So I'm standing in line to board this plane from Phoenix to Sacramento. And this airline offers general seating. You get in line, you walk on the plane..you sit. So, clearly, you want to do a visual sweep of you fellow passengers before you get in line with them.
Man....I'm smiling right now, because I've got SO many descriptive qualities of the kind of people who you would NOT want to sit next to..but, well, it just borders on cruel and sick, and I've turned my ways, I have...I have.
And I trust in you, to be able to discern, who is probably NOT a good idea to hop in line with..
( see that newlywed? the drunk one? she's getting ready to remove her nail polish with one of those nail polish remover tubs with the sponge in it..she will stink up the whole cabin..and she will be yelling across the aisle to her new husband, asking him if he's "getting airsick yet honey?", even though we've not even left the gate.)
So I see a harmless looking gentleman. Older. I was 21, so, he could have been 41 for all I know.. but he had a sparkle in his eye. His mouth is closed, and his nails clean.
We are in line together. We start talking:
Him : So, where are you from?
(no one in Phoenix, is FROM Phoenix)
Me : Indianapolis, originally, I've been out here 2 years.....::blah blah blah mah mah mah:::
Him : Oh! Indianapolis! I flew a plane over the Track for the Race last year.
(note, I've never been to the Indy500, but I do know you capitalize the word Track and Race when referring to either one)
Now...for some reason. Him saying "I flew a plane over the.." did not flip any switches, or hoist any flags in my brain. What it did trigger was this response :
Me : So, you're a pilot??
Him : uh huh..
Me : That's GREAT!!!! (readers, please remember what I'm about to say, just for future reference) So, like, if this puppy started going down, do you think you'd be able to go up there and fly it?? (oh GOD!! I know the ending to this story..and everytime I remember that question I asked this man... I cringe. Hard)
Him : Uh....yes.
Me : We should sit together!! I hate to fly!!
So..we find our seats, I give him the aisle seat, in case he needed quicker access to the cockpit...
our conversation resumes..
Him : I was a pilot in The War. (again, I know when and where to use Caps...WWII)
Me : Wow...
Me : My Grandpa was in The War. (I should teach young girls the art of conversation)
Him : I shot down ( I forget the number...let's just say...) 8 bazillion German planes.
Me : Dang.. (what should I name my school?)
Him : I was shot down over France...
Me : No!!!
So. This is the part where...well. Ok..I say,
Me : My name is Becky Andrews, by the way.
Him : My name is Chuck Yeager...nice to meet you, Becky.
He shakes my hand...
Yeah...chew on that.
I yank my hand back..and I'm instantly looking around. Like, what the?? Does anyone else KNOW this? That DUDE from the RIGHT STUFF is here??? The pilot? The bad ass??
Wait....wait wait wait wait wait.
Me : No. No you're not.
Him : (laughing) What?
Me : Let me see some ID.
I CARDED CHUCK YEAGER, people. What kind of asshole am I?
Him : (laughing) You know who I am?? (reaching into his pocket to get his wallet) You are pretty young to know who I am...
Me : hand it over...(I'm doing the finger to palm thing with my hand..like..gimme gimme) Of course I know who Chuck Yeager is!!!!!
So, yeah. Brigadier General Charles Yeager (I should know, that's what it said on his Air Force ID card I just looked at) handed me his driver's license, his Visa, Mastercard....
ALL of them said Charles Yeager. And as I'm looking...it's all coming back. His face. It is him.
DEAR GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just said some...no, not some...I said ALL DUMB things to Chuck Yeager...and then I carded him.
And then the plane starts the taxi to take off....
We have about 2 hours.
Just me and Chuck.
Our time together was special. I asked him deep and probing questions, like :
Me : Does your face really go like this (pretended it was flopping back in the wind) when you are going, like mach 40??
We talked and talked and talked. My conversation skills finally blossomed once I got over my initial "we are just 2 strangers on a plane, why are we talking in the first place?" weirdness.
He shared some personal thoughts with me like :
Him : Becky, I'm fearless, but you scare me..
(I swear on all things Holy...he said that. He DID!!!)
I guess I said some "goofy" things...who knows? He was smiling when he said it though...
Chuck was a cool dude. He was a bit of a flirt for someone that could've shared a beer with my Grandpa back in the day...but, I was secretly flattered.
Back then, I used to work at a lot of concerts, so I got to meet a lot of the people who perform at the concerts. And, well, once you see ONE heroin afflicted asshole, you've seen them all. NOT that they all were like that...but, well...I kind of got over it.
But. I was starstruck. I was. Now I knew why all those people at the concerts were freaking out to get backstage...they wanted to FEEL what I was feeling...this...OHMYGOD feeling.
But...this was Chuck, right?? This had some TEETH to it!!!
I was flying to Sacramento to see a boy. He actually lived in the same small town Chuck lived in...so, Chuck gave me his phone number, in case I needed "any assistance".
And we walked off the plane together, arm in arm. He wanted to wind up the guy I was coming to see...Chuck just smiled and handed me off..
I'll never forget that flight.
Who gets to say
"I flew with Chuck Yeager"?