To Cali or Bust - Part 0: My Crazy Day Travelling 3,000 Miles

Whoa. Never have I thanked myself so much for learning to be assertive. It really paid off Sunday when I landed in Fresno, California, bagless, computerless, and ready to sleep. If the craziness that day was any indication for the days ahead, I know I’ll have a fun vacation. I’ve found since letting go of routine and moving into free-form living that “crazy” is just another word for “adventurous.” I woke up Sunday before my alarm, regardless of the 2 hours of sleep I had and the blinking 2:59 on the clock on the bedside table at my Grandpa’s 20 minutes from Rutgers campus. Grandpa was already up, and my things were already packed. So off into the car we went, traveling to Newark, so that I could get on my 6:30 flight to Phoenix, where I would take a flight to Fresno where my vacation started.

Through security I went, and found myself soon enough in a seat in Terminal A. I felt awake enough, probably from a second wind, so I did my usual 20 pushups and 40 situps next to the chairs where people waited to launch over to Phoenix.

“Go, go go!”

Huh? I looked up, to see two guys cheering me on. One, a dark-skinned kind looking guy smiling, and another with short hair, a baseball cap and a trashy sweatshirt with a flirty smirk painting his demeanor, were gesturing in my direction. So naturally I finish, pop up and say “Guys, so here’s the drill. I want you to stand in front of me and do 20 pushups with me. Are you ready?”

Of course not, they said. Perhaps I need to roll a higher value on my charisma value next character I make. But we got into a long conversation, and I learned about the two people. David was going to West Point.

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Then came Tolia.

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Tolia works as a private chef in New York City, working for the likes of Naomi Watts among other clients. He was on his way to Idaho, for a reason I can’t quite remember. But I remember him for his demeanor that screamed “I have a personality.” He was an entertainer. He was used to being the center of attention. I knew we’d get along, I’m a blogger for chrissakes, those of you who know me in person know how polarizing I am. So we chatted about shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.

And off to Phoenix we went. I slept. And deplaned. And off to my 11:40 flight to Fresno… Or not. The flight had arrived an hour late, and the flight’s doors had JUST closed. 5 minutes before I got there.

“Who can I talk to so I can board this flight?” I demanded of the flight attendant.

The flight attendant was unmoved. It was likely annoyed travelers demanded much of him on a regular basis. “You can visit the customer service desk over there and talk to a representative.”

I felt bad for pushing this poor guy but I had to get on the flight, so I demanded again “Which security officer in here can get me on that flight. Here’s my ticket.”

“There is nobody in this building who can open that door once it’s closed.”

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I believe him, so I visit the desk. Out pops Tolia, who also missed his flight to Idaho, where he was going to pick potatoes for his cooking for all I know. As we were in line, we chatted of our lives. I introduced him to my time at Rutgers, and he explained that he lives an unstructured life, which is what I’ve started doing. I asked him how he did it, how he ended up where he was, living life experiences with a girlfriend in LA, and over in NYC cooking for famous actresses.

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He said “I dunno man, I just go with what I want.” Poetic license used for effect, but that was his general demeanor. That’s what I remember most often, what people’s affect was like, rather than their words. I look past those, since often they don’t mean much. But this guy felt confident. With his trashy plain sweater and baseball cap, he seemed comfortable. Confident. He smirked, joked, prodded. You’d never guess he was a successful private chef. He kept it to himself. But you could sense his confidence.

I got my tickets and we had a beer at this restaurant called Cowboy Ciao. I ordered a dark IPA since they didn’t have any porters, my usual beer of choice, and Tolia ordered a pint of lager. I ordered biscuits and gravy, with pancetta-laced gravy (the most delicate biscuit I have ever imbibed) and Tolia ordered a nice fettuccine. He talked little of his past, and little of himself, and I got the impression he wasn’t self-involved. He was a jokester, but in the most comfortable way.

Then, to my techie delight, he pulled out a Coin card to pay, one he’d gotten from their Kickstarter campaign. I liked Tolia already. So we exchanged contact information, and I went on my way to Los Angeles, my second connection after I was rerouted. I hope to see this guy again, friends, and I’ll definitely let you know if I do.

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Next post, I’ll introduce you to Donald, a guy I met in the line of customer service who came from Honolulu, and I’ll show you the most interesting aftershave I’ve ever seen. Until next time!

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