From the archives of Project 365
“If I die tomorrow, my funeral will take three days, so that all of my friends can attend.”
It was the day I traveled to the interview I mentioned in the previous story. Can’t say I was comfortably en route, rather I was sitting cramped at some thirty thousand feet. Trapped in a plane with no idea of whom I would photograph. I did have a short conversation with the flight crew, but no takers. Had to give them credit for what they did in making us all comfortable, but they were not that interested in anything more. And to top things off, seated across the row from me, was the Snore Man.
Please, snorers of the world; do not be offended. Trust me, I’m in your camp. Have wailed a note or two in my R.E.M hours. But truly, this was no normal snore. It was superhuman and of epic proportions.
Let me see if I can communicate the sound in writing. A kaleidoscope of varying volume, that to this day, lives as a symphony of guttural wavelengths burned in my memory. Each escaping breath, trapped inhale, and rolling choke echoing upon me from an author who, with eyes closed, sat only three feet from my left ear. As all passengers do, I tried to tune out the noise. To stay in my zone, not looking toward the originator of such a sizable display of unconscious talent. The curiosity was too strong to overcome. Yet, a morbid want to get a visual take had sucked me in. So I peaked to the left and as soon as I did, the performance ceased. Seemed my timing was somewhat off when as my stare engaged with his, I got my first response from the man who by then I respected as an artist in his own right. An athlete of breath, a human to be acknowledged as having a gift, and as slapstick, as I’m being in setting the stage, the moment our eyes locked, I think I was as embarrassed as he. I felt my face turning a little red, but gentleman he was as he fell back to sleep as fast as he awoke.
I reclined back into my seat, and with no relief given from the airline provided earbuds, I focused my hearing on the whir of jet engines. In the end, a tactic that lessoned the full impact of the snore storm that was floating my way.
The sky got bumpy, the last approach announcement sounded. Time to stow my laptop had arrived. I made my last few keystrokes in recording the above account as a lull in the gasping sleep subsided. With each word, the final charge to shut down electronics so near, I sped up my writing in a desire to log all I could.
“Flight attendants, please secure the cabin for arrival. ”The captain’s voice came over the intercom. And as it did, I entered these last thoughts, all the while already hoping to find a stranger-now-friend en route to my hotel. Then the last slap came. Like a pinpointed and targeted ear jab it hit me with a final choking exhale, &!%!*(@!!arg-chug-chchca!!! I didn’t even know how to spell such a sound.
I arrived at the hotel, and after nine hours of travel, I had managed to let go of my snore induced jitters. At least, enough to find my new friend for the day; the happiest faces I’d seen all day, Felicia and Fred, the front desk team at the Conshohocken Hampton Inn.
From the moment I walked into the hotel their welcome to the world attitude and exceptional customer service made me want to move my family to Philadelphia. In other stories, I’ll tell you why that never happened.
We chatted for a while and, despite how tired and travel grumpy I was, I walked away with a smile on my face.
Fred, an aspiring business owner to be; told me his dream to own an arts and crafts store. And being artistic myself, I could understand his desires. We talked of product and his history as a Philly native. His advice for us all, “Never give up on your dreams, keep trying until they are a reality.” A message we’ve heard from so many in past interviewees.
What could I say about Felicia, the second of the two new friends? First off, Her energy was huge. My snapshot of her did not fully capture the excitement she had for life. It was undeniable that this lady was special.
Felicia, a thirty-year hospitality veteran, expanded on Fred’s point of about never giving up on your dreams, saying, “If you feel inspired to do something, do it! No matter how difficult or crazy, follow it!”
“I love what I am doing; every day I get to smile at a new person.” A statement proven to me through being the recipient of her smile.
A few minutes speaking with Felicia forced me to think about the moment, and in doing so, to let go of the frustration of my interrupted flight. Her position on living, “If I had to live to this point over again, I would not change a thing.” We should all aim for this mind-set.
Without probing for answers, she continued, “My life is graceful and peaceful with not much drama. Overall it has been good to me. I love where I am.”
We conversed a little more about that point. I asked her to clarify what she meant. “I’m not talking about career or status, I’m talking about where I am mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
Felicia had lots of friends, many of whom she had met easily by just sharing her signature smile and honest “hello.” She joked, “If I die tomorrow, my funeral will take three days so that all of my friends can attend.”
As we wrap up our interview, I asked for any last thoughts. Her parting words, simple and sweet, “I like everybody!”
Felicia, Fred, thanks for the warm welcome!