(reading time 8 ½ minutes)
During my lecture tours in the 1970s, I was often invited to dinners at the home of the agent who contracted for the speeches. On this particular meeting, the association president invited me to join in a family picnic. His wife was a pretty Mexican lady, who’s cooking specialty was spicy chili laced with garlic. It was great, albeit a bit heavy on the garlic for me. In the late afternoon, I left for my next destination on the speaking tour. I was in Harrisburg, and my next stop was a 150-mile flight, with a small airline company.
As I walked to the waiting room for boarding at the airport, I couldn’t help but notice an extremely fat man riding on an airport jitney cart, transporting him somewhere. I remember thinking that whatever plane he’s taking, they better assign him three seats. He looked to have measured at least three feet or more wide. Wherever he sits will create a problem to the trim balance of the plane. He covered the entire seat of the jitney, made for three or four people. Maybe he was with the circus or a Sumo wrestler, I thought. Then, I noticed his jacket with his name stenciled on the back. It read: BRUNO, South Philly Bears. Oh boy. I hope he is not on my plane.
My plane arrived. It was an old DC 4, still flying, but looked in very good condition. We had to board from the tarmac and climb up the movable stairway, instead of from the pier as with the more modern planes. I selected a window seat behind the wing, towards the rear. The seat next to me was unoccupied. As I awaited the take off, I noticed some cramping and stomach pains with a little flatulence, probably from the Garlic Chili. I ignored it. The plane was loaded, all but the seat next to me, waiting for one more passenger. I started to read a magazine. All of a sudden, there he was, that monstrous Bruno from South Philly. The only unassigned seat was next to mine, and the plane was full. There were no other seats. What could I do? He started to wiggle back and forth attempting to squeeze his enormously wide buttocks into less than a two-foot seat. This can’t happen to me, I thought. After a series of grunts and groans, with bulbous fat draping over the arm of the seat, encroaching almost half way into my space with his stomach pressing against the passenger in front of him, he settled in with a heavy sigh. A large bag was on his lap, from which he retrieved a box of pizza slices. I was about to regurgitate, and this aroma did not make it any easier to deal with my problem. Now the pizza odor! I was sealed in my seat, a helpless prisoner, trapped. It was no place for anyone like me, with a sensitive sense of smell and a queasy stomach, not to mention an increasingly brewing flatulence.
The captain came on the speaker and said, “This is the Captain speaking. Fasten your seat belts please. We are ready for take off.” Was he kidding? They don’t make seat belts big enough for Bruno! I can’t even reach mine under the load of humongous fat hanging over the arm of my narrow seat. The plane started to roll. I was sure it would never get off of the ground. The wheels dragged and bounced trying to get airborne. I knew it was Bruno, the fat guy holding it down. I wanted to scream, stop, stop, and then with a vibrating bounced release, we were flying! Thank you GOD! Even Isaac Newton wouldn’t believe this. I exhaled the garlic-laced breath I was holding. We were in the air, off the ground, we were actually f l y i n g! I hope the emergency crew at the next airport has been alerted. Here we come, ready or not. The overly large passenger next to me, opened his bag and said, “Hey, do youse wanna’ slice of pizza?” I responded with, “No thanks, I am on a diet”. He said, “Oh, I tried them things and gave up. None of them work for me. I am always hungry”. I thought to myself, you betcha’ by golly!
Fortunately, the flight was uneventful. We landed safely and it was time to disembark. I had to get out of this plane and to a rest room, quickly. A few passengers looked in my direction when the odor of garlic wafted into their space. I rolled my eyes, suggestively glancing in the direction of Bruno, nodding affirmatively. Grimacing, they nodded acknowledgment and hurried to move on and out. Thank God the trip lasted less than an hour, but landing and unloading also takes more time, which was running out for me. I’ll never eat chili again, especially garlic flavored chili. As Murphy’s Law would have it, before big Bruno could move out of the wedged in position he had in the chair, the plane had to discharge all of the other passengers. Then he could maneuver his bulk, squeezing sideways down the narrow isle, bumping seats like a washboard. He had to be last, except for me, and I had to go, BIG TIME! I was trapped right behind him, hidden by his bulk, totally unnoticed by the flight attendant in charge of disembarking. I was suffering being the last person in the line. Mother Nature was reminding me, this is an emergency. I ducked around Bruno at the door, apologized and darted down the stairway.
Now I’m desperate. I’m carefully running on the tarmac, in a strange airport. Fortunately, I had reservations for the airport hotel. I ran to a clearly recognizable registration desk. I quickly registered and asked for directions to my room. It was room number 6. I was given my key and ran where I was directed to find room number 6. This was now an almost uncontrollable emergency. As I ran down the hallway, I observed the room numbers, 1, 3, 5. Oh, thank God and Mother Nature, I made it. Mine is the next room number 6. The door was slightly ajar, so thankfully, I did not have to use the key. I barged in, dropped my bag at the door and dove into the bathroom. Wow, I made it. The fan was on but not working quite adequately for present needs. I remembered the burnt match practice to disguise bathroom odors. I lit a match. It was a large bathroom. 1 match was not sufficient. But wait! I remembered that I had a cigar in my jacket. That would do it. I lit up the cigar and sure enough in a minute or two and a few deep puffs, it was the remedy I needed. After a proper wash up and a few puffs on the cigar, I opened the door into the room from the bathroom. To my surprise, I was confronted by a startled, elderly couple with mouths agape and terrified, sitting on a small sofa. I said, “Is their some kind of a mistake? This is supposed to be my room, number 6.” Quivering, the elderly man replied, “This is number 7 young man. Room 6 is on the even numbered side of the hallway.”
I embarrassingly apologized and left the room with my baggage, smoking my big black cigar. As I was closing the door, I could hear the little old lady say, “Sakes alive, doesn’t he know that there is no smoking allowed in this room?” … Now I could laugh!