Monday, September 30, 2013

A Momentary Meeting That Spans a Lifetime

It's usually enough to walk into a casino on the Strip, see crowds of people, and know that the world's big enough. But sometimes, that's not enough of the world. Sometimes you need another person in front of you, asking for directions, to truly see the sheer width of the world, someone you'll never see again. Not that I planned it that way. It was a brief exchange, completely unexpected, which makes for life's most interesting moments.

Yesterday, my family and I went to a consignment store directly across from two runways and various taxiways at McCarran International, which meant that most of the time they were inside, save for when I was needed to give my opinion on a bookcase Meridith wanted for her room (much better than the one she had found at another consignment store, made up of alternating shelves, one above another, one on the right, one slightly above on the left, one slightly above on the right, and so on) or to see a lamp Mom thought appropriate for my room (A three-bookcase set from Macy's Home Store is being delivered on Thursday, and my new, and first, reading chair, from Big's Furniture, is being delivered on Friday), I was outside, watching Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Westjet, Allegiant, Volaris, and other commercial jets take off, as well as many private jets. I was in heaven. My heaven. If the owner of this consignment store would hire me to simply sit on one of his padded, stylish stools outside the store, bringing in people simply by my presence, I would be happy. And in fact, I brought two people in, or at least I think I did. One woman, for example, parked, looked at the store, and asked me if this long length of the store was the entire store, or two separate stores. I replied, "It's the entire store. You'll have to go inside to find out."

But that's not the meeting that inspired this blog entry. An hour passed of Mom, Dad and Meridith looking inside the store, then an hour and fifteen minutes, but I did not mind that at all. I was happy right where I was, and even though the uniform blue and orange and red color scheme of Southwest 737s bore me, I smiled every time I watched the nose gear retract on one of those 737s after take off, and watched the nose gear door close. I love how quickly it closes, and it was the same with the 757s and 767s I saw, as well as the JetBlue A320 and the American Airlines MD-80, which is longer than I remember, but it had been a long time since I had seen one.

An hour and fifteen minutes, maybe. I don't know. I only looked at my watch to see if it was getting closer to the time that a 747-400 might land. There were enough flights coming in from the west coast on the runway on the left side of my view, and planes coming in from the rest of the country on the route that passes over the mobile home park near Sam's Town that I used to live in, and I didn't even know there was a runway that far afield, but there is. I understood where those planes landed after flying over my former mobile home park and then banking. According to the website FlightAware, a British Airways 747-400 landed at McCarran at 7:49 p.m. yesterday evening, long, long after we had left that consignment store, and a Virgin Atlantic 747-400 landed at 2:48 p.m., which was an hour after we had left that consignment store.

As I sat on that stool, watching a lull in the takeoffs, seeing an American Airlines MD-80 get a pushback from the gate, and a Delta flight waiting on the taxiway to head for the left-side runway, a car pulled into the consignment store lot about three spaces from me. A guy got out, short hair, wearing a Motley Crue t-shirt. The car looked new, in better condition than many cars are where we used to live, and about average for our area of Henderson. He came up to me and asked if I could help him, speaking with an accent I couldn't place, but knew right away it wasn't English, it wasn't Irish, it wasn't anywhere in Spain, but it was somewhere in Europe. Czech, maybe? I don't know. I wasn't going to guess, or ask him, because I wanted to learn what he needed help with.

I replied, "Sure, what's up?" and he, not understanding my American vernacular, said, "Yes, thank you," and asked me where the rental car places were.

I wasn't entirely sure. I needed a few seconds to think about it. I knew that he couldn't go back the way he came since that was only more of the field of the airport. It didn't lead to the terminals or Avis or wherever he rented the car. I told him he had to circle the airport the other way and he would eventually find it.

He thanked me and walked away, and as he did, I noticed that the back of his t-shirt heralded "Evening in Hell," which is the name of Motley Crue's residency at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino here. I called out to him and asked him how it was. My fault, because he thought I meant the car and told me it was fine, and I replied, "No, no, I noticed your shirt. How was the show?" He smiled and gave me two thumbs-up. Like wine, Motley Crue does not interest me, but it does help boost our economy, so I wanted to know.

After he left, I thought of two things right away. First, I should have told him to drive past the McCarran Marketplace shopping center, where Walmart is, because passing that, he'll eventually see the digital terminal boards which would tell him where to go. Unfortunately, I remembered that after the fact. And secondly, I'll never see him again. And that amazed me. As he pulled out, I noticed either his wife or his girlfriend was sitting on the passenger side in the front, so I thought that their luggage was probably in the trunk, and they'd return the car and take a shuttle to wherever their terminal was for their flight home, somewhere in Europe. It had to be. I'm sure of that.

Years ago, I met people I've never seen since, like that attractive girl about my age in 1994 when my family and I were at Universal Studios Orlando and there was some kind of juice survey we were invited to take and she was with her family. And there was also Bridget, who I met in line at Kongfrontation on that same day. Brief conversation, and then gone. Just like that. Same with that guy. I'm a little disappointed, because I wanted to know more about him, if it was his first time in Las Vegas, how long he had waited to take this trip, what his first night was like here, and also more about his own home. But it looked like he had to get going, had a flight to catch, so I just told him what he needed to know and he was off. But I also realized one of the blessings of living here, that as transient as it is, and as hard-edged as it can be, you sure do meet a lot of interesting people here, and he was one of them. Silently, I wished him safe travels home. People like him are the reason that Las Vegas continues to exist, that they put money into our economy, but to me, they're more than that. I'm always curious. And I was glad to meet him for that brief moment, to know a little bit about him, including his love of Motley Crue. The world is vast, but with moments like that, it's never boring.

Addendum: Looking at the departures from McCarran on FlightAware in the hours after I saw him, I noticed that there was a Condor Flugdienst (Condor for short, of course) flight to Frankfurt International in Germany at 5:43 p.m. The Boeing 767-300 is still in the air, with 3 hours and 53 minutes to go, for a total flying time of 10 hours and 19 minutes. That could be him, since it was a little past 1 p.m. when we briefly met, and I think it's advised that for international flights, you arrive four hours ahead. There was also a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 bound for London Gatwick that departed at 5:20 p.m. But I don't think that was him. Everything else before those flights were domestic routes.

Politicians talk about international turmoil and strife all the time, but I wonder if they really mean international turmoil and strife amongst themselves. There I was, a regular guy, an American, talking to possibly a German guy. No problem there. No conflict. Certainly one of the most interesting experiences I've had here of late. I liked the little I knew of him, and I hope for more experiences like that.