Tattoos = Ex-Con (Or, Yet Another Joe-On-An-Airplane Story)

So you know how I was all kinds of annoyed that nothing happened to me at the airport or on the airplane on Monday? Well, Wednesday totally made up for that.

On my flight home from LA, I was in the very back row, on the aisle, and a family boarded. The mother and daughter took the two seats next to me (window and middle), and the father sat in a middle seat further up the row. So, being the gentleman I am, I asked the flight attendant if there were any open aisle seats near the front.

LO! And behold, there was. So, I gave the father my seat so he could be next to his kin (and he was very thankful!) and moved on up, to a seat next to an older woman and someone I assume was her daughter. And as I sat down, I heard them discussing the various celebrities in their shared copy of People magazine:

"Oh, she's MUCH prettier than Lady Gaga," said the younger woman.

"Yes, much... She's slimmer," said the older one.

It was then that I knew, this would be nowhere near as fun as my trip to LA. And sometime shorly after I tweeted the above conversation, I caught in the corner of my eye the elder woman looking me up and down, then holding a newspaper to her face and leaning toward her daughter:

And it wasn't very hard to make out what she was whispering:

"He must be an ex-con, with all the tattoos..."

She kept whispering about how uncomfortable she felt sitting next to me. So I snapped the above pic and Tweeted, Facebooked and GooglePlussed it. Because I'm social, is why. Plus, I think everyone knows by now, the second I mention I'm anywhere NEAR an airport, they tune right in and just wait for the hijinks to ensue.

Later on in the during the flight, she gave me a weird look when I pulled out my laptop, like "What are YOU doing with a laptop, you convict?" I assume that's what it was like anyway, since it was hard to  understand the noises her face was making as her overly-made-up skin stretched and groaned against its own wrinkles to make that face.

Later on, she mustered up the courage (or, became so unbelievably bored she had no other alternative but) to ask me what the hell I'm all about.

"So, what do you do?" she asked.

"I'm a writer," I responded as I finished typing a sentence, then looked at her.

"Oh!" she said, nodding. It was like she was allowing for the idea that convicts AND writer-types could have tattoos. She then asked, "So, what do you write?"

Without batting an eye, I looked right at her and said "My time in prison."

The look on her face was priceless. It was like I'd just peed on her cat; she was so disgusted and taken aback. Of course, I had to Tweet, Facebook and GooglePlus that too, much to the delight of a LOT of people.

Not much happened after that. She shrunk away from me and leaned toward her daughter to say something, but I couldn't hear what (not that I much cared at this point). A bit later, she decided to reach out again and be kind. She asked me if I wanted her Biscoff cookies.

"No thanks, sugar interferes with my medication," I answered.

It took her a little while, but eventually she asked "So what are you on medication for?"

"HIV," I answered plainly.

You could have cut her head off and used her gaze to peel the paint off a car, she was that horrified by my answer. But the internet was delighted.

Shortly thereafter, I confessed that I'd actually overheard her talking about my tattoos earlier and wanted to just have a little fun with her; that I was 100% healthy and had never been to prison. And she didn't really take that as a joke. She was angry. She didn't say another word, to me or anyone, the rest of the flight.

I had to let her off the hook. I couln't just let her suffer thinking that the guy next to her was one aluminum can accident away from giving her THE AIDS. Or maybe I could have... But I just don't have the heart for it. But, maybe next time, she will think twice before jumping to conclusions about someone based soley on their appearance... Or maybe she won't. Maybe this actually justified the idea that tattooed freaks are actually liars and terrible people.