(Author's note: This is an unedited interview between myself and the first funniest person I know, John, concerning a recent trip and associated conveyances.)
HOLYJUAN: Hello John, I understand you took a trip to Florida recently.
JOHN: Hi, HolyJuan. I did just travel from Ohio to Florida, but nothing about my trip was ordinary.
HJ: I know you are a well seasoned traveler, so you would have purchased a direct flight. Probably first class.
JOHN: Well, that's what made this trip so extraordinary - the sheer mundane nature of my travel attempts. I did, in fact, try to purchase a direct flight from Columbus to Pensacola. But, due to the unavailability of direct flights between those two airports, I was forced to purchase a flight with a layover in Memphis. And, due to a pronounced case of hyperclotholavaphobia (fear of hot towels), it was necessary to fly coach. I was lured into a false sense of security when the first leg of my flight occurred without incident. However, when I arrived in Memphis, things took a turn for the worse.
HJ: Explosive diarrhea?
JOHN: Explosive diarrhea? No, not this time. Do you have any idea how long it takes to get through Customs in Houston when you have two agents sifting through your boxers trying to separate the "flora" from the "fauna"?
No, when my flight arrived in Memphis, I took two trains, rode nine escalators, flew a hang-glider and hitched a ride with 27 Guatemalan immigrants in a '96 Hyundai Excel, all to arrive at my connecting gate just to hear that the second-leg of my flight to Pensacola had been cancelled.
HJ: I'm assuming that the airline paid for a night in a seedy motel / hot tub hotel and you caught not only syphilis, but also the next flight out in the morning?
JOHN: Well, yes. The airline did offer to fly me out the next morning and pay for a room that night at the 1/2-star Memphis Crampton Inn Menses Suites hotel. I declined on reasons of faith. I then spent the next 90 minutes working with airline representatives on finding alternate airport destinations that were reasonably close to Pensacola ("reasonably" being defined as within two time zones or 13 Postal Zip Codes). The closest I could do was Memphis - Pensacola via Bialystok, Poland, which was unacceptable - no duty-free shopping. Just as I was contemplating going to Graceland and committing assisted-suicide over the King's empty grave, something miraculous occurred behind me at the airline ticket counter.
HJ: Your introduction to the Memphis 0 Mile High Club?
JOHN: In hindsight, I would have much rather been inducted into the Memphis 0 Mile High Club, even as an "unwilling / forced-entry" initiate. When I turned around, I witnessed what could best be described as a ruckus. I saw three red-faced men, blustering and gesticulating wildly. I heard them speaking, in what I first thought was a foreign language, and quickly realized was a thickly-accented Southern drawl. The conversation went something like this:
Guy 1: "Whtchall mean, planbecancel?"
Guy 2: "Slap weasel sloop, we'sfukednow. Mysister-wife ain't gonna be none toopleased"
Guy 3: "I gotta takeashit."
I was fascinated. I stepped closer, so that I could hear more. What transpired over the next 30 minutes, as these world-traveling idiot-savants identified, and subsequently rejected, option after option for getting home, was a formulation of a plan so crazy, it just couldn't fail.
HJ: Were these business suit types or coveralls with boots? Would you say they were squeezed into their clothes or did they just step out of the gym fifteen minutes before the flight was canceled?
JOHN: Here's the recipe - toss Malachi from "Children of the Corn" into a time machine for 20 years and rough him up a bit, add a slightly-larger-than-average "Deliverance" banjo-playing cranium, throw in a hint of Skoal aftershave, season to taste and simmer for 23 hours in the same clothes. Repeat twice.
Drawn as I was to the spectacle unfolding before me, it was only a matter of time before I had to insert myself into the proceedings by way of providing airport information to this motley crew. And just like that (well, after one question was appropriately responded to in the negative - "Yous ain't nokiller, is yuh?"), I was officially part of the Southern Comfort Stranded Travelers' Club. I felt the unwashed hand of fate on the small of my back, carrying me along as the plan was put into action.
HJ: Wait... so you ended up in a hotel with these guys? Did you rent a crop duster?
JOHN: Fortunately, I was sober, so the hotel option was not discussed. A vehicle was rented, however. An eggshell-white Mercury sedan. It was into this conveyance that the four of us newly-formed and tightly-knit friends piled and proceeded to DRIVE, from Memphis all the way down to Pensacola. Let me clarify - I rode, for all intents and purposes, captive, in a car with three complete strangers for 450 miles (travel time required - 9.5 hours, which included stops at eight convenience stores, six fast-food restaurants and one closed-for-the-night petting zoo with really poor security). Along the way, I learned about sales, tractors and the increased need for birth control when sleeping with any relative closer than three-times removed. But, as if that was not enough, there was a kicker.
HJ: A kicker? Do tell! Did these fine gentlemen of the south expound upon the current health care debate or possibly their concern about the unemployment levels?
JOHN: The only topic upon which they expounded in any detail was their marked displeasure at the current state of race relations in the US, which they feel has progressed entirely too much since the "glory days" of 1860. No, the piece of information that they failed to divulge to me earlier in our trip, was that they didn't actually live in Pensacola, but rather "close," which translated to an hour north of the city limits. This required me to, at 4:30 AM CT, have my girlfriend drive 50 minutes to pick me up on the side of the Interstate. I spent those 50 minutes at a gas station restocking the shelves, taking out the trash and fending off the romantic advances of Horatio, the night cashier.
All's well that ends well, I suppose, but in hindsight, I would have been better off cramming myself into an URGENT - OVERNIGHT envelope and FedEx'ing myself to Florida. Or, maybe doing what other, ummm, more rational folks would have done, and simply waited for the next available flight.
HJ: Can you, with your elementary math skills, calculate the number of times, if any, they used the N-word?
JOHN: 3.97351680636005e+28 times (my calculator ran out of digits). What amazed me more than the sheer number of utterances was the inventiveness in which the word was used. Did you know that it can be used as a modifier (both adjective and adverb), a conjunction, a verb, even as the object of a preposition? I remember a sentence where the word was simply repeated seven times, with verbal inflection being the only clue as to what message the speaker was conveying.
HJ: What type of food did these guys eat and did they offer you bites after they had taken the first?
JOHN: Does Skoal Wintergreen backwash count? If so, it was an all-you-can-eat tobacco buffet on wheels through the entire state of Mississippi. Aside from that, there were a couple of routine stops at McDonalds and Krystal (White Castle for the South). There WAS something unusual, however. At 3:20 AM, I was awakened from a light doze when we pulled over to the side of the road. Two of the gentleman opened their doors and ran back behind the car with forks and napkins. It was dark, so I couldn't see what happened back there, but they came back to the car five minutes later wiping their mouths and mumbling words like "stil wawm", "shitlicious" and "whoo-hee."
HJ: One last question: given the opportunity, would you have done anything different?
JOHN: Not a thing, n-word…