Thursday, May 06, 2004

The High Life

To really crack up a cabin of airplane passengers on a pre-dawn flight, you either have to be extremely funny or severely drunk. Having never been either, I marveled at the work of a cowboy from Potosi, Texas this morning on American Eagle Flight 3624. He was unashamedly both.

Decked out in full wrangler regalia from hat to boot, he boisterously boarded and moseyed his way back to row 14. If his reputation didn't precede him, his pre-flight beverage did. The back half of the plane was secondhand drunk by the time we took off.

Removing all doubt, he announced to everyone and no one in particular that he'd been drinking. ("Really? You hold it well.") Continuing his unsolicited soliloquy, "We started out ridin' the buckin' harses. Then we hopped onto the dirt bikes. Then we got into the Crown Royal." Somewhere an out-of-work reality show executive has new life.

They say you let go of your inhibitions when inebriated. Not sure this guy ever had any, but if he did they were as non-existent as his whiskey at this point. He asked a casino-bound couple, "Where y'all headed?"

"Las Vegas," they replied.

"Vegas? D-mn, I'm on the wrong plane! I'm goin' to Dallas!"

I think he was kidding.

To the guy in front of him, a perfectly-chiseled (not that I noticed) rock of an African-American, he said, "Howdy. What are you, one of them linebackers?"

Guy (with perfect diction and eloquence, which obviously threw our friend off): "I'm the fitness director at Dyess Air Force Base."

Cowboy: "Huh?"

Guy (again with the diction): "I'm the fitness director at Dyess Air Force Base."

Perhaps subconsciously summoning his last extant instinct of self-preservation, he ended that conversation and started in on the flight attendant's futile attempts to show him and the rest of us how to buckle our seat belts.

"What she say? Sump'm 'bout everybody in Oklahoma's gettin' drunk."

The people next to him were howling hysterically. Officially on a roll, he began getting buzzed on their laughter. To the flight attendant's demonstration of how to use the oxygen mask (which the rest of us could've used by then):

"Breathe deep? Yeah, breathe deep as the plane spirals...

- there's no way to phonetically describe how this man pronounced the word "spirals" -

to the ground at 700 miles per hour."

Somehow I dozed off and missed the rest of his in-flight routine, but I woke up as we were landing to see him hand a quarter to the Vegas hopefuls and say in full throat, "Let 'er ride on red! H-ll, I don't even know how to gamble, but let 'er ride on red!"

As we exited the aircraft (such as it was), he fired off a couple of closing quickies. To the pilots:

"My turn! Fill 'er up! I'm 'on' take 'er fer a spin!"

To a smily infant in her mother's arms:

"I betcha you gotta pee, don't ya!" (My guess is both parties went in their pants.)

As I made my way to the next gate, I thought, "No wonder Jesus hung out with drunks and other 'notorious sinners.'" At least when you tell that crowd to turn from their sins and turn to God, they clearly understand what you're saying. As long as you're not talking to them over an airplane loudspeaker.

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