed to be a boy, she was supposed to be a Jack. When my wife was carrying her, we didn’t find out who was coming because we wanted a surprise. The genealogy didn’t really line things up for there to be much of a surprise. I say that she was supposed to be a boy because it seems like I have about 1,000 cousins on my father’s side of the family, and like 5 are girls. Those facts may be exaggerated, but for whatever reason; everyone just expected a boy.

But secretly, in those private, reflective, father-to-be moments, for 38 weeks I wished for a little girl. I know you’re not supposed to think like that when you’re an expectant father. You are supposed to want “10 fingers and 10 toes”, and a healthy heart. Of course that was all I ever prayed for, but very quietly…very privately…I hoped for a little girl. I was always a little nervous about that. Was I tempting fate by wishing and hoping?

The nurse who greeted us in the maternity ward on the day my little girl was born was absolutely gorgeous. She was only about five feet tall, raven black hair, eyes as green as emeralds, and a tight little package that was built for speed. These facts have nothing to do with this story, they’re just another part of this great memory.

She asked us beforehand if we knew who was coming, and we told her we were pretty sure it was “Jack”. During the very short labor (about 90 minutes) in the middle of all the drama and chaos that went on in that room, our nurse chanted a few times, “Jack be nimble…Jack be quick”. My wife and I thought it was cute and fun. It was also quite prophetic.

Our first child was very nimble and very, VERY quick, she just didn’t turn out to be a Jack. My wife did not plan on a natural child-birth, but our daughter had a different set of plans. Alex Rae didn’t have time for anyone to hook up an epidural, she was ready, and we were on her clock now.

When our hot little nurse uttered those magic words, “Well Mom and Dad, you have a perfectly healthy baby…. girl!” My wife and I were shocked. I was happiest about the “perfectly healthy” part of her statement for sure, but I have to admit that I always felt like maybe I cheated a little bit. On April 27th 1999 I got what I prayed for, and what I hoped for. That’s a pretty good day.

On that Tuesday in April almost 10 years ago, my little girl grabbed my index finger, squeezed harder, and cried louder than any living thing that size should be able to do. She looked right at me, and in her own language she seemed to be saying:

“Look, I know you’re scared, and you probably should be – you are not remotely qualified to do this job, but God and Mommy will get you through. Just understand that things are gonna change around here, dude, and you’re gonna buy me shit…lots and lots of it. Clothes, toys, shoes (I will never understand the shoe thing)…and you’re gonna complain about it out loud, but deep down inside, buying me stuff is gonna make you happy. Because deep down inside the thing that makes you the happiest, is making the people you love happy. And right now, this very minute, you just realized that you’ll never love anybody the way you love me. Pretty cool huh? Now pick me up; I won’t break. Oh by the way, I came two weeks early, in April, because I like diamonds, and the birthstone for May is an emerald. Emeralds just don’t work for me, dude. That’s how I roll.”

At least that’s how I remember it all. She seemed very wise for somebody that was only a few minutes old.

So, the $250.00 that I spent on glasses today does NOT make me happy. The light in the eyes behind those glasses always makes me happy. Those eyes melt my heart every day. The light in my little girl’s eyes make those glasses worth every penny. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. For 10 years, I have thanked Heaven every day for this little girl.

Well now it’s 16, and I still do…and I always will.
Thanks for reading.

Bad Manners

On a flight to Kansas City: April 6th 2015

“Honey, why do I have a middle seat, and you have an aisle?” asked the tall, athletically gorgeous, brunette woman with the perky (not pouting) breasts, as she moved past my seat to seat 6B. The tone of her question could best be described as indignant.

Honey replied, “I don’t know, Baby. I guess the computer just did it that way.” The tone of Honey’s reply could best be described as annoyed.

Honey was an almost equally attractive human specimen, packaged in the male version. He had dark, thick, curly hair…booth tanned skin, and well-muscled arms that were testing the limits of the banded short sleeves of his untucked royal blue polo shirt.

These two would be perfect for the cover of a magazine that might specialize in selling us shit we don’t need. Both pretty, but she was special.

Her non-pouting breasts were presented to her fellow passengers in a nicely fitting black tank top, and they would have been considered just short of perfection had they not been fake and outclassed by her amazing butt…this ass was spectacular. (I’m not talking about the dude she was with, I didn’t really know him yet) She encased these lovely glutes in a pair of heather grey yoga pants that coordinated well with the black tank. Because she finished the apparel package with a long graceful neck, a perfect nose, well set cheekbones, and vibrant light brown eyes, her scantily clad ensemble advertised pretty, not slutty. She had an aura of confidence that was most likely the result of a childhood full of participation trophies, a parent sponsored Psychology degree, good nutrition, and family and friends who always reminded her that she was awesome. I had deduced her entire psychological profile in the first 10 seconds of our soon to be dysfunctional relationship. That’s because I was a bit travel weary, and I’m a bit of a douche when I’m flying, even on good days. Baby’s and Honey’s visual charisma had the attention of everyone in the cabin, so naturally, I disliked them.

