From the Wing: A Close Encounter of the Trail Blazer Kind

This may shock you in light of the millions of pageviews this site receives every day, but I have a day job. For this job, I am spending a few days in Portland for a conference. A few days ago, I flew from DC to Portland, with a stop in Dallas. I could get into how I woke up in Philadelphia the day of my flight without having brought the luggage for my Portland trip, setting in motion a protracted low-budget episode of The Amazing Race across DC and its Virginia suburbs, but then I would have nothing to document on my travelogue Pinterest (it isn’t just for bridesmaids’ dresses and baked goods anymore!)

Instead, I’ll tell you all about a curious thing that happened on the Dallas-Portland leg of the flight. I was assigned seat 23F, a window seat over a wing. A good place, I thought, to read my copy of Skymall and wonder aloud whether the self-cleaning litterbox would look better in red or beige. Right as I settled into my seat, however, I saw a very, very tall man walking down the aisle. I thought to myself, “Damn, it’s probably really uncomfortable to be that tall on a plane. Moreover, whoever has to sit next to…” I couldn’t finish the thought because the man had already settled into 23E and taken both armests, so I had to switch my Skymall out for a paperback (Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, highly recommended) to conserve elbow space. We exchanged hellos, and the plane took off.

The flight departed at around 10 PM, a time when most people on a three-hour flight with no in-flight entertainment would want to sleep. My two row-mates did just that, and I was left with a dilemma: do I turn my light on? I agonized over this decision for several minutes. I finally decided there was no way it was bright enough to disrupt someone’s slumber, so I turned it on, and obviously the bulb got lit up like Heath Bell in a save situation. My neighbor stirred a bit, but settled back to sleep. A success, I thought. Shortly thereafter, I looked down to retrieve a dropped bookmark, and I saw that the man was wearing socks with the NBA logo. These were very nice looking socks. They looked to be made of some sort of very fine material, as far as athletic socks go. “Guy must be a very big fan,” I thought, “those socks probably run like $20 a pair. Why would anyone have those?”

Why *would* anyone have those? I mean, an NBA players probably receive a bunch of pairs. Maybe this guy knew an NBA player? There was no way he WAS an NBA player, right? A 6’6″ NBA player wouldn’t be on a red-eye from Dallas to Portland in coach, in a MIDDLE SEAT. It wasn’t first class, it wasn’t a chartered private jet with models as stewardesses or a galley full of magnums of champagne. He wasn’t even in an exit row with extra legroom. So, it was especially weird when I glanced over and saw a boarding pass with the name BARTON, WILLIAM on it. I knew that name.

I knew that name because I played my roommate in NBA 2K13 as the Trail Blazers a ton of times, and the backup shooting guard, one WILL BARTON, absolutely cannot make a shot in that game. He and Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland come in and stink the place up, every time, without fail. This is the one thing I knew about Will Barton, except that he was still on the team and didn’t score very much, or get many minutes. I now knew I was sitting next to this guy, disturbing his slumber with my selfish desire to read late-20th century fiction. Perhaps it was because of inconsiderate plane neighbors like me that he never got his three-point shot right. I was the reason for my own 2K dismantling. This is why I didn’t give him any inclination that I knew who he was. This is why I didn’t comment on his decision to order a cran-apple juice. (I love that juice! I didn’t know they had such niche juices on domestic flights anymore!) I did, however, do some investigative reporting, and picked up his boarding pass after he left the plane, so that people would believe me, even though sitting next to Will Barton would be a very bizarre thing to lie about.


The fact that a man who made over $900,000 last year was sitting in that seat was not very NBA at all. I guess it’s good to know that he wasn’t buying a new wardrobe in every city just to avoid packing, like Allen Iverson did. Good on you, Will Barton, for not caring about my light pollution and not caring when I peeked at your group iMessage, which was probably with Damian Lillard, Lamarcus Aldridge, Shaq, Michael Jordan, and every other cool person ever. Tell them I said “hi.”

One Comments

  1. Post By Nate

    He got much better this season. He played playoff minutes, at times even late game. The dude is a streaky shooter, and is more beast in real life than on 2k14, but I believe with the season updates his shot picked up quite a bit. He’s athletic as s— though, for real.

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