Funny American

Man, can this guy eat! He never seems to slow down. I have no idea where he’s putting it all.

I just happened to have come across the greatest snack eater I’d seen in the past forty years.

At the time, my wife was the Vice President of Human Resources for a credit union organization in Austin, Texas and as such, she attends a conference every now and then to remain up on the latest trends. One summer, one of the board of directors recommended that she attend the HR conference taking place in Maui; literally forcing a brochure into her hands during a meeting they were attending. It didn’t hurt that her boss, the President of the organization, was there at the time. He said go!

Just my luck, the organization felt a compelling need for spouses to accompanying the senior staff to these soirées; even to the extent of throwing one down and twisting one’s arm behind one’s back. I was sorta forced to go along as the chaperone. I know; it’s a tough life, but somebody has to live it.

0445 hrs, we’re up and on our way to the airport on a Friday morning, catching our flight to Dallas and eventually Maui. The shuttle guy from Quick-Park to the baggage drop must have been a first or second cousin of Mario Andretti—couldn’t of made his cousin more proud. We’d were hardly in our seats when we suddenly found ourselves climbing off the floor and out from under the bags that just two seconds previously had been stored in the luggage rack. I’m not sure if I had a concussion or not—time didn’t allow for further investigation.

We got our bags checked through DFW and sauntered on over to the security checkpoint for the strip-down—a real adventure in my book! My caregiver—my wife—always goes ahead of me so she can corral our stuff while I play the search me game with the local Federales.

I’m barely through the metal detector, when bells and whistles start to sound. This time, only a few armed men seem to be charging my location. I’m quickly escorted to the search area and frisked by the next available male member of the constabulary. Next the wands come out and the beeping starts all over again. Before 9/11, all I had to do was show them the card with the x-ray of my shoulder replacement that the hospital had given me to carry. That gimmick no longer works! In due time, I establish the cause and am released—ambling on my way. Belt sliding back through the loops and stopping only to button my shirt and zip my britches; we are finally looking for our departure gate to await our cattle call.

To pass the time, I strolled down to retrieve a couple cups of coffee for the two of us. This particular serving was quite possibly the HOTEST cup of coffee that I’d also experienced in the past forty years.

Cooling the coffee for some twenty minutes, I’m finally able to carefully sip from the Styrofoam cup—carefully being the operative word here. I still couldn’t hold the cup, even with the aid of that extra sleeve all of the vendors now provide. At the forty-five minute mark, I had finally finished the first half of what still remained the HOTEST cup of coffee ever.

Finally though, I start checking lips and tongue; believing I may have suffered third degree burns—only second degree burns possibly on my fingers. I’m definitely considering contacting a barrister—somebody’s gotta pay.

Amazingly, we depart the Austin gate on-time. Of course we land at DFW on the opposite side of the airport from our arrival gate and must taxi completely around to the other side. Immediately we’re on the sky-train taking us back to a departure gate located almost smack-dab where we landed in the first place.

While we waited, we found ourselves sitting across the aisle from a Popeye’s Chicken. I think “what luck?” With some time on our hands and no food, other than a snack held out for the flight to Maui; my lunch plan is now marked in stone. I guess you might realize by now that this entire account revolves around the consumption of food—you would be right.

Have chicken, will eat! I return to our waiting area with an hour, fifteen remaining prior to takeoff. The chicken I purchased, as you probably have guessed, is the HOTTEST chicken I have tried to hold and eat in the last forty years. I’m worried about being able to finish before our departure. Airports, what’s up with the heat?

I persevere and finish.

At 1215 hrs (Texas) and 0715 (Hawaii), we’re aloft on our way to Maui; just another seven hours, thirty-seven minutes away.

Hardly off the ground, flight attendants begin passing out the current USA Today as I remind myself that flight attendants are not stewardesses anymore? Exactly one minute after being handed the paper, I have finished reading the pertinent news.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, I turn to my seatmate and ask: “Are we there yet?” My humor is wasted on my wife.