“Why would the computer separate us? You booked the tickets together didn’t you?” she pressed the issue.

“Yes, I did” he replied impatiently. The brevity of his replies led me to believe that he did not want to engage in conversation with this beautiful woman. He seemed uncomfortable and maybe a bit off balance for someone of his stature and importance, even that importance was self-perceived.

Then, as Honey was apprehensively waiting for Baby’s next question, his discomfort increased exponentially as a Large man – I’m gonna say 350 pounds, grabbed the middle seat next to him – seat 6E.

So right about now I’m thinking that Honey might be rethinking all those extra reps on the incline bench, those last two squeeeeeezzzzed out military presses, and the countless dumbbell flies that he has subjected his pecs, traps, and delts to, becaaaauuuuusssse… his broad, bronzed, and chiseled upper body was now competing for the limited airplane cabin space with the soft and fleshy, gelatinous, mass of the co-passenger in 6E. I bet he’s also thinking that he may not have chosen wisely when he made the choice to put an aisle and another passenger (me) in between him and the woman he calls ‘Baby’.

So I have an aisle seat next to a thin, beautiful, if not 100% natural, woman. Her significant other is sitting across the aisle from me in his own aisle seat that he appears to have chosen for himself instead of her – and this action has caused his lady some irritation. It also seems like he may have chosen this arrangement strategically to have a “buffer” between himself and her. But now, it’s looking like the strategy may be backfiring as we are about to embark on a two hour journey, and he’s sitting next to a rotund and overflowing (but I’m sure very nice) row mate…with a skin condition. Did I mention that? Yeah, the 6E dude is a little flakey…but not in an emotional way, if you catch my drift.

Their conversation continues, and I am literally in the middle of their first world crisis. These beautiful people have to sit next to some of us who are less visually stunning (I’m talking about the big dude in 6E, I’m a very attractive man; everyone says so). The two of them began discussing how to resolve the crisis as if the Large passenger, and The Large Man (that’s me) weren’t even there. Bad manners.

“Honey, this is a long flight. Is there any way we can sit together?” asked Baby.

“I don’t know, Baby, do you think one of these guys will change seats with one of us?” was the reply of the strong and handsome man. He seemed terribly troubled and put out by all of this.

As a frequent traveler, and one who is wise in the ways of aircraft cabin comfort and logistics, and even wiser in the ways of love and making a woman feel cherished, I felt it was my duty to…umm… interject.

“Maybe someone would help you if you didn’t talk about us as if we weren’t here” I interjected while making eye contact with Baby, then turning to Honey at the end of my unsolicited advice. My interjection made the Large and fleshy man in 6E smile as he was working the keypad of his phone.

So Baby looks at Honey, as she points her thumb at me kinda hitchhiker style and asks, “Why don’t you ask this guy if he’ll change seats with you – aisle seat, for an aisle seat?”

Before Honey can respond, I calmly interject again, looking right in Baby’s eyes (and not at her boobs, because I don’t objectify women) and I ask, “Why don’t you just ask me? I’m sitting right here. Do you understand how rude and really weird this is?”

As abrupt and to the point as my words were, Honey still addresses the lady he calls Baby, and says, “I’m not going to ask, you ask.”

I want to make sure you readers understand, they’re not speaking in whispers, not even in lowered voices. They are speaking in completely normal, conversational volume, voices…I’d never seen anything like it, and I’m 55 and ½ years old.

So I turn back to Baby, and I just look at her (that’s the first time I really noticed how unique and beautiful her eyes were; more like an amber than a brown. Stunning, but I digress) and I wait for her question. I didn’t say it out loud, but I was thinking, C’mon, use your words, you can ask.

So she twisted up her courage, and looked just to the left, and above me so as not to make eye contact.

“Hey, would you mind changing seats with my husband, so we can sit together?”

Other than the lack of eye contact, and calling me “Hey”, instead of, “Sir”, or “Buddy” or even, “Dude” (Handsome would have worked too), her question was presented semi-respectfully. At the very least, it was a question and not a demand. I was kind of expecting a demand.

