The past couple weeks, people keep telling me that I look 17. Actually, the record low was 14, but that one was an outlier that was almost definitely the booze talking. I mean, I know you can't really tell what I look like from that picture I put up of me with the Kleenex in my nose, but if you were my Facebook friend or knew me in real life, you'd know that I have a serious five o' clock shadow no matter how closely I shave and the relaxed walking posture of someone who is obviously allowed to buy alcohol in the United States with his real drivers license. I own my own car--not exactly a good example of automotive perfection, that '96 Chevy Lumina of mine, but I proudly have a set of fuzzy Care Bear dice hanging from the mirror, and what 14-year-old would have fond memories of watching that show when he was little?
On the plane home from the Chip Burns thing, I was seated next to this woman who kept poking and making me take off my noise canceling headphones so she could tell me that she was awake or about to go to sleep. I naturally had her figured for a nut right from the start, but she sealed the deal when the plane started its final descent and she woke up and we started having one of those awkward plane conversations where you happen to glimpse the other person's name on their boarding pass but you aren't sure if you can call them by it because they haven't properly introduced themselves. It was one of those. She was being really flirty, and I knew she'd believe almost anything I said, so when she asked me what I had been doing in Atlanta, my world paused. I knew this was it. I had the opportunity to tell a ridiculous, once-in-a-lifetime lie about who I was, what I'd been doing in a strange city, and what I was returning to. My mind raced with possibilities. I've always wanted to convince a total stranger that I do something totally out-there for my job (like dog catching or a that I'm a writer for some unpopular sitcom they probably wouldn't have seen, like How I Met Your Mother), or that I just got out of jail, or that I was a high profile witness in a mafia murder trial. But all that cool stuff tripped over itself on the way out of my head, fell down, and snowballed out my mouth in the form of:
"Uh, business trip."
I wanted to smack myself in the forehead. That was almost the truth! Lifting boxes and making name tags at a trade show for nine days isn't exactly a business trip, but it isn't a sightseeing excursion either. I totally blew my chance to lie my ass off to a stranger on a plane. But it might not have mattered, because a few minutes deeper into our awkward plane conversation, she smiled and said, "So what kind of business do you do?" I told her I was in graphic design, which I guess is more or less accurate, and she gave me this weird, skeptical look.
"I was gonna say, because you look kinda young for a business trip! Like 17 or 18!"
"I'm 22!" I said, semi-defensively, before realizing that to this woman, who was obviously 30ish, I must have sounded like the little kid sucking on a lollipop and insisting that he's seven and a half.
And that's when it hit me; I knew that I look a little younger than I am. I could've used that in my lie! I could've been playing a guy holding a Nerf gun in a Nerf commercial that was filmed in Atlanta. I could've been taking part in a study about how young people are more approachable or something. But the window of opportunity for that had passed, and I had to finish the rest of the conversation using truthful stuff about myself, where I live, the college I attend, and what my cat's name is.
Next time, plane lady. Next time.