As luck would have it, my Providence meeting was canceled for today! So I flew in last night from TF Green, having traded my favorite Guess pumps (newly re-heeled and re-soled, thank you, as I destroy shoes) for my favorite sheepskin Uggs. You see, I erroneously assumed it would be cool in New England. It's fall, goddamnit! Not so. Also, it was 80 degrees in Philadelphia. Bastards. When will the air be crisp and cold, so that I can wear my glorious comfortable shoes every day? When?
Last night I sat next to the chattiest man evah on my Southwest flight. By the time we landed (one-hour flight, y'all), I'd learned all about his boat in New England; his work at the Franklin Mint; his current job; his current girlfriend; that time his ex moved all of her things out of their Indiana home one day with her brother, and he took off to Club Med in Punta Cana the next day and played Caesar in an improv skit (and when they asked him what Caesar wanted, he proclaimed: "VIRGINS!"); and then some dude there told him that now he could have any woman he wanted; but then he didn't; he only had one. Then there was the time he saw his ex at a wedding a few years later, where she ignored him; then he convinced the best-looking woman in the room to dance with him, to make his ex jealous; then they spent one night together and he sent her flowers the next day, but they never spoke again.
"So how old are you?" He asked between these charming anecdotes.
"Twenty-seven," I replied, burying my nose in Vanity Fair, the universal travelers' sign for polite conversation over, man: I've got never-before-seen pics of the Kennedys by Richard Avedon to pour over.
"Man, I could use a 27 year-old."
I shift uncomfortably.
"But not you! Obviously, because you're engaged. I could have a daughter your age! I just turned 50."
I sensed a sadness in his voice when he said the words. For a moment, I felt pity.
"So," I began, "No children then?"
"Nah. Never been married. That's why I need a woman of child-bearing age."
(I really couldn't make this stuff up, these revelatory travel tales.)
"Then your girlfriend is older?" I ask.
"Yeah. Older than me, actually. 51. In L.A. right now. But she works a lot. Man, I told her: you keep working your ass off like that. I'm just gonna play."
I may be projecting, or reading too much Faludi these days, but his words are joyless. I imagine he is very lonely.
"But who's going to marry me?" He asks.
"Someone will marry you!" I assure him.
"Of child-bearing age?" He asks me. I say nothing for a moment. Then, "You could adopt."
He shakes his head dismissively, then picks his small blue tote off the floor. "Scallops," he smiles. "Caught'em myself. I can't wait to get home and eat these."
Then I pretend to be incredibly interested in his live scallops, as he pries open a shell to show off his treasure.
When we land, the conversation ends as it always ends on planes: the take care, good luck.
"Well, nice talking to you. Take care."
"You too. Good luck with everything."
I'm not sure it's relevant, but this is one of those enlightening experiences that wakes me up for a brief moment; that teaches me what it is to be human. We're all searching. The tide is always changing. We long to connect. And sometimes, the best thing we can do is put aside the Graydon Carter editorial for a second, and look at the scallops. Because it is kind.