A Story From the PastPosted: March 29, 2009
I haven’t had many blog-worthy moments lately. My mind has been blank and yet busy, I guess too busy to focus on any one thing to write about. Last week I went to a funeral for an old friend’s father, and I guess that got me thinking about the past. My friend, Lu and I have been close since high school, and even though we don’t see each other much, we have this kind of relationship that just picks up every time where it left off. We are both married now, with our own families, etc., but I still love the guy like I did the first time he posed the question “What’s the poop?” to me almost 30 years ago.
I remembered that Lu came to visit me in NC when I was down there working at the paper, and that got me thinking about this story:
I had been out of school for six months or so, working temp jobs at banks and such, simple filing work; living in a one-room flat, freelancing for local magazines and waiting for my “big break” in terms of a real job. I had been checking out the Want-Ads in Editor and Publisher every week, and had sent my resume down to a paper in NC that was looking for a copy editor. They flew me down for an interview in February of 1987.
I was young, 22, but you know, when you’re 22, you think you are all grown up. You’re ready to take on the world and live your life, that life you’ve been dreaming about for as long as you can remember. You think you know what’s coming next, you’re ready to make it all happen because you know how the world operates. I mean, what the hell did I know?
So the plan for the flight was this: I got a plane out of Philly to Charlotte, NC, and when I got to Charlotte, I had to call for a shuttle to take me to my connecting flight to Wilmington, NC. There was snow in Philly, so we got a bit of a late start. I was a little nervous even though there was plenty of time to make the connection, I’m just a spaz about traveling.
There was an older man sitting next to me on the plane, and he struck up a conversation, told me a bit about himself, and asked where I was going, etc. Because I was nervous, I started talking, and I gave him basically my whole story; how I was just out of college, looking for this job at the paper, how I’d been freelancing and hoped to someday write for Rolling Stone, my whole big plan. Again, I was young, a dreamer, and open. I wasn’t playing any cards close to the chest because I had no idea how to even get into the game.
He was a nice man. As the plane touched down in Charlotte and we took off our belts, he told me that he could tell I was talented and that I would “go far” in life. At that moment, I swelled. I felt so hopeful, so sure of my future. This man, this stranger, had seen the diamond in the rough that was me, could see the potential of my future success. We had talked so much about me, that I had completely forgotten what his story was, so I asked him, “What is it again that you do?” His answer: “I’m in waste management.”
So I got into Charlotte. This was long before cell phones, so I had to rush to find a pay phone, and finding one that wasn’t being used was a challenge. I finally got to one, and just as I picked up the receiver, everything in the airport went black. It was a complete power outage. No phones, no lights, nothing. People were just wandering about in the gray light, unsure of what to do next.
Now I was really nervous. The minutes ticked away until the lights finally came back on. At that point, I had about fifteen minutes until my connection was scheduled to leave. I dialed the number I had for the shuttle, and a woman with a slow Southern drawl answered. I told her I needed a shuttle, and she told me to wait out on the sidewalk and the van would be around in a few minutes to transport me. I was still kind of freaking out, so I said that my plane was going to leave very soon, was there a chance I would make it?
She laughed a little and said reassuringly, “Well now, I seriously doubt that plane’s gonna leave without you, I mean, your shuttle bus driver is your pilot.”
And sure enough, he was. This big dude in a khaki jumpsuit who looked like he’d just rolled out of bed and come to work. He threw my bag in the back of the van and sped around the terminal, stopping once for another passenger. Then he took us straight to the plane on the tarmac. It was this four-seater puddle jumper, the inside of which reminded me a lot of my brother’s beat-up Honda Civic. There was trash strewn about, crumpled burger wrappers and styrofoam cups.
I climbed in, clung to my seat, and we took off (me white-knuckled the entire time) toward my future.