I’m on a flight sitting next to Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau and I have a lot of questions.
Questions about how Doonesbury started. Questions about the Doonesbury strips he liked the most. Questions about the strips he liked least.
For me, this is out of character, for I make it a point to never talk to the person sitting next to me on a flight. Especially a long flight. And this one qualifies.
We are flying from Washington, D.C. to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Afghanistan. We are on a USO trip to visit the troops in Kandahar.
But this is Garry Trudeau. And I have questions.
Making my mouth move even more freely are the Sierra Nevada beers I pounded at the United Airlines lounge just before getting on the flight. (My goal was to get so drunk that my buzz would carry me through the next seven days of alcohol-free Afghanistan.)
Before I know it, three hours have passed and I’m still asking questions.
That’s when Garry puts his index finger to his lips and says, “Shhh. We should probably keep our voices down. The guy on the other side of me is trying to sleep.”
That’s when I notice we are the last two guys with our overhead lights on. We are the last two guys awake.
But that doesn’t stop me. So I keep firing away. Only quieter.
Questions about what it’s like to win a Pulitzer. Questions about what inspires him. Questions about any regrets he may have.
And then it happened. I don’t know exactly when it happened. Or how. All I know is that I had asked him this question about regrets and then looked over at this legend of syndicated cartooning and saw it with my own two bloodshot eyes.
Garry Trudeau was wearing noise-canceling headphones.
Because of me.
The guy he had chosen to sit next to.
At least now I knew one of his regrets.