“Which one is your husband?” I replied. (If only for my own amusement, I found my reply equally funny and dick-ish…in retrospect, about 75% dick-ish)

She gave me an astonished stare. “Well him.” She pointed at the man in the aisle seat (of course). “The aisle seat. The one I’ve been talking to.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t know” I replied innocently (Dick-ishly)

I think she felt that now that she was communicating with me directly, I would fall under her spell.

She continued, “You both have aisle seats, and this way my husband I can sit together. It’s a long flight.”

“Why didn’t you guys book your seats together?” I asked. Her husband rolled his head back, and shook that curly topped noggin as he faced the heavens.

I was really enjoying this, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one.

“I think the computer just did it this way. So can you switch with us?” she asked again.

“No, I don’t think so” was my response.

She crossed her arms and faced forward. Honey quickly grabbed a magazine and just stared at it. I did nothing. Other passengers kept walking by, finding their way to their own seats, unaware of all the fun we were having in row 6.

About 30 seconds passed before she turned back to me and asked, “Can I ask why? Why won’t you switch with him? We’re going on vacation.”

I reply:
“Well, first of all; I travel all the time. I’m on a plane just about every week. I almost never get to sit next to someone as pretty and petite as you. I’m usually sitting next to someone just like me – Large and bulky, and barely contained by the seats we have here in coach. So simply looking at my options, I can sit next to someone young, small, and beautiful, like you, or I can change seats with your husband, and sit next to someone, well, more like me. I’m in control of this situation, and I pick you. No offense, sir.” I directed the last part of my reply to the Large(er) gentleman in 6E.

6E looks up from his phone and says, “None taken” with hint of a smile, then back to his phone. Baby smiled a little as well while I was acknowledging her beauty.

I continue, “Your husband, your Honey, can sit next to you anytime. The travel gods are smiling on me today, I can’t ignore them, it wouldn’t be right. Second of all, and I don’t want to start a whole thing here, but you guys were being kind of rude, and maybe even a little disrespectful as you were speaking about me and our other row mate as if we weren’t here. That’s just bad manners, I can’t nurture that with any kind of accommodation. Does that make sense?”

I look at her, and wait for a reply, she looks at me, blankly, and says nothing.

“And finally,” I say, “I have a hunch that you’re not used to people saying ‘No’ to you. I get the feeling you almost always get what you want, whenever you want it. You were exasperated at the thought of sitting in a middle seat…next to me. So in a way, I’m helping you. Life doesn’t always work out that way. Really, I’m surprised you’re not thanking me.”

Still no comment. The only response was that she turned away from me and shook her head. I think I may have made Baby angry. Honey never looked up from his magazine, but I couldn’t tell if I made him mad, or made his day. I guess I’ll never know, because despite my friendly attempts at conversation during the flight, neither spoke for the next 2 hours.

Just so ya know, I help less experienced travelers all the time. I’ll give up my aisle or window seat at the drop of a hat so kids can sit with sibs or parents. I give my preferred seats up for military peeps, older ladies or gentlemen, and strippers of any age. I’m a giver, and I give happily.

But this was a day to give a lesson and not a seat. I just don’t tolerate bad manners.

Thanks for reading.

Part One: Stuff Happens

What a trip. Details are always boring and just take up space, but in this case the devil is in the details. To make it easier on all of us, and to get to the point, I’ll submit an abbreviated timeline.

Sunday, March 1st:
I make a smart ass remark on Facebook to my dear friend, Patty, after she posts a few details of her nightmare trip to California. My comment had a “welcome to my world” theme.

Monday, March 2nd:
I embark on a 4 day revenue generation trip to Myrtle Beach. There may have been some unsanctioned golf involved. I believe that I have earned this interruption in my normal work environment because I am a hard-working ambassador for my company. I have a high opinion of my professional self.

My flight from Buffalo arrives early to Myrtle. Rare occurrence. Lucky.

Working days…all good.

Thursday, March 5th:

Arrive at airport 2 hours before my return flight’s scheduled departure – back to the cold and snow of the worst place in the world. I was pouting over my situation when I should have been rejoicing in, and being thankful for, my good fortune, health, spirit, life, etc. Bad juju.

Flight delayed 2 hours. 1 hour layover at my connecting airport. Uh oh.

Arrive at connecting airport. Home leg of trip also delayed 2 hours. Lucky.

Delayed another 30 minutes at 6:00 PM. This pattern repeats every 30 minutes until 10:00 PM

At 10:00 PM, gate agent announces cancellation of flight 1885 (my flight) to Buffalo.

At 10:15 PM, gate agent announces, “I am a human being, I made a mistake. Flight 1885 is NOT cancelled. We are waiting on a crew that will be here at 11:07. I apologize.”

