I had just delivered a car to Sacramento. And I was sitting at the airport waiting for a flight to Atlanta, but I had a long wait ahead. So I was reading a book that came out about me called A DRIVING FOOL. Appropriate title. It pretty much captures me, my love of cars and travel, my job delivering cars around the country, and the truly nutty people I meet every single day on the road.
It was still five hours until my flight when the airline announced that the flight had been cancelled. I had befriended the gate agent, and he made a primary concern out of finding me another way to get to Atlanta. He found a way, but told me that I would have to hurry. There was a flight leaving in 30 minutes on Alaska Air that would take me up to Portland, Oregon. After a six hour layover I could catch a flight on to Atlanta, and would arrive there ten hours past the time I was originally to get there. Oh well, it was the holidays. New Years Eve, in fact.
I hurried to the other terminal and got to the gate just moments before they closed the doors. I found my seat on the plane next to the window over the wing. And I looked out and saw something I've never seen on a plane before: propellors! I have only been on jet planes, and this was going to be a new experience.
A very nice flight attendant named Annie welcomed me. She was very sweet and sincere, and she pointed out that the empty aisle seat next to me would offer me room to stretch out and relax. But once we were up in the air, I could see that relaxing was not in the cards for me. The props were very loud, and the turbulence was unlike any I have ever felt. And then we flew into the thunderstorm. I began to turn into a nervous wreck very quickly. Closing my eyes very tightly, I tried my best to think of happy thoughts.
And then Annie sat down in the seat next to me. "You OK?" she asked.
I opened my eyes and forced a smile. I nodded at her. She looked to be in her early 30's, and was pretty in a natural, girl next door sort of way. Her eyes danced with kindness and a hint of mischief. "Thanks for asking."
"Mind if I sit here with you a while?"
"Can you do that?"
She smiled. "Sure I can. It's my job to make the passengers comfortable. Everyone has their drinks, I can take a few with you."
"That'd be great." We hit another bad patch of bumps in the air, and I tensed up. Annie reached over and took my hand. "I must seem like a wuss to you."
She shook her head. "Not at all. You seem like a real nice guy, or I wouldn't be sitting here next to you."
"What's your name?"
"Oh geez, I'm sorry, I'm Bill Thomas."
"Well Bill, I'd say you just made a new friend."
"I like making new friends."
"That makes two of us."
She had to get up a few times and check on people, but for the most part she stayed with me for the rest of the flight. After we landed, I waited for everyone to get off the plane so that I could chat with Annie. We walked off the plane together. "I sincerely appreciate you taking time out for me. Thanks for making me feel better."
"To tell the truth, it makes me feel good to know I helped someone. So what do you do, Bill."
"I drive cars all over the country, delivering them to folks everywhere in the lower 48. And I meet the craziest people wherever I go."
Annie looked surprised. "Wow. That sounds so much like a book that my girlfriend just read. It's about a guy who delivers cars, and he meets weirdos, but he also tries to help people. It's called, um, A DRIVING FOOL."
I laughed. "That's me. That book is about me."
I pulled the copy of the book out of my backpack. She looked very excited. "You want a copy?"
"Will you sign it for me?"
"Sure, if you like." I opened the book and signed it on the front page.
"This is so bizarre. It's like one of your driving fool adventures."
"They happen all the time, every day."
She looked all revved up. "I'm gonna hug you now." And she hugged me, much to my delight. "You know what? I'm gonna kiss you now." And she gave me a soft kiss on the cheek.
I looked at her expectantly. "And?"
She smirked. "And that's all you're gonna get."
I stuck out my bottom lip to mock a child's pout. She giggled. "It was so nice to meet you, Annie."
"You too, Bill." She turned to walk away, then stopped and turned around. "Where are you headed?"
"Atlanta. I have a six hour layover."
"I've got a seven hour layover. They have a room booked for me here at the airport hotel. Want to come up and hang out with me there?"
I didn't have to think about it long. "You bet. We can both catch a nap before our next flights."
She smiled and walked over to me, taking me by the hand. "I'm sure we'll find something to do."
And we stayed up talking and laughing and playing games. It was a very Happy New Year.