Somewhere between 28,000 and 35,000 feet in the air, Tasha, the United Airlines flight attendant with perfectly placed hot-pink lipstick, brought me a lukewarm cup of airplane coffee (read: sludgy, ground-heavy brews) along with a can of soda water.
Sweet angel, Tasha. This was my second drink serving, after all, so I felt more than a little high maintenance, particularly on a relatively short flight from Denver to Houston. I don’t think frequent flyer miles ever make it okay to ask for two beverages twice, but hey, to each their own, right?
Huddled against the foggy window in row 28, I gently received my much welcomed goodies with thanks and enthusiasm. I happened to be in the midst of budget tracking for a project application and was in need of a serious energy re-boot. The two beverages piled close to my computer; nudging closely with the stickers covering the external part of my laptop; decorated on the outside of my silver HP are company brands ranging from Great Divide Brewing Company, Elephant Energy, and Stranahan’s Whiskey. Computer sticker bling is all the rage these days.
This particular journey was taking me to Texas (and then Arkansas!) to meet with Michelle and the rest of my college crew, The Hey Girl Heys, for our 5th college reunion. Yes, 5th. That’s wild.
In the span of a few days I would attend one of Michelle’s classes at seminary, drive 8 hours on Texas highway (getting slightly, a little lost), eat a salad at Whole Hog, chat for hours with my favorite people in the world, engage in an excessive photo shoot around the Hendrix campus, and bake bread with current students. Just to name a few things.
Towards the end, Houston flooding would redirect our travels through Memphis. It was crazy, but unexpected travel, rental car woes, and road trip barriers are significantly easier to handle when you have a buddy along with for the ride. Plus, Memphis meant a short trip out to Moscow, Tennessee to visit Michelle’s grandparents until we could both catch a flight back to our respective homes. Which, incidentally, also meant an encounter with delicious fried chicken. That’s right, I broke my vegetarian ways for an evening to enjoy the sweet, succulent Southern delicacy. No regrets – for the most part. Bathroom trips were a bit rough for the next few days, but what a small, small price to pay for fine cuisine.
Reunion weekend at Hendrix was full of meaning. Things like unrequited laughter. Things like undefinable comfort-ability. Gentle moments would strike me like a surprising, late spring rain shower; fleeting and yet so peaceful. There were so many times – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – where I couldn’t help but smile and relish in gratitude for how nourished I felt. It was my first visit since graduating in 2011 and though so much has changed, it was so easy to fall back into our friendships again. We traversed through the Pecan Court; ate in the notorious cafeteria, and hugged Hendrix staples, like Ms. Mimi, one of the ladies who has worked in the cafeteria for years. She remembered our names – all of our names – and that’s just a small slice of what it’s like to be a student (and returning student) to our campus. It is home. And these people, my friends, they are home too. They always have been.
There’s a feeling you get when you find “your people” and lucky me, I have a good inkling of who those people, ahem, weirdos, are in the world.
This particular story, though, isn’t about them. It’s actually about those dang stickers on the front of my computer.
Working on a plane is a lot like becoming lost in time itself; time becomes irrelevant. As soon as I had started crushing and typing away with the used, little, black buttons, we were landing in Houston.
Welcome to Houston…the temperature outside is a brisk 78 degrees.
I hastily put my computer, headphones, and trash away, as I knew I would be in hurry to get off the plane. Michelle was picking me up and we would head directly to her night class on “Moral Theology.” Our plane landed, taxied the runway, and arrived at our gate. We herded ourselves to baggage claim and the waiting game began.
Baggage claim has always struck me as an oddly wonderful “third place” in our world; we aren’t yet home, and yet we aren’t at our starting points either in whatever journey we may be taking. We are in transition, and it’s like you can sense the angst people feel in those spots.
Disconcerted, anxious, and often, impatient.
I wasn’t any different. I tapped my foot repeatedly. Come on, come on, come on…surely the bags would be here already. 15 minutes passed. What was going on…?
I didn’t have much time to contemplate as an elder gentleman interrupted my train of thought.
“Excuse me, ma’am, may I speak with you for just a moment?”
I looked at him quizzically. But let’s be real, when have I ever said “no” to talking with someone. I responded with a non-committal “sure” as I moved to side of the growing crowds around the carousel.
“I wanted to talk with you about the stickers on the front of your computer. The one that has a brown color with a Yeti on the front. It says, “I Believe.”
He was right. In fact, I have two Great Divide Brewing stickers tacked on the back of my HP; one is of mountains, the other is from their current branding with a large Yeti and the text reading, “I believe.”
It’s tongue-in-cheek, of course, but this man obviously missed the memo. Though Great Divide is well known (and ranked as the 7th best brewery on the planet), their branding is recognizable only to their consumers. I guess this guy must have been a Budweiser fan, or something.
I cleared my throat, expecting this man was going to proselytize me at baggage claim . As I prepared to explain that I do deeply love and know Jesus he stopped and interjected –
“The thing is this – you should believe. Yetis are real. Take a look, you won’t believe this.”
He proceeded to take out a hard-bound forest green book. The cover was inscribed with his name. Upon opening, I realized that the book was a scholarly work from this man. And, the scholarly work was his research to prove that Yeti’s (you know, as in the Abominable Snowman) were true. Oh boy. This man wasn’t preaching any kind of gospel – he was actually affirming my sticker on my computer, thinking I actually did believe in Yeti’s.
“I’ve done extensive work on the subject and you have to understand, Yetis are alive and they even exist in America! If you follow my website and links on my business card you will be able to learn more. I just got back from Oklahoma on a tracking trip. You’d be surprised. Please, contact me, and I would be happy to talk further and show you things you might be curious about.”
At this point, in deference to shock, I smiled and let the man give me his card.
A yeti hunter. I literally met a Yeti hunter at the Houston airport who thought that I believed in Yetis too – all because of a bumper sticker for craft beer on the back of my computer. I mean, I didn’t realize that unicorns were mythical creatures until I was 18, but still. Yetis?
Life is weird.
I don’t believe in Yetis.
Not even close. But if airports, baggage, travels, road trips, reunions, and friends have taught me anything, it’s that everyone believes in something. For those that think they don’t believe in something, you do.
So what is it? What is that you believe? And, do you believe in it so much that you would stop a complete stranger to tell them about it?
I ask myself these very questions because they are important ones.
Our beliefs are just the beginning, however.
Your actions tell the story of your beliefs.
I’ve heard that in Jewish tradition, your actions are a testament to your theology – not your words.
May our lives – not just our beliefs – tell the stories of our hearts and the unrelenting passions that carry us forward. Whether it’s about love, redemption, or in the random case of Houston airports, Yetis.