I felt lucky, hundreds of people were getting flights canceled all around me. I was going home.

At 11:15 PM the flight is moved to midnight.

At midnight, fight 1885 to Buffalo is cancelled. Less lucky

Friday, March 6th: (but only 30 minutes later)

At 12:30 AM I am the next person in line at customer service.

At 1:15 AM I am in front of a customer service agent

At 1:30 AM I’m told there are no flights left to Buffalo for Friday March 6th.

I think it’s important for all of you to know that even at this point, I haven’t uttered one audible swear word. I was thinking them, calmly and coolly to myself, but the only thing the outside world saw from me was an understanding smile, and all they heard from me was, “Thank you”.

At 1:35 AM I’m assigned seat 5C for a 9:25 SATURDAY departure. (Still no swearing) And, after a little bit of aggressive “negotiation”, I was given a voucher for a local hotel. I was told my bags would not be available because of limited staff at this late hour. “They are on their way to Buffalo…”, and I would pick them up when I got there Saturday. This didn’t make sense to me, but I said, “Thanks”.

…and THAT’S when it got interesting.

WARNING: The following written account of the events that took place on the remainder of Friday March 6th, and continuing thru Saturday March 7th are explicit, in some cases disturbing, and might be upsetting to readers under the age of 85. This content is intended for mature audiences.

SECTION B: A Large Man Stranded in a Town That Doesn’t Want Him

Random thoughts as I walk away from the “Customer Service” counter:

A day and a half with only the clothes I’m wearing. Tommy John underwear probably rinses and dries beautifully, it’s a sheer fabric. I’ll be OK. I guess I could shop for underwear, but I can’t go back to old school…TJs have changed my life. I hope that young girl is OK. I do this every week, I know what to do and where to go, poor kid has never flown before, she told me her parents never have either…no one to call, nowhere to turn…scared and alone. Not gonna get much help from “Customer Service” from what I saw. I’m a stranger, I’m older, and probably a little creepy to a 17-year-old girl, OR guy for that matter. Sad world where you can’t simply help someone without worrying about them getting wigged out. I connected her with those businesswomen I talked to; I’m sure they’ll take care of her…hope she’s alright. I hope this (hotel that sorta rhymes with “Tostada”) Inn is decent. I wonder if cabs are running this late? This sucks. With an internal chuckle, I never should have poked fun at Patty.

As I start to pull up the phone number for the hotel, there is an announcement that says, “All passengers on cancelled flight 1885 to Buffalo must pick up their bags on carousel C 1”. My immediate thought is, YES! But then I kinda shake my head a little…what if I had already gotten in a cab. These people don’t seem to know what the fuck they’re doing.

Whatever…I pick up my bags. I’m happy. I will have a place to sleep, and I will have clean clothes to change into. If the hotel is nice, I can office in the hotel on Friday, get home on Saturday…this is not the end of the world. Stay positive.

At 2:00 AM I call the hotel, and “Yes”, they have a shuttle. “We’ll be there in about ten minutes, sir. Go to zone C”. I say, “Thank you”, and I go to zone C. But the ten minutes became twenty, and then twenty became twenty-five.

At 2:25 AM I got in a taxi.

At 2:55 AM I got my room key. I only had a voucher for 1 night. I asked if there were vacancies for Friday night. “Yes, but you gotta pay for it yourself. This voucher is only good for tonight…” I put up my hand to stop the clerk from giving me more reasons not to stay. I wasn’t sure what my future held, but I didn’t like the tone…so I didn’t commit. I’m tired, I’m cranky, I have to pee…not a time to negotiate.

At 3:00 AM I walk into the room set my bags down and race to the bathroom. Problem is, the door to the bathroom doesn’t open up all the way…because the fucking toilet is in the fucking way. Seriously – I push the door open to walk in, and I’m abruptly stopped. My forehead hits the door, then my nose smooshes against the door, then my lips smash against that very same door, kind of a rolling chain reaction from the top down. I’m worried that my nose is bleeding.

The toilet is sticking out so far from the fucking wall that you can’t open the door all the way. What you have to do, is open the door a little, then slide sideways into the bathroom, then close the door, then stand in front of the toilet. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? “No sir, we’re not! Will you be staying tomorrow? I’m gonna need that credit card.” Decision made.

I turn on the main lights in the sleeping area. Not good. There are a few pieces of gum pressed into the carpet, the ants don’t seem interested in the gum though. They’re marching past – straight through the room into the hallway. I’m too tired now to care. I lay down on the bed – with my clothes on – and I fall asleep.

