The Awkward Traveler

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Patrick, has a bit of a problem interacting with others. In unfamiliar situations he struggles to keep up but falls very short. In his attempts to be gracious he spends most of his time picking himself off the floor, dusting himself off, and hitting the floor again. A true fighter, and, Patrick, has the bruises to prove it.

Submitted: August 02, 2012

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Submitted: August 02, 2012

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THE AWKWARD TRAVELER

I am not usually at a loss for words. I have been told by family and friends alike, I will talk to anyone about anything, which quite often ends in embarrassment to everyone involved, including me. But, there are certain situations where I clam up and it is nearly impossible to get a word out of me. I get a little tongue tied and awkward especially around strangers and unfamiliar settings.

I recently took a trip to Bozeman, Montana to attend a wedding. I am not a big fan of weddings nor do I care to travel so as you would imagine this was going to be uncomfortable and awkward. I am especially averse to car travel. Ask anyone who has driven me. Admittedly, I am the absolute worse back seat driver ever. Slow down! What are you nuts? Use the break, for the love of god, use the break are just a few of my favorite calls. I don’t know what it is, but, when I get in the passenger’s seat, I lose all faith in mankind and my survival instincts take over. Damn that will to live.

I could not fathom the thought of spending three long days behind the wheel of a seven year old Toyota Corolla so I opted to fly. I ‘m also a bit of a tight wad who can’t pass up an opportunity to save a buck. This adventure offered some money saving opportunities and I was going to take full advantage of them, starting with the airfare.

I had two choices. The first, to awaken at two thirty a.m., load my luggage into my car and head for the beltway. . It made perfect sense to me at the time. I was saving two hundred dollars by driving two hours in the wee morning hours, pay a mere fifty dollars for five nights of overnight parking, take a shuttle four miles from the airport while watching the beautiful sunrise through sleepy eyes and polluted Virginia skies . The drive would give me plenty of time, I thought, to daydream about the twelve hours ahead of me on a cramped second rate flight. Not once, but twice during my long day’s journey into the wee hours of night. It would be interrupted by wasted vacation time in the discomfort of two strange airports with even stranger people in states I would never get to see. Or, I could leave home at ten am with a friend for a twenty minute ride right to the airport door in plenty of time to catch a four hour flight. No brainer, I’m off to Virginia.

I really don’t think this is part of my travel neurosis when I ask if I’m the only one who feels airports are like large slaughter houses and the travelers are all cattle. Think about it. First we are separated by prime or economy grades of beef. Then we are wrangled and prodded by cow hands wearing high faultin get ups and forced smiles. We are then herded together to go where my brain clearly tells me I shouldn’t, and my feet lose in the fight to stay put. Just moments before I recall roaming freely on a wide terrain of restaurants and coffee shops but now funneled and crammed into a colorless hollow tube they call a “bridge” like pack animals. If you ask me, it is more like a gang plank than a bridge. Either way, I can’t fight the feeling we are over troubled water. In single file one by one we frantically keep from ramming the person in front of us the further down we go.... Down we go swinging our carry-ons behind us not really sure what’s going to happen next... One in front of the other we tunnel our way through slowly and obediently until the line jerks to a sudden halt. I buck, and so do the next few behind me unable to completely control their designer bags. Trust me lady, I say in more than a whisper, when this son a bitch goes down in a fiery ball no one’s going to be able to distinguish your Gucci bag from my Toy Story backpack.

What’s happening? A panicked voice cried from the back of the line. A couple of bovines got a little spooked, when they were told their carry-ons must be checked. I said half kiddingly. The ripple slowly settled. We stood, we waited, a small step forward, than waited some more. It seemed to be forever as I still wondered why I would willfully enter a machine that looks more like a coffin than a mode of transportation.

