Get Back to Work, You

On a plane ride home from Tampa, I saw a giant of a man in the seat in front of me who wore such a skimpy tank top that I had a chance to count every one of the thousands of shoulder and back hairs visible to me.

Then, on that same flight, a mere 30 seconds after the pilot turned off the Fasten Seat Belt sign, a woman in one of the backmost rows began shouting “Jesus Christ,  will you people MOVE!”

Later, as we were all proceeding along the lengthy peristaltic trek to Baggage Claim, I saw at the bar of one of the airside eateries a youngish dude in a cowboy hat who kept shoving his napkin up under his sunglasses as he wept and wept while talking on his phone.

These were all things I noticed in one three-hour period.

It has literally been months since I have come to this blog to write down anything at all, whether happy or sad. Suffice to say it was some summer. But now, finally, I think I’m ready to begin again, maybe because of the kindly dermatologist I saw for the first time just before that flight. He asked what I did for a living so I told him I had taught high school English in my 20s, and then added with a look that was unmistakably nostalgic, that for 36 years I had written a weekly newspaper column.

Had written?” he asked .“Yes,” I sighed. “A day came, kind of out of the blue, when I felt I just couldn’t do it anymore. Writing a weekly column is like having to produce a term paper 52 times a year, I could also have quoted author Sidney Sheldon’s observation that a blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.

It was at this point that the nice dermatologist said something that has echoed in my mind ever since. “But of course you still write, don’t you?” he asked, and I literally hung my head. “Um, well…” I stammered, shamefacedly – and felt lucky to get even those two words out.

You know how when we were kids the grownups would sometimes say, “Let that be a lesson to you?” Well, I let that moment be a lesson to me. And it was only days later on my trip from Tampa to Boston that I suddenly noticed these three people I opened with above.

Why was the cowboy crying? I would never know. You can’t intrude on private grief by going up to someone and asking but still: I wondered.

Why did that mountain of a man wear what amounted to an above-the-waist thong on an airplane? Did he not feel embarrassed, the way I would feel if, say, my travel companion suggested I pull out a razor and start shaving my armpits? (Shaving on a Plane, now there’s an idea for a new trend!)

And I wondered even more about the yelling woman at the back of the plane who by now had elbowed her way to just two rows back from me. “Why don’t you go in my place?” I said to her.

She looked at me quickly, maybe to see if I was being sarcastic.

I wasn’t. “No, really,” I said. “I’m in no hurry.”

“It’s just that I get panic attacks,” she said. “I have awful claustrophobia.” And I thought yes maybe she does, because hadn’t I noticed her at the outset of the trip joshing good naturedly with the people around her as she was stowing her bag?

I had indeed. And maybe I would not have ‘seen’ her at all if that lovely doctor had not metaphorically lifted my chin, thus encouraging me to keep on doing what I so clearly love doing, that is noticing things and writing down what I notice.  Maybe, speaking of God, doing that is even a kind of prayer.

31 thoughts on “Get Back to Work, You

  1. Yes, to the above.
    But now I am wondering — what was the number of hairs you counted? And we are left with the mystery of the cowboy dude, as well as the woman who was in such a hurry — to get to the rest room? Or what was her problem? You gotta help solve this for me.

    1. He had SO many curly white hairs – past counting, like the stars in the sky I should have said 😉 Wish I knew more about my yelling friend. People are very much on edge these days though aren’t they Joan?

  2. As always, you are articulate, insightful and give us pause to contemplate the vagaries of our own lives. So happy that you have returned to us! ❤️

  3. The dermatologist was able to observe your outer skin, but really saw what was deeper under your skin that wanted to flourish again and helped you bring it to the surface and it wasn’t a blemish. Welcome back…
    Mike

  4. Glad to see you back here Terry. Have you recuperated fully from your rotator cuff surgery? The very first time I was on an airplane, I was 13 and traveling to Frankfurt, Germany. We had horrid turbulence, and an elderly Italian woman was praying the rosary and crying out “Mama Mia – we’re all gonna die!” This was the entire trip.

  5. yay!!! love this, so happy to hear your voice again. when I was little I loved to sit at JFK airport with my grandma awaiting her flights to her homeland, people watching and wondering what their story was. how I would have loved to listen to their story. where they were going or coming from and why they dressed like they did or looked like they did, I sat in awe every single time. the airport is one of my favorite places, bustling with people from all around the world with lots of interesting luggage.
    angels and blessings are everywhere if we take the time to notice.
    last week I was dropping my daughter at work and I ended up talking with a lovely lady next to me (she was picking up dinner for herself and kids after working all day next door), she made mention about making wise choices about spending and how she really wanted to try the more expensive meal they had on the menu.
    I saw her bill and anonymously paid for her and when the bartender told her it was paid she started to cry and said, “this is a sign that things are starting to change for the better.”
    the next day I went to the butcher to get hot dogs for the weekend. I said to him, “I am getting a dozen hot dogs, why cant they package a dozen rolls instead of 8?!” he said,” hold on, I have a package I can break up for you.” I said, “wow, that’s nice of you, you’re Friday’s hero.” and he just said, “my good deed for the day.” and I was so appreciative for his kind thoughtfulness that warmed my heart.
    people have a way of impacting our lives all the time, and isn’t it wonderful when it’s positive and meaningful. that’s what you do for us readers, t. we love your stories and have grown with you all these years. so glad you are back with bells on!

    1. Nic, my theory is these nice things happen to you because you move through the world in such an open-hearted way. I think so few of us look around and really SEE what is out there to see because of all the constant chatter in our heads – and that’s before we even pop in those AirPods! Thank you so much for this great app read!

  6. Terry, your journey — writing, not via airplane — synchs with mine. What makes me post on my blog (peterwallace.wordpress.com) are ideas or experiences that deserve to be remembered or discussed. Not a deadline. You are a fine writer, and I hope there is much more to come from you. -Peter

  7. Beautiful, Tes. And at the heart of you – the observer and the chronicler and the evoker and all the lovely rest. xoxoxoxo

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