Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Wild Blue Yonder

I'm back home. Tired, beat, and bedraggled. My blisters have blisters and It's a Small World After All is still stuck in my head, but we had a great time. Before I blog about our Disney experience I thought I'd discuss the tribulations of my airport travels as they relate to books and writing.

First let me say whoever said, "Getting there is half the fun," either was going to one miserable place or they managed to avoid airports in their travels. The hurry up and wait dynamic of air travel churns my innards more than Space Mountain on a full stomach. I'd much rather drive, regardless of distance, but time doesn't always permit that. There is however one silver lining to airplanes. This may shock all of y'all, but I'm a people person. I like to talk. Chat up strangers. Study people and their mannerisms. Therefore, I love the character study being crammed together with hordes of strangers provides. I am that guy who likes to strike up a conversation with my seatmates regardless of age, sex or nationality. Yes, I know this annoys some people, but I can't help myself.

The row of seats on Southwest all have three seats and my wife and I split up each taking a child so on 4 of my 5 legs of air travel I found myself sitting by a stranger. These are my general observations.

Leg 1--Amarillo to Denver - Yeah I know Denver is the wrong direction from Orlando, but direct flights from Amarillo are few and far between. Young woman in her mid to late forties took the seat next to me. She had on a long, full-length white coat. My first thought was who the hell would wear a white coat to ride on an airplane where God knows what has happened on the seats. She was nice and cordial, but opened up a book and started reading almost at once. I don't like to bother anyone who is reading so I stayed quiet as she read Marley and Me. About twenty minutes in she started crying and didn't stop for the next half hour. I smiled to myself, almost proud on behalf of the author that he'd hooked her that deeply. She apologized for being a basket case (her description, not mine) as she sniffed into a Kleenex. As we descended into Denver he closed the book and told me she too had a yellow Labrador and that no way could she go see that movie.

Leg 2 -- Denver to Orlando - A man with a shave head in his late forties took the seat beside me. He immediately opened a paperback Iris Johansen novel and began reading. But he finished reading the novel and then commenced to talking to me. His family was headed home from Orlando after vacationing at copper Mountain in Colorado. He was a police supervisor of the K9 unit in Orlando and we chatted about bombs, police procedure, narcotics and other useful things any write should know about that kind of stuff. He said he'd always wanted tow rite but never had made the time to do so. He gave me his finished copy of Quicksand he'd been reading and we chatted all they way to Florida while my son played his Nintendo DS.

Leg 3 -- Orlando to New Orleans - A young boy of about nine or ten sat by me and while I tried to talk to him I quickly gathered that his parents had entrenched the "Don't talk to strangers" mantra in his psyche so I began reading so as not to give him nightmares about the big hairy guy who wouldn't shut up. I started reading a novel I got for Christmas called, One Mississippi by Mark Childress.

Leg 4 -- New Orleans to Dallas - My fourth and final seatmate was by far the most intriguing. Don't get me wrong the K9 cop was a great guy and somebody I could hang out with I'm sure, but seatmate 4 was the kind of stuff I could build a character out of. She was tall, nearly as tall as me so that would put her six foot three or so. Pretty, though not nearly as beautiful as she thought herself. Slender of build but curvaceous enough to garner a man's attention. She had knee high riding boots on over denim jeans and a polo shirt, but a haughty air about her made it plain she had money, or at least wanted you to think she did. She had villainess written all over her. She was reluctant to take the seat beside me but the plane was full she she had no choice. A mousy little guy followed behind her and was forced to sit few rows up.

I asked little Miss Up-turned-nose if she'd like me to put the arm rest down which she responded with a very stiff and formal, "I am fine, thank you." Then she pulled out a set of Bose headphones which she plugged into an iphone. Next came a velvet facial mask which she placed over her eyes as if to say, Not only do I not want to hear you speak but I do not even want to look at your big hairy face for the next hour and a half. She had an August copy of Vogue Magazine on her lap but she never cracked it open. Way I figured, if the woman was all she thought she was then she'd at least have the latest issue of her fashion magazine. I thought about tapping her on the shoulder and saying, "Guess what, I'm a writer and I recently finished a book titled Plundered Booty," just to get her reaction, but I was too tired to be ornery so I read some more.

When we reached altitude and the captain turned off the seat belt sign her lackey, err I mean boyfriend (she wasn't wearing a wedding ring so I'll assume he wasn't her hubby got up and brought her a bottle of Evian water. He pressed it into her hand and cooed in her ear, "Is there anything else I can get you baby?"All the while, he massaged her back in small little circles.

She answered with a barely perceptible shake of her head, not even bothering to remove her mask. He returned to his seat and she sat ramrod straight in her seat right up until the exact moment to plane stopped. At which point she stood and sashayed down the aisle. Someday, I will need a bitchy character and I will have her to draw on for inspiration.


The last leg from Dallas to Amarillo was uneventful as me and my son had a row to ourselves. One good thing is that for all the dire news about books and the publishing world I saw tons of people reading while I was away . On planes, in airports, even standing in lines at Disney World.

Hope all of y'all had as much fun over the holidays and I look forward to catching up on y'alls blogs over the next few weeks. Right now I'm too scared to even open my google reader and see the number of unread posts.

