05 September 2009

Thank You, Soldier (Get your mind out of the gutter, it's not what you think)

Scissor Sisters blaring through the iPod, I checked baseball scores on the iPhone as I boarded the plane this morning and walked down the aisle for a seat. I'd checked in late so had to head toward the back of the plane. There behind the wing was a 30-something guy, blond and slightly thinning hair, blue eyes, in the window seat. Aisle seat by him was empty. I looked straight at him. He looked up at me. Eyes locked. He had a hint of a smile. Friendly air about him. So I took the aisle seat. Didn't say anything, music still going.

Plane begins to taxi so I turn everything off, and the conversation begins. He's a former junior high school history teacher now on active duty with Army intelligence and soon to depart for Afghanistan. I shook his hand and said "Thank you for your service." He'd been in San Francisco visiting friends, was looping through San Diego to see family before heading back to base in Georgia.

He began to tell me of his adventures in the city. Among other places, he'd gone to Castro Street. Hmm, this beginneth to be interesting. He showed me the picture he took of the huge rainbow flag on Castro which he will show to his Army buddies back in Georgia. He'd also gone into Hot Cookies on the corner and bought them some cookies made in unusual anatomical shapes. A joke gift, he said. The military in the South is SO homophobic, quoth he, that said buddies were sure to be loudly offended by such a gift, which was precisely the point. Having grown up in San Diego, personally he didn't give a rat's tuckus about someone's orientation, and thought Don't Ask Don't Tell could be done away with too. Hmm. The interest increaseth.

Conversation went all over the place. The war. iPhones, iPods and Apple software. Microsoft. Cloud computing. My kids and vacation plans. His duties in the Army. Baseball. His marital status--single--and his dating status--girlfriend in North Carolina. OK, not family, but obviously an ally. He was open and friendly and engaging, and had a big bag of cashews he shared with me. (One blog reader will recognize the irony here and probably laugh himself silly. You know who you are.)

The plane landed and we walked to baggage claim together, still talking. Time to test my own mettle. So I said I wished I could be there to watch him show that photo and those cookies to his buddies. He laughed heartily and said it was sure to be a good time, because they were so narrow minded and prejudiced and believed every possible stereotype that he knew wasn't true. I saw my opening. So I smiled and said "Well, let me give you another way to bust their stereotypes. You can tell them that on the plane to San Diego your seat mate was a gay dad who liked baseball and loves his kids and was just as 'normal' as anyone they'd ever see in Georgia." (Wow, I actually said it calmly to somebody whose name I didn't even know! Serious progress!)

He threw back his head and roared with laughter. "Really?" he said. "That's right," I said. "Classic!" he said. "They won't believe it!" I laughed with him. The conversation went on from there, back to baseball and the woeful mismanagement of baggage in various airports. Finally the suitcases started burping out of the little tunnel onto the carousel. Mine were first. I grabbed them, turned back to him. We shook hands firmly, finally got around to introducing, locked eyes again and smiled big. I wished him success and safety in Afghanistan, he wished me a great holiday weekend, and we went our separate ways.

God bless our troops. Especially the ones like him.

5 comments:

Abelard Enigma said...

girlfriend in North Carolina. OK, not family

because gay guys never have girlfriends?

Ned said...

Woot woot! Your line bears repeating:

"Well, let me give you another way to bust their stereotypes. You can tell them that on the plane to San Diego your seat mate was a gay dad who liked baseball and loves his kids and was just as 'normal' as anyone they'd ever see in Georgia." (Wow, I actually said it calmly to somebody whose name I didn't even know! Serious progress!)

Well done! No doubt somewhat due to the courage you've gained being out and playing rubby, and the support and ecouragement of your many moho friends in the queerosphere.

Congrats on this. It's a reminder that we're never more than one stranger away from a possible new friend or adventure. Since you know his name and location, now you can also stay in touch if you think there's a reason to do so. Like to send him some pasta, which I also understand can be purchased in anatomical shapes. :)

santorio said...

i'm speechless

Bravone said...

Love it!

Max Power said...

...girlfriend in North Carolina.


It's a cover, just like the gay character (Rod) in Avenue Q:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEm3xRjdN8A