Years ago (on December 31, 1998 to be exact) I landed at DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth Texas) airport just as a snow storm began picking up steam. I had a two hour wait for my next flight and hoped/prayed that the heavy stuff wouldn't come down for a bit so I could get home. Four hours later, my flight was finally cancelled.
I went to the gate agent desk to check my alternatives. The agent told me he could rebook me on the next flight which left at 8:30 or he could put me in a hotel for the night. Then he said, "Aw, this ain't too bad. I'm sure the later flights will be getting out. Besides, traffic getting to the hotel will be worse than what we got here."
Who else better to trust than a gate agent who is at the airport every day and surely knows airport operations better than anyone? I opted to get rebooked on the 8:30 flight.
"Good choice," he said. "That's what I would do."
Three hours later that flight was canceled and every hotel room in Dallas and Fort Worth were completely filled up. I would get to ring in the new year in the DFW airport. And it would be the last time I ever trusted a gate agent.
What else to do but find the bar which luckily stayed open late to accommodate all of the trapped passengers? I managed to score a barstool next to a fidgety young fellow who would probably die if he went fifteen seconds without some sort of human interaction. He talked to the bartender like they were old pals; he talked to people on the other side of the bar, and he talked to the woman next to him. I did my best to pretend I was deaf. But when the woman sitting next to him finally got tired of it and just left, he turned to me.
"Can you believe that?" he asked.
I produced a faint smile and shook my head.
But it was no use; he had me trapped, as I had no place to run to. I don't remember much of what we (he) talked about, but I'm sure it was the usual background info you might give someone next to you on a plane and how we still couldn't believe that woman just up and left.
At some point, he started flipping through his little black book (remember, this was the 'nineties).
"Hey check this out," he said pointing to a number. "That's Evel Kneivel's number."
"You don't believe me? Let's call him. I'll call him right now." He reached for his cell phone.
"No, I believe you." I sort of did because if he were just trying to impress me, surely he could have thought up the name of someone a little more relevant at the time. Evel Kneivel hadn't been in the news for years. In fact, I thought he was dead.
"He's a real down to earth guy. I mean, you think a guy like that would have an assistant answer his phone, but he answers it himself."
"Man, you still don't believe me. I'm calling him. Right now." He started punching at numbers.
"No, don't do that," I insisted. "Poor guy can probably barely walk to the phone with all those broken bones."
"Aw, he never complains about that at all. The man's a prince." He listened to the phone for a second then handed it to me. "Next voice you hear will be Evel's."
I tried to push it away but then reconsidered. Evel--if it really was him--would be upset if he hobbled all the way to the phone and no one was there. I listened, wondering what I might say. "Hey Evel, how's it hanging? Big fan here." Or "Man, I've seen you crash and burn a bunch of times!"? Or maybe "Got any new jumps in the works?"
I held my breath as the phone rang. "He's not home," I said, handing back the phone after eight or nine rings.
"Yeah, and darn it, I don't have his cell number. He likes to have some privacy, you know." He put his phone away. "Shame, you would have really liked him."
A short time later, he excused himself to the restroom. I enjoyed my newfound tranquility so much that it took me awhile to realize he never returned.
The bartender approached me with a suspicious stare. "Hey, where's your buddy?"
"My . . . buddy? I don't know him. Just met him tonight. Jabbermouth."
"Yeah, well he walked his tab."
"Really? Aw man, that stinks." I went over the top, milking it up in case he tried to stick me with the guy's tab. "Scumbag. Jerk. You can't trust anyone these days."
The bartender shrugged and lightened up a bit.
"You know," I said, "maybe he's getting Evel Kneivel to wire him some money."
The bartender gave me a blank stare. I paid my check and left an extra big tip.
It's a good thing Evel didn't answer his phone; he probably would have pretended like he didn't know that guy either.