Friday, September 24, 2004

LA Stories (Part VII)

Et Cetera (continued)
I don’t know if I would admit to being a full-blown ham, but I’m close. I certainly don’t mind being noticed, but I generally tend to go about it on the low-key side of things. Some people aren’t quite as subtle.

The following are a couple more airport stories along those lines; one involving myself, and the other featuring a person I observed.

Let's pick up the story again at Nashville International Airport on the front end of my trip to California. To this point, my airport experience had been pleasant, but not necessarily fun. That would soon change, however.

• Angels flight
Following my conversation with the woman on her way back home to LA from a family wedding in Alabama, I went to a nearby snack bar to ask directions to the nearest ATM. I had run myself out of time packing and hadn’t been able to stop to get cash for the trip.

After getting my cash, I was walking down the concourse back to my gate. I looked ahead and couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought I was having a vision.

I saw Angels.

Oh…no…not that kind. I just saw a couple guys in Anaheim Angels baseball jerseys and caps — although in Nashville, that’s almost as rare as catching a glimpse of an actual cherubic being. As I got closer, I realized that the two appeared to be a late thirtysomething father and his adolescent son. They were sitting on opposite ends of a long bench that lined the outside of the gate waiting area. It was obvious that they were just cooling their heels, waiting for the call to board the same flight as mine. Now, I could have just walked up and introduced myself as a fellow Halos fan, but that would’ve been too easy.

I’m generally a good judge of whether or not someone has a decent sense of humor just by looking at him. The Dad was a husky Hispanic man who didn’t actually look all that friendly. I thought I’d have better luck with the kid, a fresh-faced 14 year-old. They were just kind of hanging out, sitting about ten feet apart, taking in the scenery.

I nonchalantly walked up to a position about four or five feet in front of the bench, in between the two of them and deliberately violating what most people would consider their “personal space.” I set my suit bag and smaller carry-on duffel bag down in front of me, only a few feet from the young man seated to my left. I never made eye contact but knew that I had his attention. I was so close to him that he had no choice but to be actively wondering what the hell I was doing.

My duffel is actually a nice, medium-sized gym bag. It has a zippered half-moon shaped front opening and is nice and deep on the inside, capable of holding a lot of stuff.

I kneeled down and casually began unzipping the bag, which I had positioned so that the open side was facing the kid, whom I knew was watching my every move. As I lifted the open flap, revealing my bright red Anaheim Angels cap, I looked up and smiled at the boy, who broke into a grin from ear to ear. A few feet away, his Dad had been watching as well. As I glanced at him he started to chuckle.

“I just had to come over and introduce myself,” I smiled. “You guys are the first Angels fans I’ve met in this town in the 12 years I’ve lived here!”

The Father extended his hand and introduced himself and his son. “I’m Joey and this is my son Jay,” his friendly smile belying his rather rough-looking face. Naturally I was curious as to what they were doing in Nashville wearing Anaheim Angels garb. Turns out Joey and his son live in Anaheim and are Angels season ticket holders. As a sort of tradition over the past few years, they follow the team on one short roadtrip each season. They were now on their way back to SoCal after following the team on its two-city road trip to Tampa Bay and New York. And they had made this trip even more special. Following the three-game series at Yankee Stadium which the Angels swept (sorry Michael), they took a day before heading home to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. I was really excited for them, because going on a roadtrip with my favorite baseball team is something I have always dreamed of doing with my own son, not to mention visiting the Hall of Fame. So needless to say, I was getting more jealous by the minute as Joey described the great time he and his son had together the previous eight days.

I mentioned that I was going to be attending two games that upcoming week and Joey suggested the possibility of getting together (the opportunity really never presented itself; but maybe next time...). I continued talking with my fellow Angels fans for about five minutes or so. Joey was really cordial and Jay seemed like a really nice kid. It was great. Finally we said our so longs and I wandered over near the gate desk. People were beginning to line up in anticipation of the boarding call. After a few minutes the woman at the desk announced over the intercom that there had been a gate change for our flight (likely perpetrated by the previous Chicago flight’s rescheduling. We were asked to please move to a different gate, which of course was at the far end of the concourse, about 100 yards away.

