14 March 2008

Homeward Bound

I saw a small, whining child in the airport who was probably 3 years old. His t-shirt read, “MY PARENTS ARE EXHAUSTED.” They were.

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In Charlotte, N.C., I chose to eat at the BBQ. I like to eat food that reflects a regional personality, and I’ve just flown an hour and a half from Indianapolis to San Diego and am now, oh, an hour and a half further from San Diego. It seems small consolation to try odd and unhealthy foods. I order the fried okra and squash casserole with my sandwich. The okra is greasy and not that great, but the squash casserole is actually quite good – it could be served, in some fashion, in restaurants either crude or elegant.

But after I’ve chosen these sides, the man at the counter says, “Would you like a fried pickle,” with a southern accent that I can hardly refuse.
“Fried pickle,” I stupidly repeat. “Is that popular?”
“It is in more enlightened parts of the country,” he says. “But if you are from an undeveloped region of the country, you might not know about them.”
“That would be me,” I say. “Today I’ll choose enlightenment.”
He smiles happily and puts a breaded, fried pickle on my plate. About 30 minutes later, I swing by his station. “Here’s a sentence I never thought I would form when I woke up this morning,” I tell him. “That fried pickle was wonderful. Thank you.”
“Now you are enlightened,” he beams.
“Now I am enlightened,” I say. “And to think that all this time I was only one fried pickle away.”
“There you go,” he twangs.
As I walk away, I feel inexpicably pleased. This must be what enlightenment feels like, I think. I look back over my shoulder. My new friend at the counter has already turned his attention to the next person in line, but he catches my backwards glance. He smiles broadly at me and gives me a farewell nod. This must be the reason I’ve flown backwards to get home. A fried pickle. Suddenly blessed with enlightenment, I have a second realization: the pickle was not that great – I would have much rather gotten home a couple of hours earlier.

My enlightenment was enhanced when the next flight was delayed. Apparently, the folks at US Air sold us the tickets and boarded us on the plane before figuring out that we could not make it to San Diego on a single tank of gas. Stopping for gas in Phoenix turned our 5.5 hour trip into 7 hours. It seemed in-terminal (as in, I didn’t think that we’d ever make it off the plane and into a terminal).

Riding in coach, I once again conclude that I ought to have either been born rich or been short. A young teenage girl sitting in front of me with her mom and sister, headed to San Diego to vacation, put her seat back all the way even before we took off. About an hour and a half into our 7 hour trip, tired of contorting my legs into odd angles to conform to her seat back, I leaned over the seat and kindly asked her if she couldn’t sit up straight for at least two or three hours of our long flight. Looking startled, she quickly moved her seat up and did not once incline backwards again – for the next 5+ hours. When we landed in San Diego, I was so appreciative that I leaned forward one more time and thanked her for her kindness to my legs. She smiled and said, “No problem.” I then handed her a $20 bill and told her to take her mom and sister for fish tacos. Her expression of surprise and delight was worth some multiple of the $20.

12 comments:

exskindiver said...

way to say thank you for sacrificing her comfort for a complete stranger.
that's cool.

Gypsy at Heart said...

Ay Ron, I am of the mind that the girl will never forget you, and that furthermore, she will forever think twice about pushing her seat back without wondering about what inconvenience she might cause the person sitting behind her. You did good and so did she.

On another note, fried pickle? good? really? I love those kinds of moments you described with the guy behind the counter. Absolute synchronizity (I do not know how to spell this word- does it even exist?) with a perfect stranger. A shared wavelength of perfect understanding. Like the Mastercard commercials say - priceless.

cce said...

Awww, it's like that commercial about teeth implants or braces or toothpaste (I can't remember which). The message is that we are all just one smile away from making another person's day a whole lot nicer.
You are a very good man.

LSD said...

Pickle enlightenment? Somewhere recently, I read about a lady who was asked upon the occasion of her 100th birthday, to what did she attributed her good health. Her answer was beer and pickles!

I now consider myself enlightened as well, although I have not yet experienced the fried-pickle revelation. Someday the sun's gonna shine on my back door...

nunya said...

Dude, you are so kind. I would have let fried pickle dude know about fish tacos :)

Fish tacos....hmmmmmmm.

jen said...

i love the bit at the end...but if you ever give me $20 I'd buy the rolled taco variety.

you know, the ones with all the guacamole.

Ron Davison said...

xSD,
after we've been cross-commenting for about a year, you can call me a complete stranger. Have you not been paying any attention to what you've been reading here?

G@H,
Everyone is a little opera waiting for the spotlight and proper cue. My fried pickle person played his cameo role in this drama called "Ron's Life" quite perfectly. Synchronicity indeed. (Yes - there is such a word. I think it is even a book title.)

cce,
now you're making me feel self conscious. (Looks around.) No. This is not a commercial. This the lite-opera called my life.

Scott,
I'm glad I could remind you that there are still things you've left untested and untasted.

nunya,
Just last week I had a fish taco at Cotija's in Chula Vista. Either you were not there or you don't look at all like your icon.

jen,
Rolled tacos instead of fish tacos? I've made that very choice more than once. They're a great excuse for eating guacamole.

slow panic said...

fried pickles are best when sliced, breaded and fried. they are so good!

that said, nothing is lonelier than a business traveler in an airport terminal. nothing is better than getting home early -- even when it's two minutes earlier.

jennifer h said...

Seats in coach should not recline except for small children who need naps, and maybe for senior citizens.

Or, airlines could re-design planes so that one never hears anymore about passengers developing blood clots on long flights.

This morning when I drove up to the Starbucks window, I was told that, all morning long, people had been paying for the coffee for the car behind them. Of course, I did the same, and hope it continued throughout the long line of cars. I love that person who was the first to decide this morning to do that. It changed the face of the day.

You're a good man.

exskindiver said...

indeed.

HRH said...

I never had thought about short being a suitable replacement for rich, but it works there.

Fried pickle enlightment works as well and is making me hungry.

Ron Davison said...

slow panic,
actually, after an intense time with teams on site, I don't mind being alone in terminals wandering around watching people.
There are two things I love: being with people and being away from people.


jennifer h,
very, very cool idea indeed. I think I'll try it tomorrow at the airport, starting a cascade of airline ticket buying. (Now, if only I can figure out how to get the client to agree to this.)

hrh,
you knew about fried pickles? so, this is a conspiracy of de-enlightenment.