INTERLUDE: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Many times, what I write on my website is solely about horse racing, or something that’s happened to me in my professional travels. To those of you who are expecting something like that now…my sincere apologies, because this is going to get weird.

If you read my “letter to my younger self” piece, you know that I have inherited my family’s hex on ever doing anything quietly. Whereas others have a certain grace, and an ability to slide under the radar, I coast through life with the subtlety of an angry bull rampaging down the streets of Pamplona. What happened Wednesday night in the friendly skies between New Jersey and California is just another example of that phenomenon, which, by the way, appears to be completely beyond my control (say what you will about me having a “strong personality,” but this stuff follows me, and there’s not a lot I can do about it, as you’ll see!).

I flew back to Los Angeles from Newark International Airport (whose slogan should almost definitely be, “Newark: At least we’re not JFK”) following a stop home for the holidays. While my stop home was filled with happiness and, in some cases, unnecessary adventures, my trip back to the Golden State was sorely lacking in the “fun” department. The plane was delayed two hours, the terminal got crowded, and many unhappy people were packed in like sardines.

Finally, the aircraft arrived, and I could tell the plane was cursed in some way, shape, or form. A man got off the plane and was muttering a question to himself that many visitors to Newark have uttered in the past: “Where the hell am I, and how the hell do I get out of here?”

Odd, certainly, but I chose to count my blessings. The plane arrived, its occupants filed in one by grouchy one, and after several stops and starts, we got airborne. Early on, the flight was pleasant. I sat next to a wonderful older woman whose son is in the sports broadcasting/digital media realm (to her son: if you’re somehow reading this, buzz me!).

Eventually, conversation ceased, and we all retired to our mini-entertainment centers. Roughly an hour into the flight, though, I noticed a cat darting through the aisles, and it briefly rested behind a man’s legs.

I didn’t know this man, but I poked him and said something to the effect of, “Sir, just so you know, you’ve got a cat at your feet.” My intentions were solely to warn him so he would not be startled.

Alas, it had the opposite effect. Because most cats are jerks with terrific comedic timing (I should know, I own one), our feline friend had scampered off. The man was understandably perturbed, muttering how there was no cat and rolling his eyes before getting back to the “Barber Shop” movie he was watching.

For the next few minutes, I wondered if I was seeing things, and if I should seek professional help. Thankfully, I was vindicated. A man seated near the front of the aircraft walked back, with a very confused small animal in his arms, and asked, “Is anyone missing a cat?”

Our friend across the aisle proceeded to move his eyebrows halfway up his forehead. I smirked, but rather than receiving an admission that I’d been correct, he went on a several-minutes-long rant about how he had thought I was a lunatic (that’s a direct quote, and one that may not be without merit in certain situations) and how pets and service animals of any kind should not be allowed on flights. His mood was not aided by a flight attendant coming on the PA system and trying to stifle laughter by asking, “Attention: Is anyone missing a cat?” Incidentally, this flight attendant was much more successful than the passengers listening to her, as we all howled like hyenas as our buddy seethed in anger.

To prevent antagonizing this man any further, I put my earbuds in, listened to the college football games being broadcast, and opted to write this, with the hope that my audience would laugh and enjoy it. If the cat was to escape again and opt to hide at his feet, I decided that he would remain angrily unaware.

The comedy never ends, folks.

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