Monday, February 07, 2005

THURSDAY: Who would have thought the worst weather of a weekend trip (in February) to Chicago would be here in D.C. before I left? I drove through whorls of snow and mist to get to Dulles Thursday night, and thank goodness I left myself plenty of time for the trip. The closer I got to the airport the more the snow had accumulated throughout the day, and finding parking was a bit of a challenge. But all went well in a timely fashion and I boarded my on-time flight to Chicago. Which is where the fun began.

Let me set the scene a bit: a 9:15 p.m. flight, so the cabin lights were out, most people had already gotten comfortable with a blanket or pillow, and I myself was nose-deep in “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.” We were taxiing over to be de-iced when I heard “…Jim.” It took me a second to register what I heard, and upon turning to my seatmate, found him looking at me expectantly. Dude had obviously just outta-the-blue introduced himself. I smiled, shook his hand, introduced myself, and then made a bit of a point of trying to turn back to my book. But Jim had a mission on Flight 1178—TO MAKE A NEW FRIEND. He kept finding little things to say, questions to ask…and as part of a new resolution to be less suspicious and see where unexpected encounters take me, I answered and chatted back. Jim is in marketing for a lumber firm, and so a born salesman and very easy talker. Mainly he did the work while I threw in a well-timed, “Oh yeah,” “Me too,” or “You don’t say?” Twenty minutes into the flight he busted out a very snazzy wee laptop to show me pictures of his family (complete with details on how he Photoshoped elements in or out to suit his wife and kids). Then he got to talking about how he had a DVD burned onto the laptop but hadn’t gotten around to watching it. He pulled up the title to show to me: “The Passion of the Christ.” HA! Then he asks if I want to watch it. I figured, what the hell, so he rummages in the overhead for his goodie bag and produces bud headphones that we can share. Except while he’s doing this I see that he also has “U-571” on tap, and I mention that, saying it might be a better choice for the short flight. So Matthew McConnaughey it was, and I have to say it made the time scream by and was a totally cool, fun thing. The flight attendant (a cantankerous man in his 50s) kept stopping by to see where we were in the film, and gave us extra snacks to boot. We were in Chicago before I knew it, and the best part was, I needed to stay plane-side to get my luggage, and so Jim just gave me a business card, wished me a fun weekend, and took himself home to Naperville. No smarm. No ogle. No shiftiness. Operation Be Nice, Score 1!!

That still doesn’t mean I’m going to give Dennis the time of day next time I see him, though.


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