As I entered the aircraft I was greeted by a stewardess who could clearly see how upsetting this whole affair was to me. Don’t worry, she said. It will be over before you know it .As I baby stepped my way down the one lane aisle I faintly heard a voice which repeated, Don’t worry, it will be over before you know it. That’s odd, I thought. Hearing that gave me some comfort to know at least I’m not the only one afraid to fly. I finally reached my seat, a window seat. I was glad because I have a tendency to get a little claustrophobic. I thought being able to look out the window might help in such tight quarters. I might have a little more room if I just paid the extra baggage fee instead of cramming my pack under the seat in front of me. My practicality didn’t come without a price. Now, I constantly had to switch from one ass cheek to the other every ten or fifteen minutes to get the blood flowing again and restore feeling in it. Double checking my ticket to be sure I was in the right seat, reaching under the seat in front of me trying to grab my iPod from my pack while grunting and groaning the whole time. This combined with flipping from one cheek to the other certainly had my neighbors wondering if I wasn’t quite right in the head. The little Jewish kid in front of me thought I was pretty funny. So to get into the act he decided he would slam his seat back into my knees over and over again. The anxiety continued to build as I realized escape was nearly impossible. Things weren’t tough enough and now I had this brat to contend with. He was a bit of a distraction though. In anticipation of his jet seat trick I had to pull my legs in to avoid jabbing a tooth into my knee, Oy Vey! Packed in like sardines, here I sat in my tiny seat peering out of a hole they called a window. I felt this reminiscent of something I learned in high school history class but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The Jew, An n extremely small tight space, the promise of a safety accompanied by, it will be over before you know it. Wait a minute, I thought, as a shot of adrenalin suddenly ran through me leaving my blood to run cold. Weren’t jet engines developed by the German’s?