Everyone let out a collective groan, but quickly picked up and began moving briskly en masse down the concourse in anticipation of acquiring the best spot in line as possible (remember this is Cattlecall…er…I mean, Southwest Airlines we’re talking about here).

It was a hassle to be sure, but amusing as well, to observe this sea of humanity moving as one, trying not to be obvious in the fact that they were all racing each other for a good spot in line. Reconvening at our new gate we waited another fifteen minutes before they finally allowed us to board the plane.

I ended up being among the last group to board, so I knew I would be stuck in the back of the plane. I was pleasantly surprised to see Joey and Jay occupying the window seats of the two back rows. Joey offered me the aisle seat, which I happily accepted. Needless to say there was no lack of conversation between the two of us for nearly the entire four-plus hour flight. Now I know that it probably makes little sense to anyone, who has never been alone in their allegiance to a sports team, as I have been with the Angels, particularly throughout the years since I moved to Tennessee. But it was truly a treat to talk to another fan as into the team as I am.

It made for a very good beginning to what was to be an incredible week.

• If only I’d had my camera phone…
The return flight home on Monday was just as pleasant, although not quite as eventful. However the security checkpoint did provide one pretty amusing anecdote.

I have been fortunate enough to only have gone through the increased airport security a half-dozen times since 9/11. Each time has been a pretty smooth experience, with no pat downs, wand sweeps or strip searches. My flight home from LAX was no different. I’m sure the woman who was behind me in line wishes she could have said the same thing.

She was a tall, beautiful blonde in skin-tight clothes that quite illustriously highlighted every curve of what appeared to be the best figure that money could buy. And perchance she wasn’t getting the message across well enough already, her tight-as-a-tourniquet crop-top offered the following suggestion, emblazoned in bold letters across it’s bountiful bodice:

Take A Picture…It’ll Last Longer.

It was obvious that this chica wasn’t interested in drawing any undo attention to herself. I’m sure she just abhorred the idea of causing a stir or something. She obviously wanted to just get through the checkpoint and to her gate, slipping unnoticed and anonymously into the airport terminal crowd. So I’m sure that she was just mortified by what happened next.

Without incident, I came through the metal-detecting frame under which everyone has to walk as they pass through security. I was at the end of the counter, gathering up the items I had placed into the plastic bypass tray — you know, the one you hand to the attendant containing your pocket belongings and other things that shouldn’t be scanned, like my camera, which already had film loaded into it. I was quickly reloading my pockets and carry-on bag, when I heard the buzzer go off on the metal detector; then again; then a third time. The woman kept setting the alarm off as she passed through. I grinned at what was (for me anyway) an amusing scene. It didn’t matter how much stuff she took off — first her little jacket, then a bracelet and rings, then her shoes. That buzzer just kept going off.

At this point people were starting to go around her and on through to get to their flights and I didn’t want to hold up the line. But I’m sort of kicking myself now for not cashing in on the irony of the moment and grabbing my camera, which I could have easily done, to take a picture, in accordance to her “mandate.” It was such a classic blog moment! If I’d had a camera phone, as I do now, I certainly would have captured it.

But I didn’t want to be obvious, so I gathered my bags and moved on before the woman’s mystery metal was discovered. As I walked away I remember wondering if perhaps they’d re-calibrated that metal detector to scan for silicone, but then I quickly dismissed that idea when I remembered how close LAX is to Beverly Hills — and of course that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, now would it?

I just hope she didn’t miss her flight before they figured it out. I’m sure it could have been a lot of things, but if I were a bettin’ man, I’d lay money that the culprit was the 12-guage underwire in that boulder-holder she was wearing…

Next: Et Cetera continued (yep, there's more...)
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