Tales Bar

Tales from the Spaceport Bar:

That was the title of a book I remember reading back about twenty years ago -- ah, here it is. I had to go down to Atlanta to pick up someone flying in to Hartsfield-Jackson International, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. Flights tend to be delayed, so you take a seat at the bar, order a Guinness, and see what happens....

Two minutes after I had my beer in front of me, a guy sat down next to me who had the look of someone I needed to talk to. Short hair, muscular, Hawaiian shirt -- I read that as US military, on leave from PACOM. Right the first time, it turned out. He was actually a resident of the US military mission in Thailand, but has been on TDY in Hawaii lately. Passing through ATL to deal with family. We had a lot to talk about, however, as he knew quite a few people in the Philippines right now. Since I'm helping Bill Roggio arrange a mission out there, it was a useful conversation. Nice guy. Showed me pictures of his fiancee, a very pretty Thai girl whom he'll be bringing back.

After he pulled out, my contact was still not there, so I talked to the guy who took his seat. Polish, this one, named Tek. First time in America, but he has excellent English as he attended the American college in Rome, and has lived in England. He dances around polite conversation before asking the question Euros always want to ask: what do you think of the President?

I tell him, and we talk politics for a while. He's got a Polish perspective, but that's all right with me -- I like Poles, a lot in fact, and know the history well enough to join him. We talk about Vietnam, Iraq, the Soviet invasions of Eastern Europe. I tell him that America has always fought for those who wanted to fight for liberty, and he nods at once. "That's true," he says with a serious expression. You can see that matters to him. After half an hour or so, America -- you can tell he's excited to be here -- seems more comfortable.

He asks me about wildlife, so we talk about bears, mountain lions, alligators. He's going to Florida. I warn him about how silent and fast gators can be. He's shocked by all of it. "So you mean you could just be walking along out in the woods and suddenly there would be a bear or a crocodile?" he asks.

"Alligator," I remind him.

"Alligator," he says. "That's amazing. In Europe you could never just be out, and meet a dangerous animal. You must carry a rifle all the time."

"A revolver," I say. This starts him off on another topic, so I show him my firearms license. I explain about how the police have my fingerprints, so if I do anything wrong they'll know it was me. He's lived in London, and knows what gun crime is getting to be like there. Another eye-opening conversation, you can see.

About this time, my contact shows up and it's time to go. We shake hands, Tek and I; I welcome him to America. He's glad to be here. I'm glad he came.

I pay my tab; I've been there three hours, and have three beers on it. Two of them are mine; one of them belonged to the soldier from PACOM. He got one of mine, so we're even, but I met my goal of always buying a beer for a serviceman when I drink at an airport. My contact and I head back towards the mountains.

It's a bad world, my old friend from Freemantle used to say; but it can be a good life. With beer and company, and adventure to discuss, it can be good enough.

No comments: