The geniuses at the airline screwed up. They overbooked my plane. A woman with chopsticks in her hair approached me.
“Sir?” she said in a the-principal-will-see-you
I congratulated her.
Thus, she offered to compensate me and my wife:
We could either (a) stay in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for four hours, or (b) ride home with a herd of USDA registered scrub cattle on the next Norfolk Southern livestock car.
“Can we at least get food vouchers?” I countered.
“How about bottled waters?” she said.
These people don’t even try.
I had a seat. The elderly man next to me had dandelion-fuzz for hair. He laughed at me. I suppose he knew what I’m too young to know. Life doesn’t give food vouchers.
He was talkative. He rolled up one of his shirtsleeves and showed me a medicated patch on his arm.
“It’s for motion-sickness,” he said. “I’m flying to Texas to see my kids.”
He gets nausea so bad he can’t ride in the backseat of a car without chanting Psalms. Because of this, he hasn’t boarded a plane since the sixties.
“I am deathly afraid of planes,” he explained. “I get sick anytime the floor moves.”
The first time he used serious medication for motion-sickness was on a cruise a few years ago. He went on the cruise for his wife.
Because for his entire marriage, he’d refused nautical activities—since nausea is its own kind of Purgatory.
The couple lived slow-paced lives. They hardly traveled. They raised two kids and led a quiet existence outside Atlanta.
Until her diagnosis.
It was bad. A mastectomy. Chemo. She wasted away. Treatment bought her little time. That’s when something in him changed.
“I decided, ‘Hell with it,’” he said. “The doc gimme this anti-puke patch and my wife and I spent a week on a Carnival cruise. I was sick as a dog, but I loved seeing her happy. I miss her every second.”
She died later that year. He tells me he would’ve taken a hundred more cruises if he could have.
“Time moves fast,” he said. “That’s what young people forget.”
As it happens, I forget. Often. He’s right, time is moving quicker than it used to. My whole life seems like it just started last Friday.
The pinewood cars we built as Boy Scouts. Good dogs who’ve gone on to Glory. People I’ve lost. Friends I’ve lost touch with. Where has it all gone.
I’ve changed, too. I’ve gotten slower. During childhood, I could march across the world in under two hours. Today, that’s not enough time to fix a sandwich.
The old man says, “Can I give you some advice?”
“Do all the things that really scare you. Make yourself do’em. It’s good for you.”
The intercom announced his flight.
“Wish me luck,” he said. “I’m so nervous.”
He walked to the gate and presented the hostess a boarding pass which he wore around his neck. He waved to me. I returned the favor.
Good luck, sir.
I’m grateful our flight was delayed.