We all have those stories we love to tell about well-known people we have come across in our lifetime. For me they are usually pretty funny because I tend to live with my mouth fully engaged and my mind often stumbling to keep up.
Once in New Orleans I literally bumped into a man who had been on the news forever, but before I could even think about how I knew this familiar face, I smiled and said, "Oh, my goodness! Hey! It's good to see you." And when the man looked totally stunned my mind had caught up to tell my mouth, "This man has no clue who you are. He isn't really looking at you when he reports the news each night."
So, recently I was thumbing through the channels and a person popped up causing me to laugh to myself because he and I had had one of those encounters that lasted an entire plane ride.
First, if you have read my column for any period of time you know my phobia of flying has been deflated a smidge. I do not like to fly, but I will. I will also say in my defense from lava rocks in Hawaii, to exploding volcanoes on the way to Vienna, to an uncanny blizzard in Washington D.C., I seldom have a flight without something to scare the Dickens out of me. And this was that D.C. trip.
We had made it to the airport in a blizzard to fly home. The airport had finally opened back up. I was dreading the flight as always. And then a huge group of sixth graders came barreling in laughing, farting, poking and squealing. Now, this was a plane with a first come first serve seating. But then a man came on a microphone and said they were offering upgrades for people who wanted to pay an extra fee to board first. I didn't even wait for the amount to begin, heading to him pulling out my credit card. I was not going to sit in the back of the plane with over fifty 6th graders. My husband is not a teacher, so he just had to trust my lead.
I was tickled to be one of the first to board the plane, and Clay and I took two of the three seats by the window leaving an open seat by the aisle. We had been on a trip dealing with Farm Bureau business at the capitol, so when I looked up and saw a familiar face, my mouth automatically said, "There's kids back there. You are welcome to have this seat." The man nodded with a smile and sat down. My husband's eyes were very big as he noticed I had invited Senator John Kennedy to join us on our flight.
Unfortunately I was cramped between him and Clay. And before the plane even took off, Clay's medicine had kicked in and he was sound asleep. I took in a multitude of very deep breaths and practiced visualizing my strong symbol in my mind that keeps anxiety at bay, but not really. And when we hit a couple of bumps in the incline I grabbed the Senator's arm for dear life. And he pretended not to notice.
The attendant then came down after we leveled off to see if we needed anything. I said I would need a glass of white wine and one for my sleeping husband. So I sat holding a plastic cup in each hand trying not to slosh the Senator who was by now likely rethinking the band of sixth graders. After I had gulped down both cups my breathing was letting up and relaxed a bit.
He then took out his ear plugs allowing me to realize all of my apologies, and excuses had not even been heard. He said pointing to my empty cups, "I see you have a bit of fear about flying." And I nodded. He suggested I wear ear plugs from now on. And I guess that nice smile just opened up the flood gates for me to talk to him. I mean he is a politician, so he has to be nice. Eventually I asked him where he lived and he said, "A little village called Madisonville." And I squealed, drawing attention and said, "I live practically in your back yard!" My husband has enjoyed mimicking the expression of total horror that was on the senator's face that eased when he explained that we lived over by Folsom.
And that was that. I survived another plane ride and only mildly drove a senator up the wall. The ear plug advice was good and now I wear them when I fly. As he explained, the muffled sounds keep your nerves settled. They really don't. Not for me. But it is a great conversation piece for the poor fool who gets seated next to me. "Senator Kennedy and I go way back. He turned me on to these little guys once when we were trying to get out of D.C. in a blizzard." Now that just sounds important!