At 4:45 AM, my 55-year-old prostate awakens me for another bathroom visit. In the fog of my slumber, I get up and head to the bathroom. I open the door, smash my head against it…again…nose and lips too, just as before. This is when I started crying.

At 8:30 AM my phone rang and a very sweet lady from the front desk told me that if I wanted to stay tonight I needed to book now.

At 8:31 AM I got out of bed and booked another hotel.

Then I went to an I-Hop across the parking lot. Pancakes were cold, eggs were undercooked. When I told the waiter about it, he told me … and I swear this is true…he said, “I didn’t cook your breakfast, sir.”

OK

Shower, thought about shaving, then I considered the frappe of airborne bacteria that had to be floating around the room. I simply could not risk a cut or a nick, so I chose the scruffy, “Bruce Willis” look.

Cab ride…new hotel…friendly clerk. Things are turning around. Maybe this town wants me to stay here after all!!

Not so much…

In all honesty, it gets a little better here. I took advantage of the hotel’s shuttle to get to lunch, to dinner, and then the next day to the airport. They were great, but they understand customer service, because tips are customary on a shuttle. The drivers were knowledgeable, friendly, and very appreciative of my cash tips. I went to a wonderful restaurant for lunch, and I was treated like an appreciated customer at The Burger Company in Charlotte. I made a point to speak to the manager about the outstanding people working in this restaurant, and I look forward to going there again.

Consider The Burger Company at 1500 West Morehead Street in Charlotte NC to be a Large Man certified establishment…I give it 5 thongs on the Large Man 5 Thong scale of establishments (TLM5TSOE) – there is NOTHING about that place I would change.

But sadly, The Burger Company was but a brief oasis, the eye of my hurricane of travel hell. My new hotel was darn near as dirty as the one I just left, but on the positive side, it cost a lot more. The desk clerk who checked me in was very sweet when she was taking my credit card, when I called to complain about the absence of hot water in my room, she might as well have told me that she wasn’t a plumber. Her second shift replacement was simply rude. So basically, more of the same. No love at the quite dirty hotel that rhymes with SlingThrill Treats.

Epilogue

I think the point here is that during this trip I came in contact with no less than 10 people who work in a customer service role, people who had an opportunity and the power to make my experience better. They had opportunities to make other people’s struggles a little easier too. They declined to exercise that power. Maybe they were tired, maybe they were burned out, or maybe they have been desensitized to the woes of the privileged traveler. Or, maybe they just don’t care…or maybe they just suck at their job. Through the entire ordeal, I felt like I just wasn’t wanted. I might as well been back at my senior prom.

Of the 10 people or so people who I had a meaningful interaction with, Kaitlyn at The Burger Company, and Susie B at the US Air ticket counter in Charlotte for my eventual outbound flight, listened to my situation, and they made it better…because they felt like that was their job.

Kaitlyn just gave me a cookie and a little note with a heart on it. Not ground breaking…but definitely  difference making.

Susie B gave me another seat.

On Saturday March 7th at 9:05 AM I sat down in seat 5C on flight 1942 to Buffalo. My bags were checked, my mind was at ease. 45 hours after I started the journey, I was actually going home. The chief flight attendant shut and secured the cabin door, and walked to my seat and said, “Mr. Dolinger, Susie at the ticket counter said you had some trouble getting home, and she upgraded you to a seat in First Class. Why don’t you grab your stuff and come with me.

She handed me the first class ticket, there was note written on the back of the ticket that read:

I’m sorry this has been such a rough trip. We appreciate your business, and I want you to keep flying with us. Thanks for your loyalty – PLEASE don’t give up on us!! Bad week for everybody!

Susie B

OK…I thought to myself. I guess that’s enough.

I sat down in seat 1C, ordered a Bloody Mary, and I went home.

Thanks for reading.

The Large Man

 

Your comments are always appreciated!! Tell me what you like and what you didn’t. There is a comment section here, or you can send a private note to thelargeman@gmail.com. Sharing on your social media pages, forwarding to friends and relatives…and publishers, is always encouraged and appreciated.

We’re going to attempt to make some t-shirts this summer. I have a $200 sponsorship that will go towards this production run. The Large Man Chronicles hopes to provide a quality, colorful, all cotton garment. Our goal will be to recoup our expenses and donate about $5.00 per shirt to The Sandbox at Madeline’s Place. http://www.thesandboxatmadelinesplace.com  If you are interested, send me an email or a private Facebook message. I’m hoping that about $22 – $25 will be the price range…the quantity & level of interest will be a factor.

Stay gold…