A very nice couple sat next to me. They both appeared to be about my age, the man sat on the aisle seat as the woman nestled her way in between us. She cordially greeted me, as her husband extended his hand. Still a bit uncomfortable, and with minimal clearance space I took his hand shaking it far too enthusiastically and yelled out “hello” ,as if they were hard of hearing or just plain retarded. He responded with a smile and a Hello. But it was the kind of hello with raised eyebrows and as question rather than a greeting. Hello? I didn’t quite hear what he said next so I just sat there looking at them and smiling hoping they would continue speaking and put me back on track. Finally, he said, and you are? Damn. They were introducing themselves. I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly. I thought he said, Bambi and Shane, but somehow I think that might not be right. Now I was tensing up. My muscles tightened and my head started spinning. Humiliation, the lack of oxygen and the numbing of my legs from the waist down might have had something to do with it. Why don’t these windows open, I wondered. I could really use some air. It wasn’t until much later in the flight I was thankful I didn’t share that stupid thought with them. Now what do I do? I thought. We all sat in a few minutes of uncomfortable silence with me still staring and wearing my Gee Willickers smile. How can anyone be expected to hear anything with bells dinging and babies crying. I blame the roar of the engines, and all of Germany for this, but the real truth is it’s my fault. I’m just not good in social settings. I cleared my throat and tried again to be cordial to my two new traveling companions... But, of course, I stepped t in it again. I forgot I was on a flight to Denver, than had to change planes and catch another flight to Montana. Montana had a very small airport and wasn’t large enough to handle a lot of continental traffic. Trying to regain my composure I turned to them and said as enthusiastically as I could, going to Montana? However, the “going to” part of the sentence was totally inaudible and all they heard was me yelling, MONTANA. They looked at each other as if hoping the other knew what I was talking about. Mr. clearly gave up. He didn’t even try. He nodded to Mrs. as if to say, you take this one. I could almost see the light bulb go on above her head as if she was on a game show and knew the correct answer. No Denver, she said. This one’s going to Denver? What? Oh no, I thought, they’re on the wrong plane. Poor things, they don’t even know where they’re going. They’ll be o.k. They can just get off and get on the right one once we get to Montana. Wait a minute. This is a flight to the other end of the country, not a bus ride to the mall. They can’t just pull on a string and get off at the next bus stop. This is a plane. I paused, thought for a while, and upon regaining my bearings I remembered, we are going to Denver. What’s wrong with me? It must be the altitude, the lack of oxygen. I peered out the hole. I better think again, we hadn’t even left the ground. Just shut up I thought. Why can’t I just shut up? I sat quietly for a moment. I felt myself getting a little antsy. So I peered out the window, then fiddled with my seat belt, and occasionally made eye contact with that Nazi stewardess as she slammed overhead compartment doors and instructed passengers to secure their seat belts. I looked over at my new friends. I was impressed. In just this short amount of time I was now able to read Mr.’s face almost as well as Mrs. could, I studied him for a bit as he and Mrs. chatted about reading materials and snack foods. I thought I overheard him say something like, whatever you do, don’t make him mad. Pretty sure they were talking about me. They now don’t think I’m just crazy, they fear for their safety. I was mortified. I could feel my pulse in the neck. My face turned red from the inside out. My thoughts started swimming again. The past few embarrassing moments kept playing over and over in my mind. As they did I felt a wave of red come and go from neck to scalp. I must have looked like a flashing stop sign. That’s it, I thought. I’ll just sit here and keep my mouth shut. I just stared blankly out of the window wanting so badly to get this show on the road. We taxied than waited. Then taxied some more. I was bored. I put my ear phones on and listened to my iPod shuffle for a while. I was still, feeling uncomfortable and cramped but by now a little bit hungry. I hadn’t eaten all morning which is not just unusual but very unhealthy for me. . My neighbor packed me a sandwich which I was extremely grateful for because no food, not even a snack was going to be served on this three hour flight. You could buy a snack but I think we all know how I felt about that. Finally, we were airborne. A chicken salad sandwich sat waiting for me in my pack. Now that we were up and off I decided it was time to eat. I reached down for my bag. Stuck my hand down between my legs and fiddled for the bags latch. My seat mates pretended not to see me but I know I was hard to ignore. Now, what’s he doing? I could read from their harried faces. My hand shoved between my legs I desperately groped for the elusive bag. I smiled, they winced. But my need to eat superseded any sense of dignity or class. Once I got hold of the baggie I tried with all my might to squeeze it between the seat and my feet, I tugged, and pulled. I grunted and groaned. I sweated and swore. Finally, success, I had successfully brought my chicken salad sandwich out of the darkness into the light. The sandwich now looked more like a pizza but it was edible and that’s all that mattered to me. Delicious. Thank you Sheila, I thought to myself as I satisfied that nagging stomach pang.

It was about an hour after eating when I felt a little grumbling coming from the plane. Soon I realized the grumbling wasn’t from the plane at all. It was coming from me. The sandwich! I blurted. I wasn’t nauseous, it was more like gaseous. You see, I have a slight issue with gas. Well, let me correct that. I have a huge issue with gas. But not burpy gas. That’s the problem. I don’t know how to burp. Like my mother, I was born burp less, burp challenged, burp free. I am the only one in my family cursed with this inaptitude. My older sister struggled with it for years but informed me very recently that she too, has now been given the gift. I suppose that should give me hope for the future but it gives me little comfort now. If I don’t have food in my stomach nearly always, I get doubled over in pain from gas. Though uncomfortable, that’s not the problem. Simply put, gas in stomach, food replaces gas, I don’t burp, I just fart. This is a process that has been going on my entire life. This is what I feel is the circle of life. That is if the circle of life as it pertains to farts. For me, and gas, farting is the only way out. Because I have discovered a fool proof way to disguise my “liability” It hasn’t really presented embarrassment for me. It’s really quite simple. I don’t know why anyone hasn’t thought of this before. You see, if I feel one coming on; I just cough loudly or sigh with a deep loud breath and that seems to cover the sound. Move left to right, up or down, that takes care of the smell. Even though my daughter disagrees I’m sure she’s wrong. She says that this isn’t so. What? I said in disbelief. You mean to tell me that my primal guttural sounds, do not really disguise the sound, nor does the crop dusting dance conceal the smell? Hogwash! I have been using these methods for years and they have served me well, I bellowed. You have been using these methods for years and they have done absolutely nothing, she quipped. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, I thought. No one has ever accused me of the sounds or smells around me that I am truly responsible for. Because I am fast as lightning, I am as loud and concealing as thunder and I am even quicker to blame. These talents have served me well and will continue to do so. Go, young one, and take your blasphemy with you.

