Friday, September 09, 2005

Never Heard of Him

I was heading from Raleigh-Durham airport to Philadelphia to catch a connecting flight to Dublin Ireland. By the time my zone was called for boarding, the plane was completely full, except for one seat in the far back right hand corner of the cabin. I walked into the fuselage and lumbered down the aisle with my carry-on bag in front of me. When I reached the area near the back of the plane, I started to look for overhead baggage storage space, knowing that often one has to stow where one can. I found some room for my bag which was mostly full of medicines and a video camera for a month and half of travels and video-diary in Europe.

My row of seats was filled, obliging me to ask the two occupants to unbuckle their seatbelts and climb awkwardly from their cozy spots to let me in to the window seat. When I landed flat on my ass in the chair, I realized that my seat was partially collapsed and was tilted at an angle that made it feel that I was leaning into the young lady next to me to whisper sweet secrets in her ear. We all got buckled in again for our flight to Philadelphia.

I was both excited and reticent about the next month and a half of my life. It was my goal to go to Europe to see areas that I have never before visited, to visit friends in various places and to document it all on videotape while interviewing strangers about their perceptions of freedom, gay rights and marriage, and the worsening AIDS crisis. I had no idea what I was in for, but I knew that I was on the way.

I soon looked up and saw that a man in the row in front of me in the center seat was holding up a travel guide about Dublin, Ireland, and I realized that I was likely not the only person traveling from Raleigh-Durham to green Erin that day. It was tempting to try to read over his shoulder, but my eyes are no longer good enough to catch that kind of detail from a distance, so, instead, I turned to look at the lovely young woman sitting next to me.

She was young, as in just starting out from University, and I could not help but notice that she was looking through print-outs of a slide-show for a pharmaceutical drug development contract group. We struck up a conversation, considering that I had spent roughly fifteen years of my life in the drug development process of the pharmaceutical industry. She was friendly, sweet, even, and cheerful in that way that only young people with boundless energy can be. Our conversation lasted a few minutes, but then it was time to look out the window and watch as we crossed over the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

Eventually we arrived in Philadelphia and I wished her well in the industry and told her to tell my friends at her company hello for me. She said that she would do so when she next saw them, and we parted ways. On leaving my plane, I learned that I had a flight out of another terminal and headed over to the new area to find my flight. Upon having located my gate, I decided to exchange some US Dollars for Euros and to call to make sure that my mom was doing well with Greta.

Mom and I chatted for a long time. It seems that when I am on a public phone, using my calling card, that mom sometimes doesn’t realize that I am just calling for a quick update, and she decided it was time for a full-fledged conversation. By the time I got off the phone, it was nearing time to board my flight.
When they called my zone for boarding, I headed into the gangway and soon came upon the familiar uniforms of a USAir crew. I was told that my seat was on the left side of the plane about one-third of the way back, and I headed toward my seat.

Suddenly, my seat in view, I saw the guy who had been reading the book about Dublin on the flight from Raleigh. I started to stow my bag and glanced down to realize that he was interacting with another guy in the seat next to him in a way that made me very suspicious that they were gay men. Then I was sure they were, in fact, that they were partners. I closed the overhead compartment and then it hit me. I knew this guy. Boy, did I ever know this guy.

His face flashed back to me from about five years earlier when we had briefly dated over a two weekend period. He had been to my home five years earlier on a Friday night and ended up staying over that night.. We chatted off and on during the following week and made plans to see each other the following weekend, which, as I was unaware, was a holiday weekend. When I opened my door to let him in the following weekend, I saw that he had brought along a suitcase and was surprised to learn that he was expecting to stay ALL weekend. As the weekend unfolded, it became apparent to me that his impression of me was much more filled with expectation that my impression of him and soon I began to feel smothered. Before 2 days had passed, I had had to ask him to leave and we had not spoken to each other since. I recall feeling terrible at the time that things worked out this badly, but I had no other skills in my arsenal to deal with the issue.

I stood there with my hand on the overhead compartment door, frozen in place as I contemplated a seven hour flight to Dublin sitting behind a spurned partner. "Oh jeez." I thought. "What happens if he recognizes me and there is a scene?" I quickly took my seat and pulled out the airline in-flight magazine that I had already read completely coming up from Raleigh. If you had seen me, I would have appeared as the most enthralled reader you would have ever seen…that is, until I heard the announcement. Oh, horror of horrors….

"Would passenger Hudson, Passenger RON HUDSON, please raise his hand? Is there a RON HUDSON onboard? If so, would you please turn on your call-button so that we can find you?"

I slumped down in my seat as I frantically searched for the call light. I managed to turn on the reading lamp which was pointed right at my face, like a bare light-bulb in a cheap detective movie. I turned it back off and then found the call-button, while trying hard to be inconspicuous. Within seconds, a flight attendant appeared over my slumped body and asked me "Did you need something? Your call button has been activated."

I whispered, "yes, I am ron hudson, and…."

"What? I can’t hear you. Can you please speak up?"

"Yes, you called me," I said, slumping even more into my seat.

"I didn’t call you….wait a minute. BARBARA, did you make an announcement for someone to turn on their call button?"

"Yes, I did….did you order a diabetic meal?"

I said "I don’t remember ordering a diabetic meal," trying to deflect any attention from myself as these flight attendants held a conversation from either side of me in both aisles of the plane and the guy whom I was trying to avoid was sitting a row and a seat away from me.

The flight attendant said "Well. we have you down for a diabetic meal, MR. HUDSON, and I don’t know if there will be another meal available for you. We can give out all the meals, and if there are any left over, I can give you whatever is left over."

As I realized that my tactic of denying having ordered a diabetic meal only meant that I was prolonging the exposure of my identity, I finally decided to tack in the other direction. "You know, I may well have ordered a diabetic meal after all and it really doesn’t matter to me. Just bring it."

The flight attendants walked away and soon came back through selling headphones. To my relief, I saw the guys in front of me both take headphones and put them on. I knew that it took some of the pressure off me, and I took my pre-flight sleeping pill to help me get to sleep on the flight. By the time the meal finally arrived and I had eaten my balanced protein and carbohydrate delicacies, I slipped off into slumber that ended just before we landed in Dublin.

When the plane touched down, I got my bag down from the overhead compartment and used it to screen my head as I sat back down until the guys in front of me headed off the flight together. I waited a minute or two before debarking and going safely and unknown on into Dublin.



Anonymous susan said...

i almost choked because i had to laugh so hard!!!
i'm still laughing, actually.

oh my god this is so funny!

this is almost too good to be true. could've been a friends episode ;)

9/12/2005 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger Vickie said...

I was quite tickled when I read this one. It probably wouldn't have been so bad since he seems to have found himself a partner. I can quite imagine how you wanted to melt into the seat and couldn't even manage that one.

As big as the world is, it seems to get smaller every day. This just confirms it.

9/13/2005 06:03:00 PM  

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