Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Middle Man Strikes Again

I experienced a Traveling Incident some time ago (one of about a billion) and it's funny how often I think about it. In fact, I've been thinking about it a lot today since I've had occasion to look at my index finger several times. Let me explain.

During the boarding process I arrived at my aisle seat (yes, women strive for them, too) near the center of the plane, nodded at the gentleman in the middle, dropped one bag on the floor and kicked it under the seat in front of me, loaded the other in the overhead, then plopped myself down. (Okay, gently lowered myself so as not to break my hip on the ever-closer-together arm rests.) I wasn't really in the mood to talk but Middle Man asked me if I was coming or going, then explained that he and Window Man were on their way to present . . . wherever. To tell the truth, I was only half listening since I was much in need of a relaxing nap. I smiled, leaned back, closed my eyes and didn't give either of them another thought. I lived happily in my own little content world.

After liftoff and considerable flight time, I heard (light sleeper) the drink cart closing in on me so I opened my eyes. Middle Man says, "Aren't you afraid you're going to lose that ring?" It's as though opening my eyes opened his mouth. Kinda creepy. How long, I wondered, has he been waiting to ask me that? Has he been staring at my face just waiting for my eyes to fly open?

I glance at my hands. I'm wearing several rings so I look at him to see if I can tell which one he's talking about. His eyes are locked on the index finger of my right hand where I'm wearing a ring between my first and second knuckles. Yes, the ring is a tad big for that "perched" location, but I occasionally get attached to things/behaviors (until I get attached to the next one) and I'm currently and emotionally attached to this oddity. The ring is an eighth-grade graduation gift from my now deceased parents and it makes me feel close to them. I miss them even more certain times of the year and this would be one of those seasons. I opened my jewelry box a few days ago, spotted it, realized that with effort I could cram it over my knuckle and so . . . here we are.

I decide to answer his security question since he seems genuinely worried for me. "No. It won't come off. Luckily," I continue, grabbing the ring and giving him a demo of my words, "I've grown old enough to inherit my grandmother's giant knuckles. The trick was getting in on!"

We receive our sips of liquid and a small bag of something (back in the good old days when you got, say like four peanuts for free, remember those good old days?). We artfully arrange them on our trays. We chat, I close my eyes and go back into my world, ready to resume my slumber.

But all the time I'm wondering, What is he thinking about me now, studying on me now? What, I wonder, should I be worrying about me NOW?!

I clasp my left hand around my right index finger, secure the ring in place--even though it would take a band of gypsies to remove it. And then I wonder, might Middle Man be one?


Eyes still closed (so as not to open his mouth) I unclasp my death grip from my ring. I blantantly open my hand on my knee, palm down, letting the ring dance right in front of his eyes.

Some people worry too much, I think as I doze off.

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