Cat Men

"I'm a cat man" boasted my employee proudly. I looked doubtfully at my passenger who was my helper for an hour. I was driving to my least favorite superstore in the world to pick up steel folding chairs for the employee breakroom. My shoes du jour were sensible red and white gingham peep toes with shiny red three-inch heels. Equally sensible was my all-white ensemble, perfect attire for a manufacturing environment.

My companion smiled as he told me about Tiger, the cat that recognized the sound of his truck returning home. The feline would push apart the mini blinds to watch him at the window. I suddenly remembered another "cat man" that I met on a flight from Atlanta to JFK in the summer of 1994.

My sister and I were on the first leg of our trip to France. As we boarded the plane, we realized that we were not seated together as requested. Liz was directly in front of me on the aisle, with two very cute guys sharing her row. I seethed with jealousy as I saw my seat neighbor. He was a very talkative, forty-something, dread-locked New Yorker who was already slightly inebriated. I glared at the back of my sister's seat and cursed her good fortune. I pulled out the emergency card from the seat pocket and feigned great interest in the location of the emergency exits. My safety mindedness did not discourage the "Chat Man" who was quite the talker. When the drink and pretzel cart stopped at our row, he demanded an alcoholic beverage. Unfortunately, the flight attendant had no change for his twenty dollar bill. Chat Man ordered five drinks and insisted that I have one as apparently four was his limit. Never the kind of girl to pass on a free drink I accepted and resigned myself to a full hour of slurred conversation.

I peered through the seat crack, curious to see what Liz was doing. She appeared to be twisted as far away as possible from her seat neighbor and looked like she was praying. Nosy, I stood up and pretended to stretch. Gross. "Cute Boy" was picking a scabs on his arm and flicking them. I labeled him "Potential Serial Killer" and sat down, smiling at my loquacious companion.

Chat Man told me about his cat, Rambo. This fearless feline roamed the halls of his New York City apartment building. When Rambo was ready to return to the apartment, he leaped up to ring the doorbell. No one taught him this trick. Smart cat. Chat Man and I shared pet stories until we parted ways at the JFK Airport. Liz refused to discuss her unusual seat companion as we walked to our connecting flight.

Two cat men. Years apart. My unwitting super heroes saving me from an evil superstore and a potential serial killer with their Tiger Tales and Rambo Ramblings.

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