A Short South Bend Story

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You all have no idea who I am. Not for real. I know that.

Well, my last novel was published in 2007. Wow. Has it been that long? It has. Pathetic.

Anyway, the publisher booked me on a live morning television talk show. One of those Good Morning America types, without the ratings, or viewership.

I packed a bag. Went to the airport and flew, first to Chicago, and then over to Indiana.

A limo met me at the tiny airport. And by limo, I mean black Lincoln Town car. The driver held up a sign.

It would have been really cool if more than three people were in the airport.

I stayed at a hotel not far from Notre Dame’s campus. In fact, I was told it was walking distance from the hotel.

Seeing the campus would have been awesome, I imagine. But by the time I arrived at the hotel it was nearly 7:00 PM. It felt like it was ten below zero. Everything was frozen solid. I wasn’t going to walk–I didn’t have clothing for it. I had a leather coat and jeans, that I came in, and a suit for the show in the morning.

Instead, I found a Chinese place that delivered, and watched television in my room.

I did the show the next morning. It went all right. Was cool being on the set of a morning show. The background was just that, background. The set sat in the center of an almost black-wall warehouse. Camera’s and cables all over the place.

This isn’t a blog about the show, though. Not even a blog to promote my novel — because you don’t know who I am. But a blog about going home.

Ah yes, going home.

After my interview a taxi whisked me back to the airport. This was awful, actually. It was barely 9:00 AM, and my flight wasn’t until noon.

But it didn’t make sense to go back to the hotel.

I had a book with me. Figured I’d get some coffee, lunch, sit and read while I waited.

So I get back to this tiny airport — which resembled the airport on the old TV show WINGS, more than a real airport. But I am not well traveled. Maybe the was the norm. Rochester International Airport is a good size, but it resembles a ghost town any time I’ve been in there … But I digress.

I buy a sandwich at the ONLY open sandwich place — and pay Airport prices for it, despite airport size — and find a comfortable chair among the three in the lounge. Reading is going well. Eating, equally well. And then I look at the time. Still over three hours till my flight.

I think.

My plane tickets are my bookmark for the novel I’m reading.

I look at them.

Hmmm. Seems I am going to fly out of Indiana at 12:20. Won’t get back to Rochester until almost 5:00 PM. Have a stop with another couple of hours lay-over in Chicago.

I would arrive in Chicago at … 12:05.

My stomach drops. My PR person at the publisher messed up my flight. Thank God I found the error!

I gather my things and wheel my suitcase up to the airline counter.

The woman behind the desk smiles. “How can I help you, sir?”

Maybe I am tired. I know I am upset with my publisher. Either way, I feel this entitles me to sarcasm.

With that entitlement, I ask, “Ah, yes. My ticket says my plane leaves here at 12:20 and will then land in Chicago fifteen minutes before it even takes off. I only have some college, but I am not sure how is that even possible?”

Without missing a beat, the woman — still giving me that big smile — says, “You fly through a time zone … sir.”

Hmmm. A little added emphasis on, sir?

Ah-yeah. I heard it. Deserved it.

It was the longest ten yard walk from the counter back to the chair I’d been sitting in.

Only now, I don’t want to sit there. I want to hide. Sit someplace else.

Guess what? There is no where else. Think WINGS. One sofa. A few chairs. I’m waiting for Tony Shalhoub to walk in, partly as Monk, partly as a Taxi driver … whatever.

So then, just as I sit. Just as I open my book and use it as a hand-held wall to block the woman at counter from seeing the red in my face … I hear, “Sir? Excuse me, sir?”

I slowly lower the book. Eyes dart around. Trying to find out, One–is someone talking to me? Seems logical, since I’m the only one here. (Di Nero anyone? Anyone? No? Ok?)  And Two–if someone is talking to me, then who is it?

But I know, One, someone was talking to me, and Two, who it was.

I recognized the voice. Last thing it said to me was … “Sirrrrr”.  Hard to forget.

“Ah, yes?” I say. Stand. Set my book down.

“We can get you on a flight to Chicago. Leaves in twenty minutes, and then a flight from Chicago to Rochester — have you in Rochester by 2:00 PM, if you’d like?” Smile is still there. It might have been painted on. I am not sure I saw her lips move when she spoke.

“Um. Yes. Okay. Ah-yeah. That would be great.” Then I became Jerry Lewis.

I went up to the counter.

“I need your tickets, sir.”

I spin around. Hands pat my shirt. There is only a breast pocket. I pat my dress pants. Nothing.

I smile at the woman. And spin again. A One-Eighty. The tickets are sticking out of my book. I walk toward over, slide them out from between the pages. Head back, hand them over to the woman.

“And your suitcase?” She says.

I try to smile. “Of course.”

For whatever reason — maybe because I was too fucking stupid to recognize time zones — I pat my shirt.

No suitcase in that breast pocket.

I go back and get my suitcase. Wheel it over. Smile.

I smile, not to be friendly. But because my book and suitcoat are still over on the chair. I have to head back there a third time.

I will not spin, I think. I will not spin.

I wait until she tells me I am all set, hands me my new tickets with instructions to Gate 1, because best I can recall — that was the only gate and I can see it from where I am — but I sure as shit am not going to say anything sarcastic. No way!

That is when I return to the lounge for my book and suitcoat, and I wave and thank the woman as I head to Gate 1, anxious to be home, but thankful to be out of Indiana’s airport!

Hey you know what? That’s the end of the blog!

Sincerely,
Phillip Tomasso

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One thought on “A Short South Bend Story”

  1. OMG, you had me chuckling out loud! (And I usually don’t chuckle aloud reading blogs, except for this one.) I forgot about time zones while I was reading it, too. I’m sure that happens a lot to people. Although most people probably realize suitcases can’t fit in pockets, lol!

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