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16 Nov 2011

Weirdos: A Love Story.

Written by sally @ 4:06 pm — Section: sally

Last week, you may have read, a guy live-tweeted a couple’s argument at Burger King. While this is something I read with gusto and endorse a million percent, he did something I would not do: take and post their photos. It may seem like TALKING about weirdos and SHOWING some weirdos are the same thing, but I diasgree. Without a photo, it could be anyone. A few weeks ago, yes, I wrote about a little weirdo I keep seeing at discount and craft stores, but no, I didn’t post her picture (just a poor drawing! of her from the back!). Somehow this feels at least 7% less mean. I may be wrong.

I took a work trip to Florida a few weeks ago and encountered a bunch of interesting folks: a guy with gigantically baggy pants that were tight-rolled! a woman singing the Mr. Big song “To Be with You” to herself in the bathroom! a woman taking her photo over and over again with her laptop camera! a lady wearing brown suede fringed short shorts and matching booties! a man who simultaneously sucked his teeth and hummed! I also encountered two weirdos who got me thinking where the line is between the weirdos I find delightful and the ones I want to destroy with the power of my hate-filled mind.

On the way from Atlanta to St. Petersburg (did you know that it is some kind of LAW that you can’t go anywhere in the south without first going to Atlanta?), I was busy hating the teeth-sucking humming man, who was sitting in the aisle seat of the three-seat row where I was in the window seat. I should have known that thoroughly despising him was only going to make the universe give me something worse to worry about, so it was sort of no surprise that a big old Gomer Pyle-esque guy in his 60s wedged himself over the sucking hummer and into the middle seat. He had a Diet Pepsi in his pocket; when he sat down with a great harrumph the bottle was tilted roughly 100% upside down.

I hope that lid’s on tight! I said.
What? he said.
Your Pepsi. I hope the lid’s on tight.
Oh. Yeah. Me too, he said.

He sorted out his seat belt, and then he said, So are you a schoolteacher or what?
What makes you say that? I said.
He was a little taken aback. He looked at me. Then he said, Well, you’re wearing glasses.

After I admitted that ok, fine, I’m actually a research emporiumist, he then proceeded to tell me everything he knew about libraries, to ask a million questions about ebooks and cataloging, and to list all the various times he visited Mississippi. Talking about Mississippi reminded him of all the other states, so he told me about them, too. When he turned his head to ask for a Coke AND a water, I noticed a scar that went from behind his ear down his neck. His hair was military-short and he had retired from the Marines. He had seen Old Faithful eight times. He had seen Stone Mountain three times (once when it was just a mountain, once when it was in progress, and once when it was done). He had been to Niagara Falls a bunch of times. It impressed him every time.

His fingernails were long, and he kept using the edge of his index finger’s nail to draw things on the back of the seat in front of me: diagrams of where he lived in relation to cities I recognized, the shape of a state highway sign as opposed to a federal highway sign. His hands were puffy. There was another scar on the inside of his left wrist. The reason he had seen all 50 states, he said, was that after his breakdown, the chaplain at the VA hospital told him to take his money and do some traveling. So that’s what he did.

He was on his way to visit his two sisters in Florida. One of them, he said, was trained to be a hairdresser but her husband was a plumber so now they run a nursery. This seemed like a perfectly logical turn of events. (It occurs to me now that it IS logical if you just omit the “so” and change where the “but” is. She was trained to be a hairdresser and her husband was a plumber. But now they run a nursery.)

Several times, he got quiet enough for me to pick up my book. Then he would start talking again, usually about another state monument or attraction that I should make it a point to see. My favorite thing he said during our brief relationship was this, appropos of nothing:

“You know what you’d like? Moo goo gai pan.”

He told me his name and we parted as friends.

HOWEVER.

On the way back, in the Atlanta airport, I sort of laughed that there was a Krystal among the 10,000 food options, and then when we were boarding, a woman grunting into her phone clutched a bag of them. Ugh, I thought, whoever sits next to her is in for a treat. It did not occur to me that thinking this thought would seal my fate as her seatmate.

She fought with getting her suitcase in the overhead compartment (it’s tough while talking into a phone and clutching a bag of steamy oniony hamburgers). She plopped into her seat. She argued with me about whose seatbelt was whose. Oh, and then she started eating. Still talking on the phone. There was a lot of grunting. To free her hands for more food-cramming, she put the phone on speaker. It sounded like the other person was grunting as well. Your grandaddy laid the concrete at this airport, she said. Then she read aloud all the signs she could see through the window. Ter-min-al A. Del-ta At-lan-na’s Home-Town Air-Port. (Is this a function of old age? My grandmother used to read every road sign she saw, which drove me absolutely crazy.) They weren’t having a conversation; they were just saying words to each other.

The Krystals disappeared at a rapid pace. Then it was time to take off, thank god. But after she got off the phone, then she got comfortable. She sat with her legs spread wide, Larry Craig style, and set about pulling the money out of her bra and counting it. She had a lot, y’all! I tried not to look but spotted at least one $100 bill! Then she fell asleep and snored the whole way.

When we landed, she tried to get up and get past me when there were still at least 10 rows of people in front of us and I had to sternly tell her that that’s not how it works and that we had to wait our turn and she sat down and asked me if my book was good and then I felt bad that I had been kind of mean to her.

So here is your assignment: figure out why Weirdo A didn’t annoy me and Weirdo B did. Both were physically kind of gross, both were about the same age, both were up in my grill. What made the difference in my annoyance level?

(Later, at the baggage claim, I saw this tall guy picking up at least 5 pieces of luggage. A week later, he and his wife were touring a school Larry and I were touring, and yes, I am enough of a weirdo myself that I said HAY WERE YOU ON A FLIGHT FROM ATLANTA LAST FRIDAY? I didn’t mention the luggage.)

4 Responses to “Weirdos: A Love Story.”

  1. Elizabeth said:

    This was awesome and read like a “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” book. Please more weirdo encounters.

  2. poobou said:

    I’m guessing that Weirdo A was less annoying because he seemed a bit crazy (mentioning the whole VA/breakdown thing), and therefore seemed like he was maybe just a bit clueless about social cues. Meanwhile, Weirdo B seems to have blatant disregard for other people’s feelings with her smelly food and cell phone yelling. So she comes off as not crazy, just rude.

    I don’t know, that’s my guess.

  3. beth said:

    The long answer is that #1 had stories to tell and wanted specifically to tell them to you.

    The short answer is moo goo gai pan.

  4. ap said:

    I agree with what has been said but will chime in using different words. Weirdo A sounds weird in a quirky, endearing way. Weirdo B just sounds like rudeness with a sliver of redemption peeking through in your last 45 seconds together.
    Are you touring schools for Pete or Lulu?