Funny on a Plane and NYC Wonder

“Hey, people who travel with their bed pillow. You look insane.” — Jim Gaffigan, comedian

Travel can bring out the best, the worst and the flat-out funniest. My recent trip to ThrillerFest in New York City was no exception. After boarding the plane in Burbank, I settled into my seat, grateful to be yawning. Yes, I thought. I’m going to sleep like a baby. With the subtle rumble of the engine below, the beloved air-pillow I raved about in my travel post and my plush eye mask, how could I not? I felt no shame puffing air into the pillow. Passengers shooting me weird looks would soon be jealous, I figured. Or… not.

I was on my last puff when something snapped. A noise like nothing I’ve heard escaped my wonder-gadget—a loud, gaseous FWAAAAAPPPPPGGGHHHH!!!! The fuzzy mass whipped up in the air, nearly schwacked the woman next to me, then fizzled down into a limp, pitiful blob on my lap. So I did what felt reasonable at the time—acted like it was supposed to happen. (You haven’t heard of those fancy flat pillows? They’re oh-so-popular in Europe. Vogue-esque. Like sleeping on a down pillow, minus the…um…pillow.) I squished it into a lumpy ball, rested my head on it and pretended to sleep. Shortly later, a major neck cramp sent me upright. I spent most of the remaining flight watching late-night TV and daydreaming of the sleep I wasn’t getting.

I didn’t think much more about my flat-and-gaseous pillow episode until a cocktail mixer that night. I was walking around, chatting with authors when I spotted people I recognized. Minutes later, I was face-to-face with friends I’d formerly only known online. As we hugged and chatted, I felt as though I’d known them in-person all along. And when the proverbial “How was your flight?” question arose, I shared my exploding pillow story. Only then did I realize how darn funny it was.

Intermingling in-person makes online relationships fuller, and vice versa. 

Studies have shown that the way we present ourselves on social media tends to be realistic. (I’m sure there are exceptions—criminals who use alternate identities to manipulate others, for example.) And I believe that friends met online are real, not virtual. But if I hadn’t have met these blogging pals in person, I wouldn’t have heard Rachel Funk Heller‘s sing-song laugh, admired Amy Shojai‘s sparkly bling or Melinda VanLone‘s sweetness, exchanged knowing looks with Ingrid Schaffenburg who seems to understand, well, everything, or felt the tenseness in the room soften when during a serious discussion, Kristen Lamb said, “Today is the best time to be an author.” Running into Diane Capri and Lee Child on 42nd Street was another highlight; they are quite the handsome pair. 😉

Melinda, Me and Rachel

Connecting with others makes our lives fuller.  

My favorite thing about ThrillerFest boils down to one word—people. Not just any people, but spectacular people who seem to “get” one another. (If there are so many of us, how can we possibly be crazy??? ;)) If you have the chance to attend a conference with people who share your passion, I hope you’ll go for it. It’s stimulating in way that’s difficult to describe.

I also spent time with my brother and his girlfriend—terrific people and artists, made new friends, met with my awesome agent, got a new request for my manuscript from a publisher (WOOT!) and had the opportunity to thank several authors in person for writing books I adore. Unlike many Hollywood celebs, the ultra-famous authors were giving and approachable. We aren’t in competition with one another, a couple of speakers said. I think that’s largely because we choose not to be. There’s plenty of room on the book shelves—and e-shelves—for more books and authors. If we choose to build each other up, we all grow—and not at the sake of our own success. Valuable lessons for anyone.

So I’m back in L.A. with my deflated air-pillow, which I haven’t had the heart to throw away. I’m pretty tired, but far more grateful.  Unlike the air in my pillow, the memories are sure to last a lifetime. 😉

I’d love to hear from you. What’s your most hilarious travel experience? Have you made friends online, then met in person? What conference rocks your world?

As a reminder, I’m accepting “I’m a writer!” photos until July 21st. I’ve received some GREAT ones, and would love more. For basic information, visit The Freedom to Write

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72 Comments

  1. Laughing at the image of that pillow! ;-D – I probably would have burst out laughing, but then I’m always living in the absurd . . . ungh.

    I have met people from online – including someone who came here all the way from Sweden!

    Reply
    • Laughing would’ve been another great response! 😉 Love that you’ve met people online, even from my (sort of) homeland.

      Reply
      • It was pretty kewl – he is a Bosnian who refuge’ed to Sweden. A nice guy and gifted writer.

