(I conjured up this conversation the day before I took a flight to Vegas for work, but didn’t finish it until I was actually on the plane, not having it, as far as I remember.)
After about an hour of reading my book, I squeeze my eyes shut and open them again, trying to clear them of the words I’ve just read so I can go for more. Failing, I slide in my bookmark and rest the book on my lap. The man sitting on my right takes a sideways look at the cover and leans toward me and obviously wants to talk but hesitates. Then:
Man: So, uh, good book?
Me: Yeah, it’s really good.
Man: Yeah I forgot to bring my book.
Me: I hate it when that happens.
Man: Because I’m on the plane with nothing to do!
Me: (first twang of uncertainty) Yeah.
Man: I mean except look at the stewardesses, right?
Me: (polite laughter) Yeah.
Man: Not on this flight though, man!
Man: They’re all dudes!
Man: All the flight attendants are dudes!
Me: Oh. Really?
Man: Yeah! That stinks, man!
Me: I suppose it… (flips quickly open to look longingly at page number) does.
Man: I can’t believe you can’t get beer with cash on these things no more! Gotta have a credit card. Say, what type of beer you like?
Me: Uh, most of them?
Man: Aw, man! Most of them! That’s right, man! Me too!
Me: So why are you going to Vegas?
Man: This plane is going to Vegas?
Me: (This is not a conversation I want to have) Um… yeah.
Man: I’m just kidding dude! I love Las Vegas! Check out my shirt!
(His shirt is a pair of dice smoking cigarettes, wearing sunglasses and standing around a craps table, one of them with its arm raised, preparing to throw its own set of smaller dice. In big cowboy-font letters underneath it says ROLLIN’.)
Me: So is craps your game?
Man: Hell yeah, man! I like blackjack too.
Me: Yeah, that’s pretty fun.
Man: You play?
Me: Not really. I don’t gamble much in casinos. I’m going for work.
(He seems almost hurt by this answer) Man: But you can’t, like, take some time for yourself? Put a dollar in a slot or something?
Me: (Trying to get change the subject) I like playing poker with friends at home.
Man: (Return of the enthusiasm) I love poker!
Me: It’s pretty fun.
Man: We should play!
Me: Right now?
Man: Hell yeah! (He reaches under his seat and produces a deck of playing cards as if he had conjured them from nothing, but that the logo on the box indicates they were obviously bought in the gift shop at Mohegan Sun in 2005.)
Me: I mean… sure.
Man: This is awesome! (His excitement level is rising precipitously, and disproportionately to the situation.) What should we play? What should we play for?
Me: I don’t know… quarters?
Man: Good idea!
(We simultaneously wiggle our hands into our pockets under our lapbelts, which remain buckled.)
Me: I don’t have any change.
Man: Me neither! (He loves the coincidence.)
Me: Oh well.
Man: How about peanuts!
Me: Do they give us any?
Man: Of course they did, essa! (Holds up deflated bag of peanuts, at which point I vaguely remember shooing away the drinks and snacks server who, come to think of it, was very much a woman.)
Me: I don’t have any.
Man: That’s because I got your bag! (Holds up empty bag.) Maybe we can get more!
(For the first time, I’m genuinely excited as I peer down the aisle, because I could go for some peanuts now. I don’t see any of the flight attendants anywhere in front or back, which seems like some sort of design flaw, or at least some breach of unspoken protocol in air travel. What if I’m having an emergency or something? I’m still looking when I feel something hit my inside shoulder. It’s his elbow.)
Man: Hey man, I got two peanuts left!
(I don’t understand exactly what this means, and it shows.)
Man: We can play one hand!
Me: Uh… five card draw?
Man: Nah man, that stuff’s boring! How about Texas Hold’em?
Me: Uh… okay. (He puts one peanut on my tray table, in the little drink holder cutout)
(As he shuffles, I decide not to mention that Texas Hold’em where both sides have one betting unit is a game with less skill than War, which I think would ruin his buzz. [I’m also not sure this doesn’t make it more, rather than less, like most games.] He flops two cards face-down in front of me, and I look at them: a pair of sevens. Pretty damn good, considering the circumstances. After he examines his cards, we decide to reveal them to each other before seeing the flop. He’s holding 10-2. We watch in awe as he deals the five up cards in a burst of three, one, and one—it goes 10, 2, 2, 6, 2. Four of a kind. He yelps.)
Man: Yippee! (Grabs my peanut and his in one motion and, puts both in his shirt pocket.)
Me: That’s pretty amazing.
Man: Four of a kind!
Man: You didn’t do too bad yourself, man! Full House! (He says it to imply skill on my part, in case I felt bad.)
Man: (Reaches under the seat to again magically produce something; this time, it’s a book.)
Me: I thought you didn’t have anything to read.
Man: Nah man, I just wanted to talk!
Me: Oh. Thanks?
Man: No problem! Thanks for the peanut! (He slips on reading glasses from his breast pocket and starts reading like nothing happened. An hour later, he will more or less reproduce this conversation with the woman on his right, but he doesn’t say another word to me all trip.)