This Brightened My Day August 1, 2008

This Brightened My Day

Last week, I was sitting in an airport, waiting for my flight to begin boarding.

There was a book in my hands, but I wasn’t reading so much as I was just looking around to see what everyone else was doing.

A couple came by and sit right across from me — A guy and (presumably) his girlfriend. In the guy’s hand was a yellow book.

I only know one yellow book. So I tried to get a closer look to see if it was that one…

Yep. I was right! He was reading Christopher HitchensGod Is Not Great!

I glanced over at his girlfriend… what was she reading? I wondered.

The angle was just right that I was able to catch the cover of her book, too.

Richard DawkinsThe Blind Watchmaker.

This raised a dilemma. How do I tell a couple of strangers that I want to bear their future child?

I couldn’t do it. But when the guy looked my way, I was able to mouth “Good book” to him. He smiled and nodded.

It was one of those unspoken bonds you sometimes have with strangers, the type where you both just know you share many more things in common than just the one you’ve discovered.

The only other time that has happened to me was when I met a girl last year who mentioned (in passing) that she read this website called Pharyngula… good times.

In any case, I had a much more pleasant experience than Cailin, who recently overheard two Christians having a conversation about their faiths…

One more interesting story connected to that flight. On the “L” train to O’Hare Airport, I sat next to a guy who was much larger than me, very muscular, wearing a nice suit, tight-fitting shoes with no socks. Everything about him was on a level of coolness much higher than I can ever hope for.

His luggage was on the seat next to him. On top of his bags was a massive belt. It looked like a boxer’s belt after he’s won a big fight.

At some point, he looked over at me and (on my hunch) I mouthed “Did you win?”

(I mouth a lot of words.)

He nodded.

We struck up a conversation. I found out he had won thirteen belts in his career — most people never win one. He had won a fight the previous night and was heading to another state for the next one.

I, thinking this was the greatest thing in the world, and having my camera on me, asked if he would pose for a picture. He said yes.

So, here’s Mixed Martial Arts champion Shonie Carter!


If only all my airport stories were this eventful…

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  • You were a math major and you only know one yellow book?

  • Brian E

    Very cool! You should’ve had him teach you a few submission holds – as a teacher those could really come in handy.

  • krissncleo

    Shonnie fought in Pride which is a brand of MMA just like Nike or Reebok is a brand. Carl Jung would call the airport experience syncronicity (even though it doesn’t exist). I work in a cafe next to a college and people read books all of the time. The one book that I see often, no matter what shape, size or color, is “that book”. It is a surprise because our cafe (just like most cafes) is left of left. I haven’t seen G. Delusion, Letter 2 a x-tian Nation, or any of the other current A-reading, but I have seen Shermers “Why People Believe Weird Things” (it is a required book for a class at the school) and The Skepdics Dictionary (author is in the philosophy department). Maybe I’ll keep track and tally to see who wins the (imaginary) race. Great job dude.

    Kriss, of krissncleo

  • I once saw a friend I hadn’t talk to in years because he moved to Kansas going up the escalator as I was going down in Hartsfield/ATL, we talked for like 5 seconds…

    Also, saw a guy horking his guts out in a trashcan, actually that was in ATL as well…

    …my airport stories are lame…

  • Todd

    A few years ago I sat at the gate at LaGuardia across from Ann Coulter, and she was everything you’d expect her to be. Loud, bossy, look-at-me calls on her cell phone; she and her companion spread all their crap across five seats; she put her empty Starbucks cup under her seat instead of throwing it away. What a b!tch.

    And then Al Sharpton walked by.

    Maybe Jung was right.

  • Caerleigh

    The God Delusion has been the best book EVER to read in airports and airplanes. I travel quite a bit (2 – 3 times per month, on business) and the people I’ve met as a result of them seeing the book has been amazing. There was the man in O’Hare who asked me how I liked the book; it turned out to be our delayed flight’s pilot, and he was a Mormon, and we talked for an hour before he had to go fly our plane. There was the seminary student on the flight from Minnesota to Raleigh – we still correspond in email. Countless atheists and skeptics who are just delighted to see what I’m reading.

    Bring atheist books with you! If I ever saw someone reading a like minded book, I’d definitely say hi – and most people do, in my experience. It’s especially good for having in your lap, title up, as the plane takes off. Your seatmate will either: 1) Be a skeptic / atheist, and probably be thrilled; 2) Be religious, yet open-minded enough and interested to ask about the book; 3) Be a really freaked out religious person, which is fun in its own right.

    btw, first comment – hoorah. Always meant to stop by and say hi. I’m in this year’s Skepchick calendar, I hope you all got your orders in…

  • You were a math major and you only know one yellow book?

    I should’ve clarified… I know only one yellow book that people might actually read for fun 🙂

  • Joe L.