  2. prudencemacleod

     /  July 17, 2012

    Hey August, I had a fine giggle over the pillow. I agree 100%, it is the people who make the world turn and enrich our lives. So glad you had fun and shared. I feel I know some fellow bloggers even better now.
    Bless., Pru

    Reply
  3. You know you’re a writer when: you can make a story out of a deflated air pillow! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Author Kristen Lamb

     /  July 17, 2012

    I think we need a blog reenactment of this deflating pillow :D. It is funny how social media can be such a blessing with the right approach. I really do love my WANA peeps, and I just love all of you all the more when I get to meet you in person. I know we are all soul peeps and it is funny how meeting a WANA has never been weird or awkward or different, only AWESOME. Can’t wait to see you in L.A. Lots of love!

    Reply
    • You’re so right, Kristen. I bet we could even burst pillows together with comfy ease. (How’s that for the vlog premise??? ;)) I can’t tell you how wonderful it was meeting and chatting with you in person. The conference was lucky to have you—the WANAs too!

      Reply
  5. 😀 Thanks for calling us a “handsome pair” August and not mentioning how we look like the Giant and the Sprout! Honestly, I’m TALLER THAN AVERAGE!!!

    Reply
  6. Loved the story of the pillow! Sounds like something that would happen to me. I’m so glad you had such a great time in NYC. It’s amazing how much the Internet has changed people’s lives for the better. And big congrats on the request from the publisher. Keep us posted!

    Reply
  7. Hilarious! I could see that happening to me, so I am not going to buy one!

    Reply
    • To be fair, I’m pretty sure I did something wrong and broke it. If you change your mind, I might suggest toting duct tape. 😉

      Reply
  8. hehehe that story still makes me giggle. This had to have been the best conference I’ve ever attended, simply because I met in person so many virtual friends. Now you’re all real! I’ve had hugs…that’s as real as it gets. Wish I’d seen Lee and Diane walking together *grin*. Gosh that guy is tall!

    Reply
    • So glad you had a blast, too, Melinda. (No pun intended! ;)) Funny thing about Lee—he doesn’t seem as tall while talking to him. I’m not sure if this is because he lowers down physically or is just so darn nice. Maybe both.

      Reply
  9. Coleen Patrick

     /  July 17, 2012

    Awesome story–and it sounds like you didn’t need the pillow after all, you got your “boost” from your friends and Thriller fest!! And a big Yay! for the manuscript request!! 🙂 Happy you had such a great time August!

    Reply
    • Aw… Well said, Coleen! 🙂 Pals are better than booster chairs and pillow combined. Hope to meet you in person one of these days!

      Reply
  10. Pillow story was laugh out loud funny! It was great seeing you, August! Congrats on all the T-Fest success. Hope our paths cross again soon,

    Reply
  11. On the way to ThrillerFest I rushed to make a connecting flight, quick-walked onto the plane, checked my boarding pass for the seat number, squeezed my bag into the overhead compartment, sat down, buckled in, and began to relax. The guy to my left and the lady to my right were nice, and the three of us were having a good conversation before the crew closed the doors of the plane. I should have known it was too good to be true.

    A few minutes later a passenger walked onto the plane and passed our row. He looked up and down from seats to the seat numbers posted overhead. He walked back and forth, then went to the front of the plane and disappeared around the corner. A moment later a flight attendant approached our row, looked at me, and asked for my boarding pass. The plane went completely quiet. You know–the old “coulda heard a pin drop” scene. The attendant took my pass and exited the plane. When she came back, she said, in a voice loud enough for everyone on the entire plane to hear, “You’re in the wrong seat. You’re sitting in row 10B, but you’re supposed to be in row 23C.” She handed my boarding pass to me. I looked at it, and thought, “I’m not that scatter-brained. I’ve been flying for years, and I’d never make a mistake like that. Besides, it says right here: B10.” I then realized I was looking at the departure gate number, and not the seat number.

    So, in front of a planeload (and it was a big plane, too) of people, I identified myself as the writer who could not read well enough to find the right seat. Fortunately, my new seatmates were a couple of kind, gracious Canadians, and they never mentioned my reading comprehension skills. 😉

    Reply
    • Ha! Great story, Michael. Traveling doesn’t get more human than that! I’d blame your conference enthusiasm. Perhaps you were practicing your pitch. 😉

      Reply
  12. Ha! August, now you know why I was drummed out of CNN… I laugh too much and can’t take all that stuff so seriously. I am so sorry to hear about the pillow…. as one who loves her creature comforts I can certainly sympathize. We should have had a burial ceremony for it while we were in NYC. But this gives you a legitimate excuse to go shopping? yes? And I’m seriously thinking we should create a WANA Tribe conference…. somehwere… soon!

