How Not to Get Washboard Abs (ie, the Atomic Sit Up), Nasty Airline Passengers and Other Topics of Conversation With Mormons in Row 16

Mormons: They’re not all full of hot air. I was about three f-bombs into animated conversation with my Row 16 seatmates on a recent flight when I realized they were both Mormons. Oops. I blame my idiocy on exhaustion and having to run like a scalded-ass ape to make the flight, but somehow the fact [...]

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Mormons: They’re not all full of hot air.

I was about three f-bombs into animated conversation with my Row 16 seatmates on a recent flight when I realized they were both Mormons.

Oops.

I blame my idiocy on exhaustion and having to run like a scalded-ass ape to make the flight, but somehow the fact that we were departing from Salt Lake City — and that one of them was wearing a BYU cap — didn’t register.

It didn’t matter, though. These two good-natured dudes, who were friends and co-workers headed to San Francisco on business, barely flinched at my sailor’s mouth, and the two-hour flight felt like 20 minutes as we laughed, talked, and laughed some more over everything from ill-behaving passengers to the gloriously disgusting Atomic Sit-Up (more on that below). It was the most fun I’ve had with strangers since that out-of-control kegger senior year at college (I’m kidding, Dad – put your eyeballs back in their sockets).

I’m not sure why I was so pleasantly surprised, though. You see, my brother is a Mormon, and despite our religious differences, he’s one of my favorite people in the world. He’s adventurous, quick to laugh, and heartwarmingly devoted to his lovely wife and their two boys. He’s also funny as hell – as were Ryan and Travis, my Row 16 seatmates, and so many other Mormons seem to be (one notable exception: Mitt Romney).

In addition to an ache in my side from laughing, my short time with these two delightful fellows brought some deeper insights. I hope they had a great time in San Francisco (despite our city’s proliferation of hipsters and dive bars), and that I’ll be as lucky with my seatmates on the next bursting-at-the-gills flight.

1) People will always surprise you. The first 20 or so minutes in, my ego grew to Kanye West-like proportions as Ryan asked about my career as a freelance writer, my favorite countries, and how cool it all sounded. But I eventually learned he had quite the travel chops himself: he’d circumnavigated the globe, met a Brazilian babe along the way whom he later married, and nearly had their honeymoon cut short when a catfight broke out on a local bus in Guatemala, the fracas threatening to send the vehicle hurtling off the mountainside. All of which bucked the preconceived notions I’d (shamefully) had of him as a dime-a-dozen sales guy who only traveled for work.

2) Bathroom humor can be a great common bond.  As anyone who knows a former or current BYU student is probably aware, just because one doesn’t drink doesn’t mean he can’t partake in some ridiculous male-bonding buffoonery. Case in point: the Atomic Sit-Up, wherein one unlucky victim, instead of demonstrating the superhuman power of his washboard abs, finds himself with a face full of bare ass. (I’ll let you do a search on YouTube for what exactly that looks like.) Travis had been an observer of the ritual once, but as I explained it to Ryan, who’d never heard of it, we all burst out in such riotous laughter that heads swiveled to see what the commotion was all about, and the Tim Gunn-lookalike flight attendant pulled his manicured eyebrows into yet another scowl at us.

3) When in doubt over differences, laugh. Ok. So. I think the Mormon church’s beliefs about homosexuality are despicable, its theory that only Mormons will attain the afterlife is ridiculous and its slow-to-evolve view of women as primarily baby-makers and hearth-tenders, just plain insulting (note: my brother, and presumably Ryan and Travis, does not fall into the latter category). But that didn’t keep the three of us in Row 16 from having a blast. Heck, Travis, a Philly native, left BYU because he felt it was too sheltered and insular, and Ryan told me he could curse in several languages, which in my book earned them big points for having a worldview and perspective that some of their more devout brethren seem to be lacking.

Point is, sometimes we can all just get along. And while I’m not sure the most well-known of Mormons these days would make a great president, I know of at least two who make great seatmates.

Photo credit: Arbyreed.

1 Comment »

  1. Nicely done Blane! Another out of the park article, I loved every word of this and wish I could have been sitting on the plane with you, reminds me of our gondola conversation in the Rocky Mountains. Miss you darling!

    Comment by Heather's Harmony — August 16, 2012 @ 10:21 am

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