I hate to fly. Actually that's not true. It's airports and other travelers that I despise. The flying and getting there quick are the only good things about the whole ordeal. I've told you all of that, just so I can tell you the following story about the time I swore off flying forever. Of course like most of my resolutions it didn't last, but for better than five years I kept my pledge and this is why. In April of 1998 I was headed to Florida for a trip to the beach and Disney World. I drove over to Oklahoma City and flew out of there since the flight was half what it would be direct from Amarillo, but of course I had a long layover in St. Louis. That afternoon I finally boarded the plane for the final leg of the journey. I no more than got seated than the pilot got on the intercom and told everybody to get hurry because a storm was coming in and we might be able to beat it and leave before the bad weather hit. Everybody scrambled to stow away their carry-ons and find a seat. Southwest does not have assigned seating like most other airlines. No sooner did I buckle my seat belt when the stewardess appeared and asked if I would mind relocating to the emergency exit row because FAA rules said a capable adult had to occupy those seats. Being the nice guy I am, I got up and moved. Whoever said no good deed ever goes unpunished must have been on an earlier flight. Back then Southwest still had the planes where the emergency row seats faced each other. I sat next to the window, my wife was to the right of me, and beside her sat a nice looking guy in a dark suit. Then they sat the people in front of us. He looked a lot like this.
Except hairier, and clad in a stained muscle shirt that only a barber could have removed from his body because the cloth the hair on his shoulders had seemingly grown over the fabric. A pair of Bermuda shorts, and a pair of flip-slops finished off his fashion statement. This guy sits directly in front of me and commences talking. About absolutely nothing. The plane taxied out on the runway and then the storm moved in. To escape conversation with George "The Animal" Steele's long lost brother I lifted a magazine high in front of my face, but this guy was not to be deterred. He kept right on talking as if I was still listening. His wife, no beauty queen herself but a regular debutante next to him, subtly tried to rein him in. Again he was not to be stopped. We sat on the tarmac for almost two hours while the plane rocked at the wind gusts, Rain slashed the fuselage, and hail beat down. How did I fill the time? Glad you asked. By listening to this jackass. But what about your magazine? Oh, he put an end to that by reaching across and tugging down the pages so I could see him talking. He must have asked me a thousand times to guess what he did for a living. I ignored him as long as possible, but finally, I relented to his incessant badgering and the constant tugs on my magazine. "What? What do you do for a living?" "Absolutely nothing." Okay, I didn't know how to respond to that so I went back to reading. Only to be interrupted again. "My wife here is a nurse so I don't really need to make any money. We do all right just on her salary, but I do sort of have a job. I win stuff. Off the radio. I got me half a dozen phone lines and a bunch of radios set up. All I do is call up and win. Won this trip we're on as a matter of fact." "That's good," I responded. I forgot to mention the fact that this guy has been sitting with his legs crossed and his nasty green fungus infected big toe dangling right before my eyes for over an hour as the storm raged outside. Next he went into his Bubba Gump spiel of everything he'd ever won. 584 large pizzas, 279 movie passes, dozens of massages, ticket to Cardinals, Rams, Blue's games, dog grooming, flowers, lawn service, and a whole bunch of other crap I didn't care to hear about. Oh, and a brand new Firebird but he didn't have the money for insurance so he had to sell the car. About thirty minutes into his, Things I've won speech he ran out of material. But that didn't stop him for long. Next he focused on the weather. "See those clouds out yonder. They are cumulus clouds and ... blah, blah blah." I tuned out most of what Sasquatch said, but at this point the man to my wife's right chimed in and said, "No they're not." The beast looked surprised to hear from an new person, but he quickly seized on the opportunity. "Sure they are, you can tell be the ...." "No, you're wrong," insisted the suit wearer. For the next fifteen minutes the man politely argued with Mr. Hairy Know-It-All. Finally, Sasquatch's bride looked at the guy in the suit and said, "Hey, aren't you the weatherman on channel seven?" "Yes I am," replied Mr. Suit. Did the beast stop arguing or realize he was a fool for arguing about clouds with an actual meteorologist? Nope. Not a chance. The rest of the flight was just as bad. We ended up arguing over the names of the towns below us until we finally arrived in Orlando some four hours later than scheduled. then, four or five days later while walking amid a throng of people in the United Kingdom section of Epcot who do you think I spotted headed my direction? You guessed it, so I quickly pulled my wife into a shop selling authentic and expensive English tea sets. My wife asked in a strange voice "Why did we come in here?" I pointed out the window and said, " To avoid that guy." Just as Sasquatch walked by still clad in that same muscle shirt. As I watched the thick dark rug of his shoulders passed by I swore right then and there, that after our flight home, I'd never sail the skies again. Some resolutions are bound to be broke, but I'm sure thankful Southwest did away with those facing seats.