    Reply
  13. I love meeting people I’ve met online!

    Reply
  14. You are the queen of the quick cover-up! First your little gym “incident” and now with the flying and flatulent pillow. I could learn a thing or two from you. Oh, wait, I already have. 🙂

    Reply
  15. Sounds like a blast! I would LOVE to go next year.
    I agree about bloggers and know that I am more “myself” in my writing. Besides I never blab on about this or that when I am with my friends. Okay maybe I do! Hahaha!
    Thanks for the heads up literally! I will stick to my stuffed neck pillow from Target! 🙂

    Reply
  16. Hello August!
    It sounds like you had a blast in NYC & on the airplane meeting people you know from online. I had some good smiles from all the great pictures! I haven’t met my writer/blogger buddies from online, & I look forward to the day when I can meet them/you! First, I hve to start travelling more.

    A request to see your manuscript? That’s incredible news!! I’m sending them lots of positive energy so that they can see the opportunity in front of their eyes. As for funny travelling stories, none that I recall. I always thought it was funny when I was in my 20s, I would make a big deal out of flying in an airplane for the first time with that boyfriend. In my 30s, I didn’t do much travelling with guys.

    Monique

    Reply
    • Traveling with guys is overrated. KIDDING! Well, depends on the guy. 😉 Thanks for the support! I’d love (and plan) to meet you someday.

      Reply
      • I think I made travelling into this big deal as I did w/all stuff in my life in my 20s. My 30s were better with guys, just not with my health. I have a gut feeling we’ll meet, especially with the different conferences.
        I’ve always loved NYC. I would love to spend at least 2 whole days @ The Met Museum of Art. I have been many times before, but not enough time all at once.

  17. Loved this post, August. And what you said about getting to know the little details about people you meet in person is so true. We love each other online, but when we finally meet in person, it changes the relationship and makes it stronger.

    Welcome home! 🙂

    Reply
  18. I agree with you about meeting cyberfriends in person. Had that opportunity at DFW Conference in May and met many wonderful writers from all over.

    Reply
  19. Wow. You are quick at the cover story! 😀 I have a blowup travel pillow, but I hardly ever take it. Meeting our cyberfriends is the best! I’ve been lucky enough to meet Christine Ashworth and Tameri Etherton. Love them both to death! Fabulous women! I was also pleased to meet Sheri Fink through Tameri this last weekend. Now I’m looking forward to meeting many more in a matter of days! 😀 Isn’t it wonderful how real everyone is simply through our on-line interaction from the start?

    Reply
    • Envious that you’ve met Tameri! I hope to change that soon—and meet YOU. 🙂 Meeting online is awesome, for writers in particular. We’re our best selves when typing. lol

      Reply
  20. That pillow thing happened to me on a flight to Scotland. Except, my head was resting peacefully on it when it decided to blow. Dang thing knocked me against the window. I still have mine as well. Why? Because you just never know if you might need a deflated pillow, I guess!

    I loved seeing the pictures over the weekend from all your Thrillerfest peeps. Getting to meet our online friends offline is such a treat. It sounds like your weekend was ultra fabulous, just like yourself. What a gorgeous picture of you, Melinda, and Rachel.

    Adding on to what Debra said above, we get to meet YOU in a few days, right?

    Reply
    • Ha! See? I just knew the deflated thingies were hip. Keeping mine for sure.

      Yes, I believe we’re meeting soon. Not sure when/how exactly yet, but must make it happen. 🙂

      Reply
  21. I am sooo jealous!!! I wish I could meet all of you in person and like Kristen said, I have no doubt there’d be no awkwardness or weirdness…it’d just be…BETTER! You guys have become my BFFs and putting a real face and voice to the experience would only go to enhance it. Alas, all the way over here in broke-ass New Brunswick, we hold out for someday attending a conference and partying it up with y’all face-to-face Maritimer style…squeee…till then…y’all are my besties…period!
    And love the travel pillow story. I was roaring picturing it happening. Sucks but definitely funny…LOL!!! Here’s to finding a new one before your next flight that can handle your…ummm…breath support! LOL!!
    MUAH!
    xoxoxo
    Someday you’ll see me doing photo bombs in all y’alls pictures. WAHAHA!

    Reply
    • So how do we get broke-ass New Brunswick to host a fest??? 😉 We’d all probably burst like air-pillows when you entered the room.