This kind of gas stops for no man. So I better think fast and I better act now. Even if my cough won’t cover it, surely the roar of the jet engines would. What if I added a dash of clearing my throat with loud yawn to cap it off? I had no choice. It was coming whether I was ready or not.

I quickly spotted the overhead fan thingy and was sure if I could orchestrate all four moves in unison I would be home free. Ready Maestro? As a conductor controls his baton, my wood wind sounded and I was off and running. I turned on the overhead air in the hopes it would muffle the brass. At the same time I coughed like I was hacking up a lung, even the heaviest of smokers would have been impressed .I moved my seat backwards and forwards so brilliantly that the little Jewish boy sprung up and took notice. What was that? I said as if speaking to anyone who might have heard something. There, I think it went pretty well I thought as I pinched at my shirt collar and straightened my sleeves. A little pat on the back for a job well done is required here, I thought to myself. I didn’t notice any awkward movements from Mrs. or Mr., I didn’t smell anything but what I hope to god were diesel fumes , because if that came from me I’ve got a bigger problem than just gas. And to think I did all this without ever losing control of the arm rest I had been “Bogarting” since takeoff. All seemed well which of course hoisted the green flag that granted me permission to fire off four more concerts during our three hour flight together.

I even managed to drum up a little small talk to other travelers as the trip was coming to an end. Mr. was chatting up some talk about the mountains while Mrs. sat with her back to me listening rather intently to him seeming to hang on his every word. Whatever he was talking about must have been pretty funny because Mrs. was laughing uncontrollably. So much so, it was a bit rude of her to have her back to me for such a long period of time. She was laughing; he was fighting back the urge to laugh. What’s up with that, I thought. What strange behavior from two grown adults. They couldn’t be laughing at me. I haven’t said a word to them in nearly an hour. It wasn’t until the wheels screeched from above the tarmac. Now I understood exactly what was going on. She didn’t give a damn about what this old fart was babbling on about. Waffling up like a cauldron of a witches brew. Circling like a twister of sulfur and steam. It was as if she in retaliation for hours of silent suffering was fighting fire with fire. She turned in her seat, her purse on one arm and Mr. on the other. Then she slowly leaned into me. She spoke not a word, she didn’t have to. I could read it clearly on her face, but more precisely, squarely through my nostrils. A subtle smile slowly came to her face. The plane crept up to the Denver terminal. The all clear was given by the pilot and the cabin filled with excited passengers eager to exit the aircraft. I dare say none more eager than me. Still strapped to my seat by the belt, I felt like a fish out of water. Floundering for air I thrashed about trying to release the grip my pack had on my legs. An open window doesn’t sound very stupid now, I thought as I searched helplessly for a pocket of fresh air. The bomb she dropped put all four of mine to shame. She took me down in one fell swoop. Or more appropriately, one swell poop. I could hear Mr. as he was heading for the door yell, “have a good trip” and they skipped off the plane snickering like school children as they scurried on their way how embarrassing. Have some class, act your age I thought. I stood, virtually alone in the aisle, dusted off my chicken salad crumbs, grabbed my back pack and headed for the door. I could see them clearly, faster than walking through the bridge that lead to the terminal. Still giggling, still knowing they escaped the cloud of nocuous vapors and left me there, alone. I wonder if I’ll see them again, I said aloud. Maybe not, the stewardess Nazi said, this is Denver. Oh yeah, I'm going to, Montana.


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