Being an anxious flyer and a “social” drinker, flying has left me with no other choice: Drink an airplane cocktail(s?) and make a friend. Over the past several years of panic-ridden flights, I’ve met some people that are, in fact, real, despite everything you will want to believe. Here are three of the strangest friends I’ve made on planes.
1.Troy, the guy with two (yes, two) blind parents
Troy and I met on a tiny plane during a blizzard, where we each discovered as soon as soon as we sat down that neither enjoyed flying. Great, Troy, really great. Look out the window: It’s a blizzard and we’re both going to die. No, I don’t know what de-icing the plane means, but it certainly can’t be safe.
Troy was about thirteen feet too tall for the entire plane, and he had so many questions about de-icing that we had to turn to the deer hunter in the cut off tee across the aisle, Joe, to get them answered. I quickly learned that Troy was a sophomore? Junior? Enrolled student? at a division II college in the middle of God’s forsaken land somewhere in Indiana, and that he had a tattoo that read, “Love is blind,” across the center of his chest. Naturally, I revered this tattoo choice as wholeheartedly douchey, and assumed the recipient got the tattoo in his preteens.
I asked him what the tattoo meant, and he told me that both of his parents were blind.
My baby brain exploded.
BOTH of your parents are blind? Like, they can’t see anything with their eyes? At all? Both of them? Is that even…possible? Yup. Mom was born with a degenerative eye disease and dad was in a shooting accident when he was fourteen.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Troy’s dad is since remarried, and his stepmom is also blind. I hate to say it, guys, but you’d have to see it to believe it.
2. The Disney King
On a recent flight to Orlando during which I was not visiting Disney World, I met the world’s most confused thirty year old. To save his embarrassment when he discovers the Internet and finds this article, we’ll call him Joe. Uhhhh, maybe that’s actually his name. Either way, Joe was sitting directly behind me in an aisle seat when our flight started to get unexpectedly bumpy. Naturally, I turned to the nearest stranger who was willing to make eye contact with me. Joe, who smelled horridly of B.O., caught my glance. Not because he was a looker or anything, but simply because he was looking. Joe and I launched into a conversation about music, based solely on the fact that he was listening to his Ipod and it seemed easier to talk about Metallica than to imagine myself plummeting to my untimely death.
Next thing I knew, Joe had switched seats with the person next to me. Time to buddy up! I soon found out that Joe flew back and forth to Nashville and Orlando because he was a graphic designer. I assumed he had some artistic skills or maybe was good with computers. “Nah,” he told me. What? Huh? How? Next, I come to find out that Joe visits Disney World every single weekend. That’s right, dude has season passes that he uses religiously, and clearly more often than a stick of deodorant. He told me he loves it. He goes with his dad. Every week. Rain or shine. No matter what. I should have asked if he was still single.
Also, his timeline picture on Facebook is the Magic Kingdom.
3. The Moonshine-Making, Motorcycle-Enthusiast Recovering Alcoholic
I just got an email from him a few days ago, re-extending an invitation to his farm in Middle Tennessee so we could drink moonshine and “hang out.” He was a man in, presumably, his late sixties, who noticed my teddy bear on our flight and struck up a conversation across the aisle. Apparently, he’d been a raging alcoholic in his youth, but had been sober for nearly as long as I’d been alive. Yet, he and his son like to make moonshine out on his farm. Sure, sure. That makes perfect sense.
The other incongruous detail about this older gentleman’s life? He spends most of his time motorcycling across the country. And other countries. Later this month, he’s sailing to Europe so that he can go motorcycle in Spain. Or France. Or somewhere. He’s probably ridden across more states than you’ve even heard of, and he looks like he shouldn’t even be allowed behind the wheel of a car. No offense, Nick. You’re truly wonderful.