      Breath support—LOL! Maybe that’s my super power. Can’t wait to photo bomb with you!

      Reply
  22. I’ve loved seeing all the photos and hearing all the stories from Thrillerfest! Congrats on getting a request for your novel from another publisher. I’m sure we’ll be celebrating somethinge exciting soon. 🙂 And thanks for sharing the pillow story, I’ll be opting out of blow up things on planes!

    A few years back I traveled to Pa. to attend a writer’s conference. It was one of the best experiences of my life, just being around other writers and people in the business. You can’t put a price on that sense of belonging and feeling like you’re with people who “get you.”

    Reply
    • Such experiences really are priceless, Shannon. I’ll take one over an exotic island getaway any day. Now, if we can combine the two… 😉 Thanks for the cheers!

      Reply
  23. The air pillow story is a gas! LOL! And your reaction, acting like it was supposed to happen, makes it even funnier! I know I must have some funny travel stories (even though I seldom travel), but they’re not coming to mind. (I think my mind is about as organized as my desk because I can never find anything that I’m searching for!)

    I haven’t met my online friends in person yet, but I can’t wait until I do! I feel like I know these people so well and it would be great to meet them in person. Great pic of you, Melinda, and Rachel. How fun that you got to meet up with some of our WANA peeps!

    Reply
    • A gas—ha! Ever considered doing standup, Lynn? Seems natural to me. And your mind is probably so full of awesome thoughts and information, it’s tough to search quickly. 😉
      I bet you really do know many of your blog-friends. Judging from those I’ve met, you do!

      Reply
  24. Too funny about your pillow! And I’m jealous. It sounds (and looks) like that was a great conference with fantastic authors!

    My funniest travel experience? There really aren’t any that involve the actual travel, but while visiting my father in Tennessee, we decided to lunch at Captain D’s…where my four year old son promptly threw up on a table. I have a terribly weak stomach, so I grabbed my infant daughter and fled to the car…where I started laughing uncontrollably. It was amazing how many people were suddenly finished with their lunch. 🙂

    Reply
  25. Raani York

     /  July 17, 2012

    Another great blog post August – another one that made me laugh, trying to figure out how I would have reacted in the same situation. LOL
    I LOVE your writing style!

    One of my funniest travel experience? *chuckle*
    When I stepped through the security it started beeping and didn’t stop. I took my watch off, even my socks, my necklace, my sweater – at the end I just wore a tank top, underwear and pants and it still beeped. The security guy got help and at the end there were six of them standing and still couldn’t find out what it was that beeped. It was not the metal in my bra…
    At the end the “original” security guy asked me. “Ma’am, are you wearing a belt?” I looked at him with the tiniest smirk and replied: “Other than my garter belt? Nope.”
    Sheeeesh – I just could have rolled on the ground about their half embarrassed and half double-checking looks underneath my belt line…
    It was completely silent before I suddenly couldn’t hold back and burst out laughing. And they all joined in.
    At the end it was my bracelet that had beeped… *chuckle* – It thought me to take it off during the security check – and I would not recomment saying something like this when a security woman is present. LOL

    You know, it seems like you’re enjoying meeting different people too that you’re “met” online before.
    I wish we could meet when I’m back in California next time. *sigh*

    Thanks for another great post!!

    Reply
    • Other than your garter belt? Ha! Raani, you are too awesome. 🙂 Thanks so much for the support, and for sharing your story. I hope we have a chance to meet in person, too!

      Reply
  26. I think this is one of my favorite one of your posts. Ever. And I love a lot of your posts. I wish I had been on your list of people you had met. It will happen. Eventually.

    I do have a horrible airplane story, but I think I might save it and link back to this post.

    And I almost forgot, I need to send you my pic! Going to do it now!

    Reply
  27. Too funny! I can so see this happening. Sure wish I could have gone to Thrillerfest. I’ve been wanting to go for years. Maybe next year.

    Reply
  28. How cute are you?! And your dang airplane pillow. LOL

    I’m so happy you had a blast in NYC! You met some amazing peeps! I know how recharged I felt after coming back from DFW and you’re totally right, it’s about the people! They’re so much fun! I met Kristen, Ingrid, and Melinda! Jealous you all met Rachel and Diane! Wave hi for me!

    Reply
  29. mgedwards

     /  July 17, 2012

    Too funny, August! You know, when I was a I kid, we used to call those “whoopie cushions.” 🙂 Whew, I’m glad it ended well. You never know whether the airlines will confiscate it for who-knows-what. ThrillerFest sounds awesome! I’m happy to hear you were able to meet up with colleagues and friends. I hope to do the same someday! Enjoy NYC and keep the great posts coming!

