Longing for the Sound of Silence


I caught a break on my most recent flight to Boston. But it was a bad one. Things started well enough. I was taking the 9:40 flight instead of my usual 7:40 one, so that meant a little extra sleep. Which, as it turned out, was a REALLY good thing since I wasn’t able to nap during the flight.

That’s because of what happened once I made it on the plane. I had one of the Row 17 aisle seats – always great for me and my slight claustrophobia. Had no trouble getting my bag in the overhead. Everything was going great.

Until he started my way. I’m not sure how old he was, nor did I care. He pointed at the two seats on the row inside mine. I got up so he and an older woman traveling with him could get in. And made the mistake of saying hello. I think it was like inviting a vampire into your home.

From that point on, I’m not sure that he ever stopped talking to – make that at – me. Not when I started reading something – anything – on my phone. Not when I closed my eyes. Not when I turned slightly away from him. Not at all.

His name was Bob

Despite the short name, he was long-winded. Which wouldn’t have been nearly as bad had he been interesting. Or believable.

He said he’d been given last rites three times. And been in a coma. And came out of it after some voodoo or another in the hospital chapel. In which two other coma patients came out of it at the same instance he did. He’d been injured, he said, when a drunken driver (drunk before 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning) hit his motorcycle head on coming out of a curve.

Which might have been plausible. If he hadn’t told me about his painting prowess. He paints without using tape or drop cloths, he says. But using both hands, he says. Which makes him faster than any other painter, he says.

Or about how he got out of the Army after being harassed “for no reason” by a captain and sergeant who told him he’d never leave boot camp in Oklahoma, where they made him stand guard duty every night and train every day. He said he’d gotten out by calling a congressman he’d worked for as a child when the congressman was first running for city office. And how the captain cried when the congressman called to dress him down. And how another sergeant shook his hand for standing up to the corrupt captain. I’m not sure that’s how discharges work. I’m not sure that’s how discharges work at all.

Or how he broke 50 for nine holes of golf within four weeks of starting to play, winning $100 from a friend – he never lost a bet, he said.

Or how he was a shop steward for a shoe plant in the Boston area – he now lived in Maine but had been on holiday (in the British sense – my words, not his) in Melbourne, FL, but was flying to Boston, where he grew up, to visit relatives.

Or how he had a perfect record in grievance cases as the shop steward because he (a) know all the workplace rules and regulations and (b) played golf regularly with the company CEO.

Or how he knew the plant was going to close months before anyone else who worked there did and was able to get a sweet school maintenance job.

Or how in his new role as a school maintenance supervisor all the children run up and jump in his arms every time they see him.

Or how he hates Donald Trump – whom he didn’t mention by name. (Hey, I never said Bob was a total idiot.)

Or how he’s going to start a movement to end the Electoral College. Because he knows people.

Envy might be a sin …

Here’s the funny part. I’d figured the woman next to him was his wife. But it was actually his sister-in-law. His wife was sitting in row 16, the one in front of us. That meant it was impossible for her to have to listen to him.

Here’s the even funnier part. She originally was sitting in the wrong seat in row 16. It was the one furthest from Bob, on the other side of the aisle. Yes, I envied her.

The one saving grace of the experience. I’ve been trying to soak up the whole Boston experience – I’ve found the people there so warm and helpful – totally opposite of the stereotype. Of course I haven’t had the beans or cream pie up there yet. And until that morning, I’d never heard any Bostonite use the word “wicked” as an adverb. Sure enough, in the millions of words Bob through my way, one of them was “wicked.” As an adverb.

Later that night, as I was unwinding at the hotel bar at least partially from my ordeal with Bob, I got my second and third wickeds of the day. From the bartender (and I’m determined NOT to drink Sam Adams, by the way – that’s a story for another day) and one of the businessman sitting a couple of barstools down. I chuckled under my breath, downed the rest of my draft and made my way to the waiting clam chowdah and lobstah roll.

Hey, Words Matter. But too many words don’t. At least not in a good way.

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1 Comment

Filed under Seen and heard, work

One response to “Longing for the Sound of Silence

  1. Pingback: When Too Cool Isn’t, or How I (Sorta) Met the Canadian Beckys | Rants 'n Raves

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