Not all airlines are created equal. Not by a long shot. The best was Virgin Atlantic to England. The worst was American Airlines and their rude gate agents. “You, Mister…yes, you…come here…this carry-on…it’s too big…put it here…see it doesn’t meet regulation standards…Linda, come take this to baggage,” the agent said. It was too early in the morning for this type of treatment.
Eventually we were packed on board, the doors closed, and we taxied for take-off. Except we never got near the runway. We stalled on the tarmac. “This is your Captain speaking. They’re will be a slight delay. Seems our on-board computer isn’t functioning. We’re waiting for I.T.”
My seat companion looked like Monk, the TV character. He had the window. I had the middle seat. My sister, on the aisle, had fallen asleep.
“How do you like the book you’re reading?” I asked him.
“It’s okay. I need some good management tips quickly,” he said.
“Then you must read this,” I said. I reached into my book bag and extracted The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and handed it to him.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“How to stop resisting,” I said.
“Hmm…,” he said.
“It’ll speak to you,” I said.
“How do you know?”
“Because it spoke to me.”
“But you don’t know me.”
“Yes, I do. You’re like me. You’re afraid to go after your genius,” I said.
“I have genius?” he said.
“Yes. You do.”
Monk took the book, sat back, and began reading.
“This is your Captain again. Looks like we’re clear to fly.”
We finally got in the air.
“This is totally fantastic,” Monk said.
“I told you.”
I put my earphones on to watch a movie. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Monk read a chapter, put the book down, lean forward in his seat and talk to himself out loud. He did this repeatedly through every chapter. (The chapters were small.)
“I wish I had read this before accepting my current job,” he said. I unplugged my ear closest to him. “This company is just using me for my contacts. Once they have them, I’ll be let go, I know it. Like my attempts at getting married. I get close and then Poof! The woman leaves me.”
“Keep reading,” I said and plugged my ear again. I had no interest in playing in-flight therapist.
As we continued to cruise, Monk continued to talk to himself. At one point he got louder and more animated. By now my sister had woken up and was watching. Her eyes grew bigger. She stifled a laugh.
“That’s Monk!” she whispered.
“I know,” I said.
“Get his autograph,” she said.
“He’s not the real Monk,” I said.
“Please,” she said.
“He’s not Tony Shalhoub.”
“How do you know?” she asked.
“Because this guy is quirky for real,” I said.
“Maybe he’s rehearsing. We are flying to L.A. you know.”
It took a while but my sister finally agreed that Monk was a facsimile Monk.
As we made our descent into smoggy L.A., Monk finished the last page of the book and handed it back to me.
“Best thing I’ve read all year. Now to put it in practice,” he said.
“Best of luck to you,” I said. “May your genius lead you to inspirational work and a good woman.”
“Thank you,” he said and got up. “By the way, are you married?”
Calvin says, “Never start a conversation with someone named Monk. It won’t go the way you think.”