I am in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and alcoholic business travelers. I just spent the better part of an hour sitting in the hotel bar watching the All-Star Home Run Derby and eating the largest jerk chicken quesadilla ever captured in the wild. While I gorged myself on flattened poultry and watched Albert Pujols rip line drives at third graders Major League Baseball had stupidly placed in the outfield to shag fly balls, I listened to one half of the most bizarre phone conversation ever. The guy sitting behind me was obviously drunk, crazy, and a bevy of other adjectives I am too stunned to even think of right now. I didn't pick up on him screaming into his phone until well into the whole affair, as I have an uncanny gift that allows me to completely tune out anything I am not interested in, but I picked up on enough of it to tell you it was epic. In addition, the people with me filled in the rest.
I will now present excerpts from his conversation. Imagine it all slightly over-enunciated and drawn out just a little too long, almost as if he were trying to conceal the fact he had been drinking. I swear to you that this is very nearly exactly what he said. The capital letters and pauses are to indicate his speech patterns, not tto indicate any kind of emphasis on my part. Enjoy:
"...I'M IN PHILADELPHIA, AND I'M GONNA DO SOME BUSINESS HERE...YEAH...I MET THREE BEAUTIFUL WOMEN HERE TODAY. I MET THIS BLACK WOMAN AND SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL. YOU KNOW WHO SHE LOOKED LIKE? REMEMBER THAT WOMAN ON THE COSBY SHOW?...NO, NOT CLAIRE...YEAH, THAT ONE! AND I MET THIS RUSSIAN WOMAN, JUST BEAUTIFUL...THEN I MET THIS OTHER WOMAN WHO IS THE HEAD OF THE LARGEST, MOST PRESTIIIIGIOUS DESIGN FIRM IN PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY AND NEW YORK--WELL, NOT ALL OF NEW YORK..."
"...YOU KNOW, I MET THIS AFRICAN GUY TODAY...FROM AFRICA...HE WAS A DIPLOMAT...FOR AFRICA...AND I THINK I CAN DO SOME BUSINESS WITH HIM...HE SAYS HE CAN GET ME DIAMONDS...DO YOU NEED ANY DIAMONDS?..."
So this idiot is going to totally get mixed up in some blood diamond ring and end up having parts of himself mailed home to family members as a warning. I can't say I'm too concerned for his well being at this point.
"...WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IS JUST STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND BUY HER RING ALL ON YOUR OWN, BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW POWERFUL A WOMAN IS, THEY LIKE A MAN WHO TAKES THE LEAD...IF YOU JUST STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND BUY HER A RING, THEN SHE'LL HAVE NO REASON TO NOT LIKE YOU..."
"YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS BUT I WAS IN CHICAGO ON THE 2ND, AND I SAW THE MOST BEAUTIFUL...VIVACIOUS...ORCHID THAT YOU HAVE EVER SEEN...YEAH, AND I'VE BEEN CARRYING THIS PLANT AROUND WITH ME TO PHILADLEPHIA, THEN NEW JERSEY, NOW I'M BACK IN PHILADELPHIA...YOU SHOULD SEE IT...VIVACIOUS..."
I can honestly say that the last noun I ever expected to emerge from this cretin's gullet was "orchid." It is a rare moment when we are truly surprised by another human, and this was one of those moments. At this point, the people I am with inform me that the plant is, indeed, sitting right in front of him at the table, and it is, in fact, vivacious. The flower alone is the size of his head. I do not dare to look, because I will not be able to keep from bursting into laughter. His call continues:
"LOOK, I CAN--I HAVE TO CALL YOU BACK. THIS IS HER...(He takes another call.)...SUNSHINE!...ARE YOU HERE?...I'M JUST GOING TO LEAVE THE PLANT AT THE FRONT DESK AND YOU CAN GET IT THERE...LISTEN...I HAVE TO ASK YOU A QUESTION...ARE YOU DOING THIS BECAUSE YOU'RE REALLY INTERESTED IN MY PLANT, OR ARE YOU JUST BEING NICE?...VIVACIOUS...I GUESS I DID IT BECAUSE THIS PLANT IS LIKE THE BEAUTY...AND THE EXCELLENCE...OF NATURE...AND I WANTED YOU TO SEE ME IN THAT WAY...YEAH...WHOA, THAT WAS SOMETHING...DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT I JUST SAID?...SAY IT BACK TO ME..."
There's more to it than that, and I wish I could convey how this guy sounded. The printed word has limitations in its ability to convey the nuances of human interaction. Suffice it to say that this whole exchange was gut-wrenchingly human, and I nearly bit a whole through my right cheek just trying to survive hearing it. I can only imagine what the guy must do to himself to survive living it. I resisted the urge to look back and see this guy, because no reality could live up to the picture of him in my mind.
Somewhere in Philadelphia, a walking tragedy sleeps alone.