I've been meaning for years to tell this, one of my favorite stories. It's not short, but revel, won't you, in the absolute strangeness that can be found by simply bumming a smoke. (Just for the record: I quit smoking nearly a year and a half ago; I never regret that decision, but the fact remains that grabbing a smoke will always be a quintessential social phenomenon, and I do miss that sometimes.)
In the fall of 2001, I did the unlikely and went on a 7NC with some friends. It was a glorious and weird trip that convened in San Juan, Puerto Rico and took us to a variety of islands and escapades. I've told a story about that before, and could tell a million more. But the best story concerns my trip back from that trip.
I flew from San Juan to Atlanta and had a hefty layover there, which was fine with me—I've been an early laptop adopter (laptopter?) and enjoyer of the airport bar life. Give me a stool and a drink and a smoke and I can sit in an airport for really any amount of time. Only problem was, the carton of Marlboros that I'd bought at the duty-free joint in San Juan was—of course—packed away in my stuff.
Waiting for my flight to LaGuardia (I lived in NYC at that time), I decided that a smoke was imperative, but for obvious reasons, didn't want to buy a pack, so I started watching my bar mates for a likely benefactor. Seeing three women chatting jovially at one table—and smoking—I ambled over to bum one. They were plenty nice, and we talked for a minute. I asked where they were going and I've forgotten where the first two said, because the third woman said, in a thick Southern accent: "I'm going to New York to meet Robert Deniro." Which was fascinating, and mildly thrilling in a vague six degrees way that I'm only a little bit awed by.
Her name, she told me was Myla Pogue, from Pensacola, Florida, and little did I know that the rest of my trip would not be at all what I had expected. She was an actress, she said, and she was dating Robert Deniro, who occasionally had her come visit him in New York. I told her that I was going to LaGuardia as well, and she replied that "Bob" was picking her up at the airport and maybe I could MEET him. "Really…" I said, and sat right down and ordered another drink.
We had a couple, in fact, and ended up semi-shambling onto the plane after "LAST CALL, LAST CALL FOR FLIGHT ____" had rang out in the terminal for a little too long. It was a rather late flight, and we weren't due into Brooklyn until 12:45pm. The plane was also only about half full, so when Myla suggested that I sit beside her, I thought "sure, why not for a little while?" I like my private airplane time, but I assumed that I could bail to another row at any point.
Myla was a piece of work. Semi-drunk and much more excited than I had initially realized about her impending rendezvous with "Bob," she was a non-stop stream of blather. After, that is, she jumped up and ran to the bathroom, right as the plane was taking off. When she came back, over the substantial protests of the flight attendents, she was, ah, a little sniffy, if you ask me, and had much to say about her life, how she and DeNiro had met, and—most shocking—what her family thought of him.
And that, kind reader, is where we shall pick up next time.
* (2/10/2009) I've had a number of comments here that run from vindictive to supportive of my story and its centerpiece. It has never been my intention to defame the woman in my story. I just tell true stories from my life. But out of respect for my subject, I've changed her last name and deleted all comments that reference her by last name. I'm sorry that I couldn't just edit the comments, but since that is technically impossible in Blogger, I had to delete some of them. Also, I deleted the hurtful ones that seemed to be somebody grinding an axe, with no reference to my writing.