    Ha, that reminds me of when I was waiting for baggage at an airport a couple years ago. I was standing there, and there was a couple in front of me – a man and woman, looked like business associates, not spouses. They were talking about terrorism or something (since we were in an airport), and the woman said “you know, it’s really the atheists that you have to watch out for. I bet they’ll be hijacking planes next.” The man nodded in agreement – “you’re right. They have nothing to live for. No moral guidance”

    I never talk to strangers (i prefer not to talk to anyone, really….), but I was very close to butting into their conversation and given them a polite update from an atheist’s point of view about all the reasons and motivations religious terrorists vs. atheists would have to kill a bunch of people with a plane. Fortunately for all of us, my baggage showed up just then (devine intervention, perhaps?) 😉

  • Vincent

    Joe L,
    You could have said “Well we atheists have a whole lot less to kill and die for than religious people who think paradise awaits”

    I’ll make my airport story short. When I was about 12 (early 80s) I met Rosie Greer in the OKC airport. I saw this HUGE man and said, Dad, isn’t that someone famous? My dad walked up to him and said “Mr. Greer, I never watched you play football….but I want thank you for what you said at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.”

  • I have an unspoken story… i was in line to make a left turn at one of our famous 8 lane NJ traffic intersections, and I came up behind a volkswagon with NY state plates. The plate read “DARWINIST”. I pulled up next to him and gave him a Michelle Obama style Fist pump. At first, he thought I was flipping him off and he went to return the favor and then saw my face. We waved and laughed and gave the thumbs up sign as he realized I was talking about his plate.

    I wonder if the DARWINIST with the NY state plates reads Friendly athiest? he looks like a professor, thin, with a salt and pepper beard. So stereotypical, sorry!

  • Siamang

    I once had a weird lunch at my work. I was sitting right next to a table where two Christians were talking about having a calling to change the broader culture by working at my company. (I work at one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.) They were talking in really mystical terms about how they just knew that God wanted them to work here and change the broader culture by inserting Christian themes into movies and tv shows.

    They spoke in tones that made me think they imagined themselves as covert operatives.


  • My only airport story involves losing a book I was reading (fiction, can’t remember what) and eating an $18 bowl of udon at SFO (in San Francisco).

    Not exactly the most interesting story ever told. Hopefully I will one day have a bizarre airport story to tell.

  • Tao Jones


    Shonie is hilarious. He’s got such a flamboyant personality — well, at least he did on TV in The Ultimate Fighter house. What else did you talk to him about?

  • Good stories!

  • Craig

    One question: who did Shonie credit for his win? 🙂

  • BWAHAHA, was Shonie as flamboyant in person as he was on the UFC reality show?

  • Milena

    I don’t have any good airport stories, but I do have a good one related to god Is Not Great. I’d borrowed my friend’s copy and when I opened it, the first thing I saw was the inscription her parents had written in it: “Merry Christmas. Love, Mom and Dad”.

    It cracked me up.

  • Dude, it’s not ‘the “L” to O’Hare’, it’s “the El to O’Hare.” El being a shortening of Elevated Train. Don’t take your cues from the CTA, they suck.

  • Did it occur to you that the other people at the airport got the better half of the deal? They briefly got to meet Hemant Mehta!

  • Gabriel

    I am very skeptical of these MMA types. If they were really good fighters wouldn’t they just concentrate on their boxing? There is much more money in boxing than there is in MMA. I think it is just a fad that will peter out after a few years. I think most of them are using it as a way to try and break into the entertainment industry. They hope to become an action star in movies or TV.

    I have a few airport stories but this is my favorite. I was a kid and it was the mid to late 70’s. Airports were just starting to have security, metal detectors that kind of thing. We went to LAX to pick up a family friend. We passed through securtiy and this loud obnoxious guy in a suit was in front of us. We all walked through and Mr. loud obnoxious says “Wow, I’m glad that they didn’t find my gun, I really need it.” He was immediatly takled by a security guard. I’ve always thought about that whenever I feel the need to be a jerk in public.

  • Gabriel

    Almost everytime I have flown since September 11, 2001 I have accidently smuggled a pocket knife onboard the plane. I don’t do it on purpose. I have been carrying a pocket knife for 25 years or more. It is just part of what I carry. I don’t think about it. So I will be in line for security when I realize I have a knife. I pull it out of my pocket and stick it in my carry on. Never found once. Then I pass through security get dressed and slip the knife back in my pocket. Really good security. Makes me feel extra safe. This is what I do on accident without planning. I hate to think what someone who has a plan could get aboard a plane.

  • Gabriel

    One more airport story. I used to work as a state parole officer. I did this for about 9 years. During that time I was also in the Navy reserve. I was coming back from Seoul, South Korea. I landed in Texas at DFW. I had to transfer from the main terminal to a satelite terminal to hop a puddle jumper back to my home city. Now I have gone through a security in Korea (twice) and in Seattle. I have been traveling something like 26 hours with the layovers in Japan and Minesota and I am in this satelite terminal in the middle of DFW. I am selected for a random screening. I am always selected for a random screening becuase I never check my bags. I stoped checking bags after the third time they were lost. So the security person runs the wand over me and it goes off on my badge. I pull it out and give it to her. She looks at it and then looks me straight in the eye and with no hint of sarcasm or irony asks “Are you carrying a gun?” No.

  • Jacob Dink

    Shonie Carter is a pretty good mixed martial artist who isn’t quite top-tier–

    –having had an unsuccessful run in the UFC, including an appearance on TUF4 The Comeback.

    Seems like a cool guy.

  • Eric

    You should give those MMA types some credit, Gabriel. They train very hard on their boxing as well as many other martial arts. I love boxing, but that is just one dimension of the fight game. How many of them do you see trying to be action stars?

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