Although many people may think I lead a glamorous and adventurous life, really my life is pretty routine. I get home on Monday, work in the office and ride Tue-Wed and sometimes Thursday; then I head to the airport for a trip to somewhere for a weekend “gig”. I have packing down to a science but everywhere I go I take three very heavy large suitcases full of gear and products. Once my bags are checked, I am travelling pretty light with my briefcase slung over my shoulder and my hat box in my hand.
Part of my “uniform” is my cowboy hat. In fact, you’d be surprised how few people will even recognize me if I don’t have my hat on. If I want to be incognito, all I have to do is go hatless with my hair down—and NO one recognizes me. It’s a funny thing, but I guess we all tend to register things, or a “look” in our minds and associate that with the person. No kidding. I’ve had people that I thought knew me pretty well look at me as if I were a total stranger if I don’t have on my hat or the rest of the “uniform” (boots, button-down, starched jeans).
Since I prefer to travel in casual clothes, I always carry my hat in a hat box. Because if I wear it, then I have to dress appropriately—there’s nothing goofier than seeing someone wearing a cowboy hat and tennis shoes. Beside, if I wear it, I have to put it in a overhead bin during the fight and then my precious hat is very vulnerable to people cramming and jamming all their stuff in there. So the best solution is to carry my hat in a protective box, which is shaped similar to a case that you might put a French horn in.
On my very first trip with the hat box, I noticed all the curious stares of passersby and I have witnessed it ever since. Most people look at the curious case and can’t help but wonder, “what the heck is in there?” I get a kick out of watching the look on people’s faces and seeing the almost undeniable urge to ask. Invariably, in every trip that I make, eventually someone will have the nerve to ask, “what’s in there?” I’ve had guesses ranging from a cat to an organ-translpant carrier, and everything in-between. I have never made a trip carrying my hat box where at least one person couldn’t stand it and had to ask. But on this trip, the curiosity took a hilarious turn.
After going through security at Denver International, I got on the train, headed for the B terminal where my plane awaited. The train was not crowded, but there were a number of people comfortably gathered around at my end of the car. A young woman, a few people away from me was staring at my hat box with indeniable curiosity and she couldn’t resist asking. With the train totally quiet, she asked, loudly, so everyone around her heard, “What’s in the box, a turtle?”
I am not sure what came over me; I guess I thought she was joking, so I said, “Yep, it’s a turtle.” And we both chuckled politely, while everyone else around me looked down at the hat box sitting on the floor of the train between my feet.
Then she said, “You know, I’ve seen people take dogs and cats on a plane, but I’ve never heard of anyone bringing a turtle.” It was then that I realized that she, and everyone else around us, believed I actually had a live turtle in there.
So of course, I agreed, “Yes, it’s not very common at all.”
To which she replied, “Does he travel well?”
“Yes, he travels quite well. At least he doesn’t make any noise.”
At that point, we had everyone’s complete attention in our end of the train and the woman next to me, a flight attendant, turned to me and said with all seriousness, “What kind of turtle is it?” At this point, I couldn’t take it anymore and I burst out laughing. I felt bad for embarrassing the flight attendant—but you would think she, of all people, might know that people don’t carry turtles onto planes.
I finally admitted that it was indeed NOT a turtle, but a cowboy hat. Then one woman said, “Well, I wondered about that because I couldn’t see any air holes.” To which the first woman, who guessed that it was a turtle to begin with, felt compelled to defend herself and said, “Well, I noticed there weren’t any air holes that I could see, but I thought maybe they were on the other side.” Then the discussion deterirated to the various sizes of turtles and what if it were a snapping turtle.
This whole interchange made my day and I still can’t help but laugh out loud every time I think about it. I’ll remember this interchange for some time to come. And now I know exactly what my response will be from now on when someone musters up the courage to ask what’s in my hat box. Next thing you know, I’ll be known as the Turtle Whisperer.
I hope my journey through the airport tomorrow is half as entertaining.