Soon the flight attendants cover the aisles again: “Anything to drink?” They also had a couple of chicken noodle sandwiches or a chicken salad to offer for sale, no real food. I sure miss those cute German stewardesses on Lufthansa asking: “More coppie for you sir?” They were great!

Before you know it, the aircraft is beverage’d.

The flight indicator on the seatback says we’re still in Texas. At thirty-four thousand feet and traveling five hundred miles an hour and more than an hour into our trip, we’re still not outta Texas!

Time becomes meaningless. We’ll get there when we get there.

Bored and lookin’ for somethin’ to for mind, I noticed the guy sitting diagonally across the aisle from me. He occupies a seat on our row but because of the emergency door, his seat is half again more forward than mine. My subconscious reminds me that he’d started eating snack food before the beverage cart came down the aisle—maybe even since we boarded the aircraft. Just now he’s finished his third bag of popcorn as he adjusts his ear pieces to hear the in-flight movie.

Where’s he getting this stuff? As I watched him, I notice a square tube of I don’t know what tucked in the seatback pocket and wondered what it contained, and when he will get to it. It doesn’t stand a chance of lasting long at the rate; this guy’s chowing down.

Before he’s had time to say “I’m done with the popcorn!” he reaches under the seat in front of him pulling out two Styrofoam boxes and a package of utensils from I don’t know where either. He passes one box to the lady in the seat directly in front of him. Opening the box, he reveals a salad about the size of Rhode Island— maybe Connecticut—and starts engulfing the contents.

Eventually he puts the salad away, but does so in such a way that one’s sure he plans to return to it.

Almost immediately he pulls—again, out of nowhere—a two liter bottle of water and drinks half of it—I kid you not. Setting the water aside, miraculously a bag of marshmallows appears and before long, it is waste—the empty bag handed off to the flight attendant just as she passes by.

I’m guessing he’s not a s’mores man because after finishing the marshmallows, he pulls a Kit-Kat package from the seat pocket and consumed it in one bite.

Seemingly satisfied for the time being—most likely I’ve been fooled—he retrieves a plastic bag of magazines from the overhead and begins the which one first process. There must have been fifteen or twenty magazines in that bag plus a few newspapers; the stack was—I’m still not kidding you—at least three inches. He settled on the “Sporting News” and plowed into it. For the entire flight, he had one of these magazines or papers open on his tray table devouring their contents—the Dallas Morning News, Sports Illustrated, People, Time, Newsweek, the list goes on and on.

That’s when I realized that it’s probably his wife in the seat in front of him. I surmised this as the lady signaled him for some of the food that he has—a signal consisting of hand gestures movin’ around above her head—obviously the family signal for more food. The contents of the square tube in the seatback pocket still remains a mystery. What can it be? I know I recognize the coloring—it’s right on the tip of my tongue.

Snack Man—as I’ve determined to call him—reaches down and pulls out another plastic bag, maybe belonging to the other passengers on his row; I don’t know. I know I haven’t seen it before. Several items are passed forward to the hand waiver so quick that I couldn’t determine the cargo. The two seem to be totally in tune to the quick exchange of sustenance. I think: “Snack Man may actually be the only person on the planet who can actually multi-task. He’s reading papers or magazines; he’s continually adjusting his ear pieces as he maintains contact with the movie being played, he’s passing food forward and consuming foodstuff all the while—he never misses a beat!

I, by-the-way, am making up my own dialog to his movie. I again had forgotten my earphones that match American’s receptacles, and I refuse to purchase another pair.

All the while, Snack Man eats!

Just as it looks like he’s gonna settle in for the remainder of the flight, Snack Man stands and starts strolling the aisles. He’s a good deal over six foot, with a balding hairline but fairly trim—probably has the metabolism of a shrew!

Two and a half hours into the flight, I gaze out the window and realize that we’re finally out of Texas—this flight will take forever! Over seven hours cooped up like this is gonna be tough. I’m glad I am not up there where there’s a continually screaming baby—those guys really have it tough!

