So, last week it was time for our yearly pilgrimage to the San Diego
Comic Convention. A vast font for all things spongy and geeky. I was
sure that this column was going to be on some aspect of that trip, but
I didn't quite think it would be about the man sitting next to me on
the flight down there - a man known as:
The Chrome Caballero
To start off with, let me just say that we usually start the insanity turbines in the San Jose airport, well before we step on board the plane ride down. The fact that we've put work or school behind us, and we're going to be seeping in the very finest in grade-A geekdome fills our minds like some great blessing from a chaos god. We start babbling and there's just no end to what comes out... I mean, we're all really nutzbar when we get on the plane.
Now I don't know what trip it started on, but one of the steadfast rules of flying down to San Diego is that we race through the crossword puzzle found in the inflight magazine. Some of you might be crossword wizards, and look down your noses in cold iron snootiness at us... but we find that the forty five minute flight gives us an even 50/50 chance of solving the quiz if we start the minute we take off the ground and stop when we land. It could be that the Southwest airlines puzzles are just a little harder, or that we're just a little too spongy to do them efficiently, but we have a blast, and entertain ourselves to no end coming up with the ridiculous answers before getting the correct ones.
This flight was no exception, we were all set... we had acquired four seats at the front (so we could face each other, half the seats being backwards)... we had found a magazine with a fresh crossword... we had a brace of pencils at the ready... and damn if we weren't babbling like crazy spider-monkeys. When suddenly, down he sat:
The Chrome Caballero
At first I didn't think much of him. Wiry, and scruffy, with a t-shirt and vest, smelling slightly of booze. His first act was to try to stuff an oversized duffle-bag under his seat. He almost got it to hide away, out of sight.
And then he started talking... I guess he was already talking when he came in the plane, I just hadn't noticed because we were babbling to match. But this man... yeah, I guess I'll call him a man... this man was desperate to be heard. He talked a full head of steam and then threw more logs on the fire. You could see the boilers straining at the bolts behind his eyes. This man needed to talk.
But it wasn't the talking that killed our conversation, it was what he said. And at the volume in which he said it.
"YOU NOTICE HOW THE GROUND CREWS NEVER GET ON THE PLANE? HELL, THEY'RE ONLY PAYED $7.00 AN HOUR TO CHECK THIS CRATE OUT. YOU THINK THEY'D GET ON THIS PLANE? I'D DRINK HEAVILY IF I WERE YOU. THAT'S WHAT I'VE BEEN DOING.
"YOU KNOW HOW THEY FIX THESE THINGS UP? THEY USE 500 MILE-AN-HOUR TAPE. IT'S A MIXTURE OF TIN FOIL AND DUCT-TAPE. THEY JUST TAPE IT OVER THE CRACKS.
"FUCK! DID YOU FEEL THAT? THAT WASN'T A NORMAL TAKE OFF. SOMETHING MUST HAVE GONE WRONG."
We were just stunned. Hell, everyone in the front half of the plane was stunned. He wouldn't shut up, and he kept talking louder and faster.
"HEY, IF WE START TO GO DOWN, I'LL CLOCK YOU FOR $50.00, SO YOU WON'T SEE IT COMING."
"What will you spend it on?" I can't believe I actually said anything... and to my horror his eyes fixed on me, he had an audience.
"HELL, GOD WOULDN'T KILL AN IRON CABALLERO!"
For the next fifty minutes we were stuck next to the biker from hell... he got drunker, and wilder, and louder, and more crass.
"HEMP, IT'S GOT SO MANY GOOD USES. YOU KNOW WHAT THE BEST IS? YOU CAN TIE DOWN THE GIRL WHO SAYS 'NO'!"
"Sir, can you stow your baggage in one of the overhead bins?" The stewardess had his attention now... the poor thing.
"HEY, CAN YOU [the man sitting across from him] JUST KICK THAT PACK? YEAH, JUST KICK IT. DON'T WORRY, THERE'S NOTHING BREAKABLE IN THERE. JUST KICK IT. YEAH. UNTIL IT'S UNDER THE SEAT.
"YOU KNOW THE MILE HIGH CLUB? THEY RECENTLY PASSED ALL SORTS OF LAWS BECAUSE TOO MANY PEOPLE WERE GETTING INTO IT. YOU CAN NOW ONLY TALK TO 'EM THREE TIMES BEFORE IT'S HARASSMENT. OTHERWISE I COULD GET 'EM ALL. I JUST WEAR 'EM DOWN.
"SHE [the stewardess] SAID SHE'D GO HOME WITH ME BUT SHE'S GOT ANOTHER FLIGHT AFTER THIS ONE."
We were told, in excited detail, all about the founding and the lifestyle of the Chrome Caballeros (his motorcycle gang - and no, they weren't actually called that, but I'm loathe for any search engines to associate Cant with his actual group, so I changed the name).
"TEMPORARY TATTOOS? I THINK ANY FUCKER THAT WEARS ONE OF THOSE SHOULD BE CUT TO DEATH. ME, I'VE GOT THIS HUGE TATTOO ON MY BACK, IT'S AN INVERTED CROSS WITH A NUN IMPALED ON IT WITH HER GUTS HANGING OUT. YOU GET TO SEE HER HEART AND EVERYTHING. I DON'T LIKE THE CHURCH."
He told us how they supported themselves by selling meth and running strip joints, and how the East-Coast Caballeros hated the Hells Angels, but the West-Coast Caballeros didn't, and how most of them were ex-military.
I never got the name of the business man who was sitting opposite him, but I have to give that man a bow of thanks. He asked the Chrome Caballero just one question, and that was our break. We pulled out the crossword puzzle and concentrated on it like it was the S.A.T. To turn and look at the crazed biker would spell certain doom, and drag us back into his world. The biker tried several attempts to engage us again, telling us who to look up in San Diego if we wanted meth, or to see a strip show, or where to get a tattoo, or just to give us free advice.
"DID YOU KNOW THE AVERAGE I.Q. IN AMERICA IS 70?
"YOU KNOW AN EIGHT LETTER WORD FOR A POOR BUSINESS PARTNER? M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E. WHERE ELSE DO YOU SIGN UP FOR A PARTNERSHIP WHERE YOU ENTER WITH 100% OF THE WEALTH AND ALWAYS LEAVE WITH 50% OF THE WEALTH WHEN IT FAILS?"
"I was going to say A-S-S-H-O-L-E," Izzy had had enough. "But that only has seven letters."
Fortunately the stewardess came up with another round of the asshole's drinks at that moment and we were able to escape back into the sanctity of the crossword.
"AND REMEMBER..." he yelled as he got off the plane "ASK AN CHROME CABALLERO PERMISSION BEFORE YOU GO STEALING ANY HARLEYS IN TOWN."