On the flight to Charlotte, I sat next to a talker. He was a wiry old man with a fringe of white hair around the back of his head and some long white hairs sticking out of his neck.
His stories included becoming a homeless orphan on the streets of London during World War II, graduating from Cambridge, a practical joke on the Queen of England, writing jokes for the Benny Hill show, adopting four orphans, one of whom was killed at the Pentagon on 9/11, holding off 20,000 Vietnamese soldiers for a week with ex-lax in their rice. This guy is either a pathological liar or he has really accomplished a lot in his life.
He began by telling me he was the Chief Technical Officer of a company and was flying to Charlotte for some medical treatment. He gave me his business card to show that his business is all about alternative energy. He explained that the profits from the company go to make prosthetic limbs for people in African countries who have been tortured and mutilated. This is all very admirable and I'm beginning to be impressed.
"And if we find the torturers, we annihilate them," he said.
I look away at that point...cause what can that mean for this skinny old man whose hands shake?
"Well, if someone doesn't take care of them, they'll spread, like the Nazis," but he pronounced it Naazis with a nasal A sound like someone from Minnesota rather than England.
It was a little difficult to hear all of his stories on the small noisy planes, but he claimed he holds the patent on the "after burner" that runs jets and that he was test pilot on the Concorde.
All of this success, made me wonder why he was scrunched into a seat on a Continental flight rather than flying in his own plane. Oh, he had his own plane that he designed and built but it was in Texas. He only takes enough money from his business to live on and the rest goes to charity, he said.
"For the benefit of the environment and future generations" reads the line on his business cards.
He claims when he was orphaned in World War II he would take the clothes off dead bodies to keep warm.
He also says he has written a book that makes calculus and algebra unnecessary. He can do calculations on his fingers faster than and calculator or computer. One of his jobs while in college was to collect rats for scientific experiments and one night as he was climbing out of a coal bin with a sack full of rats, the police arrested him thinking he was a burglar. He wouldn't show them what was in the sack until they called the police to come to the station. That's when he emptied the sack on the floor and two dozen rats scattered throughout the police station.
"You can read all about these things. It's right in those papers," he pointed toward the overhead bin.
"Oh, you've written a memoir?" I asked him.
"No, but Hollywood wants to make a movie of my life," he said. "They're just waiting for some things to be declassified."
I think that's true for most of us.
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