After four hours in my seat coop, I also take an aisle stroll. While crossing from one aisle to the other I notice that Snack Man is still up moving around. He looks to be foraging—no food stuff is safe on this aircraft with him on the prowl. I’m up our aisle and then down the far aisle when I make note how stupid some people look when they are sleeping, especially sitting up on an aircraft? As I reseat, I see that Snack Man is back at the salad he’d put away earlier. I hastily check my seatback pocket to make sure my peanuts are still there. Whew! They’re safe.

Finishing up the salad and handing off the empty Styrofoam container to another passing flight attendant, Snack Man pulls out the largest bag of trail mix I may have ever seen. Had the airline known this, they might have charged him for excessive carry-ons. The bag must be packaged for industrial operations; there’s more trail mix in there than is required to keep most third world nations alive. Snack Man starts in on it immediately—nothing deters him.

Eventually, the trail mix is depleted—the whole darn bag! The big plastic bag of munchies next regurgitates up what seems to pass for sliced pepperoni. Half way through those, that big water bottle reappears from the seatback pocket—the remaining contents are vacuumed away—it’s dry as a bone. Aircraft seatback pockets may have never undergone a volume and strength test of this magnitude. Most adult female kangaroos would be envious. The manufacturer should be duly proud.

Some five hours into the flight, Wife of Snack Man hands back a half gallon bucket of Gummy Bears. Where in the Hell did this came from? I have no earthly clue; this is its first appearance. Snack Man gathers a hand full of bears that would make Andre the Giant proud and passes the bucket back.

Watching this World Championship Level eating contest, I am completely exhausted and fall asleep for maybe forty-five minutes. While not my first, this nap was quite possibly my first since the age of four.

Waking refreshed from my nap, I ask my wife if I had missed anything. She responds with: “What are you talking about?”

I give her my appalled look, saying: “Snack Man, of course!”

She has no idea what I’m talking about. She hasn’t been watching. I respond: “Look at that guy eat.”

She shrugs her shoulders and pays me no attention whatsoever. She doesn’t understand how the world turns.

Glancing in Snack Man’s direction, I notice the top of the square tube is still in place in the seatback pocket; it hasn’t moved. I didn’t miss the consumption of the mystery eatable.

At the six hour point, Wife of Snack Man pulls out a big blue plastic bag containing more food stuff; they have munchies stashed around the aircraft that nobody realizes exists. I’m telling you, they’d embarrassed Captain Kangaroo. They share and share alike; and just keep eating. I go back to watching the new movie and making up dialog—I control the plot and things go the way I desire—the Hell with Hollywood!

Just prior to starting our decent into Maui and before you can sneeze and say I didn’t bring my cat, the flight attendants order us to fill out some agriculture declarations provided by the state of Hawaii. As I search for a pen to note the required information—swearing that we didn’t bring any live animals or bushels of un-shucked corn with us—I noticed that Snack Man is breezing along completing his form while he munches on Fig Newtons. Finally! The Fig Newtons have come from that square tube package. Snack Man had stealthily removed the tube from the seatback pocket and has finished both the agriculture forms and the Fig Newtons at precisely the same moment. Finally the mystery has been revealed—I knew I recognized that packaging—now I want some Fig Newtons!

While deplaning, I lost track of Snack Man and Wife of Snack Man—like everything else they’ve done, they were efficient in the disembarking process.

My wife and I head for baggage claim. We’re making our way through the terminal passing this gate and that gift shop when I’m astounded at the sight off to my left. There, both Snack Man and Wife of Snack Man are seated at an outside table belonging to one of the two restaurants inside the secure area of the airport. They’re perusing a menu and look to be about to order a REAL MEAL—he’s had it with SNACKs. Time has moved on!

           As fast as we could, we gathered our bags and headed for the car rental. First stop after departing the airport was a grocery store. While Patsy gathered some bottled water and other food stuffs, I headed to the cookie aisle to find a package of Fig Newtons for my cravings.

It’s curious and amazing the characters one runs into when traveling.

December 10, 2023 20:35

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