26 comments:

lyzzydee said...

Welcome back Travis, I have missed you!!! I hate travelling by plane, last year (year before now!!!) we were returning from Orlando when we were delayed 18 hours, it was pure hell. On the plane we were jammed in and I was so exhausted I could barely talk, sadly I was unable to sleep either. Its really put me off traveling anywhere by plane!!!

David said...

Someday, I will need a bitchy character and I will have her to draw on for inspiration.

That would be better than any clever conversational comeback could ever be!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Sorry 'bout the blisters, but I know it was worth it. Look at all the character fodder you got! Oh, and your kids are gonna love you when they get to be teens. Like mine say, "Mahhhm, OMG, you'd talk to a stump, wouldn't you? It's soooo humiliating." LOL

preTzel said...

Airplanes scare the living bejesus out of me. I've not been on one since 1997 and I don't plan on getting on one any time soon.

I am a people - watcher and make mental notes each time I'm sitting and watching strange characters.

Welcome home Travis. Did you get my Mickey picture? ;)

Jenster said...

We flew from Philly to Phoenix to Palm Springs over the holidays. I saw a ton of people reading, too. I wanted to know what book and what they thought of it, but never did ask. It drove me batty!

Airports and airplanes are the best place to find good characters!

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow. Great fodder for future characters. Glad you had a good time in Orlando, but I can't believe how many airplanes you had to get on to get there!

Kristen Painter said...

I never talk to people when I fly. I'm either writing on my laptop or reading (or sleeping) but I do like to watch people.

Barrie said...

Wow, what an interesting (albeit tiring) trip! I loved all the character sketches. Happy New Year, Travis! And welcome home!

Marci said...

Hilarious post! I wish my recent travels were as entertaining - all I got was lost baggage on the way from O'hare to Laguardia :)

Found you on Blog4Reel, really enjoying your blog!

yellowdog granny said...

welcome back...glad to know that people are still reading..yeah for us readers..

Barbara Martin said...

Interesting characters you met on your travels, and excellent examples for future stories.

My mother always talked to strangers, and I do the same. You never know what they'll say that might set you on the track of a good story idea.

Charles Gramlich said...

Planes are one of the few places I see people reading and it cheers me. I'm not surprised no one was reading in or out of New Orleans, though. I'm just disgusted at how seldom most folks around here read.

Merry Monteleone said...

Welcome back, Travis!!!! And happy belated New Years to you and yours!

I thought about leaving an anon. comment saying:

"I am married. But my wedding ring and purse were stolen at gunpoint by a big harry texan who looked a lot like you. The eyemask was because I'm too old to hide my head under covers."

But I thought that might kind of scare you :-)

Sometimes people don't realize the kind of creations they inspire...

Janet said...

I am pondering whether to say "Welcome back" seeing as I'm not in the place where you are. Welcome back to the blogosphere? To cyberspace?

Cloudia said...

Travis: even I'm a bit creeped out at how much i missed your posts! Today you started with a short sentence. Built on it. then I (and tons of others apparently) was hooked. Great post. you really should be a synicated columnist!
Aloha, Bud!

Cloudia said...

. . . . the beach, i see them reading on the beach. when it's a REAL book (not some pablum) I want to hug them and be their friend. i've given up on selling my book on the beach. i met some friends who still e-mail me, but it's too humiliating over all. "How many signed books have you gotten from the author on vacation, jerk?" I too often fumed as I walked away . . . . what was the question?
;-) aloha!

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Travis,

You had me at "Young woman in her mid to late forties."

Thanks, I needed that. I'll never see sixty again, but suddently that doesn't seem old!

Terrie

the walking man said...

Thank you for reminding me that driving is the only way to fly. Sounds like an entire cast of characters was encountered...hmmmm maybe it's time to write a book about a writer who writes up his characters then meets them in real time...

Mary said...

Had you been traveling at night, your fourth and final seatmate would have no doubt produced a lavender scented pillow and a cashmere throw. What a fascinating and phony character; the out-dated Vogue did give her away. So well observed!

Happy New Year, Travis!

alex keto said...

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year

Melanie Avila said...

Welcome back! I love hearing other people's tales of the airport. :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I see people reading at airports. When did flying sink to something below traveling by busn

Chris Eldin said...

Welcome back!! I'm glad you found some good material for character sketches! Do you know the woman's name? That would be killer!
:-)

Terri Tiffany said...

Hope I sit next to you on my next flight! I love to talk too to whoever sits next to me!! Hope you had fun here!

WordVixen said...

Believe me, I've brought books into the parks- but not for the lines, for when hubs has to go to the bathroom! I got too many weird looks, though, so I just study the park map like I don't already have it memorized. ;-)

Welcome back! And don't forget to check http://wordvixen.com/2008/12/25/my-christmas-video-2008/ as you get TWO shoutouts.

Anonymous said...

Travis--

Bet you a nickel your uptight bitch was a woman terrified of flying. Not only did she not see or hear YOU, she did not see or hear the fact that she was in a tin can being held six miles above the earth by magical forces.

I really do love your blog and read it with great pleasure.