Eric and I flew to DC today for work. As usual, the Southwest flight was a pretty full flight. But, as most of you already know, I've been fighting the crud for more than a week now so we thought most people (after hearing me hack and cough) would steer clear of sitting in the middle seat between us. Sounds reasonable...right? And, we thought we had actually dodged a bullet... until a woman named Betty spotted our seat. Coughing didn't deter her... "Is this seat taken?"
She was a pretty African American woman... full of life. As she sat down to buckle her seat belt she looked at Eric, then me, and said, "I get sick when I fly... I need one of those bags."
Needless to say, I didn't waste anytime helping her find one since we would soon take off. As I handed her the barf bag from my seat pouch, I looked over at Eric. It was like I was looking in a mirror... he was giving me the same "oh shit" look I was giving him. But what could we do but laugh and hope that she didn't get sick.
After she had her barf bag and seat belt fastened, she saw that I was reading through the lyrics of a song LaLa and I are working on. "Wow. That is so cool... you write songs?!"
"Yeah," I replied.
"I write songs, too," she said and as she confidently snapped her finger she added, "I can write a song like that. They just come to me."
"Really?!" I said. "Do you live in Nashville?"
"Oh no!" Betty replied.
"Well, then you should move to Nashville. You know it is the songwriting capitol of the world. It's a great town."
Betty wrinkled her nose and said, "No... I don't think so. What kind of music to you write? Country?"
"Well, yes and no. I grew up listening to country, but my influences are more soul / old R&B... so you hear a lot of that in there."
This hit a good nerve with Betty, "Oh... Old R&B and soul. Yes... yesssss. Who do you like?"
Anyone who knows me, knows that at that point I was about to start spewing tons of names like Al Green, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Oleta Adams, Eva Cassidy, etc and so forth. The only name I got out of my mouth was "Al Green" and she begin to wail very loud.
I'm not exaggerating... not even a little.
I was stunned and I'm sure my eyes got really big... I couldn't tell if she was crying or laughing or both. I became really concerned that something was wrong. But, as I looked around to see the quizzical looks of those around us I realized that she was just totally overwhelmed at the thought of "Al Greene". It was surreal... like I was in a living SNL skit.
"I love Al Green. I love Al Green. He's so incredible...**inaudible**... oh my... girl he is so good. Where did he go? He is so good..." all the while she is raising her hands, shaking my arm and squealing. It was wild. All I could do is laugh and enjoy her totally uninhibited joy.
Soon after, the plane began to taxi for take off. Betty didn't notice at first... but as the wheels lifted off the ground, Betty began to moan. She grabbed the bag and made some gagging sounds... Eric and I gave each other the "oh shit" look again... but soon realized that she was okay. As it turns out, she just wasn't a conditioned traveler and I think she may have been confusing the feeling of taking off with the feeling of getting sick. And, by her own account later in the flight, she told me she liked attention. I think moaning and breathing heavily into a white paper bag was a good way to get a little of that, too.
Once we reached cruising altitude, the drama subsided. We had a little moment of silence and I thought maybe I'd get to work a little during the rest of the flight.
Well, that thought didn't last long.
By the time the plane landed two hours later, I knew everything about every celebrity in the "People" magazine Betty was reading. I knew that she is a Leo. I knew that she had three daughters, 8, 10 and 12. I knew that she had finished her cosmotology degree and was in the process of taking her boards. We also talked about why she'd been visiting Nashville... which turned out to be a trip in itself.
I asked her if she was married. For the first time during the flight... she looked at me with withholding eyes. Betty said, "Yes... but girl you won't believe the story."
Knowing this would be good, I said, "Hit me. I can handle it."
She gave me a sideways glance... like she was sizing me up to see if I could really handle what she was about to tell me.
"Are you impulsive?" she asked.
"I can be," I said.
Apparently this satisfied her and she started telling me about her Nashville trip.
Betty had come to Nashvegas to see her boyfriend of six years who'd just gotten a job here. He was staying in a hotel while he looked for a place and she was visiting to see if she wanted to move to Nashville. From the sounds of it, their relationship had been pretty rocky and she wasn't sure she wanted to make such a big move with her kids... especially when her daughters didn't really like the guy.
By her own account, the first night with her long-time beau was wonderful. Then, apparently, her boyfriend "went psycho" and locked her out of the room. I couldn't quite follow what transpired, but because she didn't have a place to stay, it sounds like some people there stepped in and helped her out. In the process she met a nice man... this was last Tuesday (11/8).
I couldn't quite follow all that happened from Tuesday to Saturday... but what ever it was... Betty married the man she met on Saturday. She never told me his name, but I found out that he had two daughters and had never been married before.
Betty was beside herself as she described the scene... which is why I had a hard time understanding everything she said. The gist of it all was that this man was a great person but she has no idea what she was thinking. While she says it seemed like a good idea at the time... as Betty told me her story, she had doubt in her eyes. Somehow, she also convinced her three daughters over the phone that the guy was cool and they gave her their blessing before she took the plunge... but I'm not sure how that went down either. Her Dad has already suggested she get it annulled... but for now she was thinking she'd see what happens. Betty doesn't want to move to Nashville, but somehow the two of them never discussed any of those practical matters before the nuptials on Saturday.
Anyway... that's where the story ends for me. I have no idea what she's going to do but Betty's stories and antics throughout the flight proved to make this trip to DC one of the most interesting ever.
What a character.
And... good luck.
Got any good "character" stories of your own you'd like to share?
I can handle it.