    Reply
  30. Karen McFarland

     /  July 17, 2012

    Isn’t it funny how small our world becomes when we get the opportunity to finally meet people in person? That has to be one of the coolest things! You guys had a blast. Thanks for sharing your pictures and memories! It’s almost like we were there with you. NOT. LOL! My husband and I invested in those blow-up air pillows and I can’t say they blew up, but I’ve had them deflate and wake up with a kinked neck. NYC is such a vibrant city. So glad you got to attend the conference and see family. 🙂

    Reply
  31. I have never had the chance to attend a writer’s conference but I would love to. In India we don’t have such open conferences.

    Reply
    • That’s too bad, Ria. India is fantastic in so many other ways. 🙂 Have you ever ordered the recordings from conferences? I know it’s not the same, but last year I ordered disks of the panels I missed at ThrillerFest, and got a great deal out of them.

      Reply
  32. I used to travel alot for work. stories abound but I’m off to work. It is a treat to meet people F2F when we’ve known them online. totally agree. a fun post, August. thx for sharing your journey

    Reply
  33. Was the guy who sold you the cushion wearing a red nose and oversized shoes? 😉

    Reply
  34. Kourtney Heintz

     /  July 18, 2012

    August sounds likes a terrific experience. I’ll definitely put it on my list of conferences to check out! I had some great conference experiences with MWA. Killer Nashville was warm and welcoming, Crimebake was a rollicking adventure. For pitching, I love Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam. But I met my crit partner and dear friend at a SCBWI conference so that stands out as one of the best.

    Reply
  35. mgmillerbooks

     /  July 18, 2012

    Congrats on the request! It’s getting closer every day.

    Heh, that pillow 😉 Like to’ve seen that.

    I’ve met tons of people from online, and mostly it’s good. Mostly. When I was promoting the magazine at conferences I got to meet a lot of people I’d rejected. That was . . . nice.

    Reply
  36. This isn’t a hilarious travel moment but memorable. On our flight from SFO to Paris, the man behind us had the WORST B.O. EVER! The plane reeked. We had to breathe through our airline-issued blanket. Then, the man proceeded to talk through the “lights out, everyone try to sleep time.” It was completely unlike me, but I turned around and told him to shut-up. He had the nerve to say, “What, is there a rule about talking?” I said, “Yes! Common courtesy!” GRRRRRR.

    Reply
  37. Ah, simply wonderful! There isn’t a single moment I spend on the Web were I don’t wonder what it would be like to meet my favourite bloggers and Twitter friends. One thing that has definitely made it onto my Bucket List is getting to meet in person all the wonderful people I’ve met in Cyberspace. Seems strange to connect so strongly with people we have never met in person, but it is real. Very real. One day though, one day… 😉

    Reply
  38. Last time I flew, I got red flagged for having an unopened jar of creamy peanut butter in my carry-on. It was a silly little gift to the girl I was visiting. She sits around eating it by the spoonful. (broke, hard working college girl) Anyhow, when they took it, they set it up on a shelf, while other confiscated items went into a great big bin, presumably for garbage. I was livid. I mean, I’m the anti-terrorist profile. Overweight, middle class, housewife. When have you heard (EVER) of someone like me bombing a plane with creamy peanut butter? I ranted aloud. Meanwhile, some very profilable terrorist types walked right through security without being accosted, or searched. It was ridiculous. I’m sure many people thought it was funny that the fat chick got the full security rigamarow for having peanut butter in her carryon. But…come on…really?

    Reply
  39. becca puglisi

     /  July 19, 2012

    HI, August! Now that I have toddlers, I don’t have typical funny travel stories anymore. Now I’m a little more sadistic and get my kicks seeing all the please-dont-sit-next-to-me looks as we board the plane. My kids are actually great travelers, but for some reason, I kind of like freaking everyone out.

    Glad you have a good time at Thrillerfest. I’ve heard nothing but great things :).

    Reply
  40. EllieAnn

     /  July 19, 2012

    I love the way you put this. Better in person just makes things fuller. And it’s so hard to hide who you truly are online.
    I’d love to meet you someday. I hope we can. =)

    Reply
  41. August, exploding pillow! love it! hee hee. My most awkward travel moment was in the days when luggage shot down a shoot from the ceiling onto the turntable. Well, when my garment bag hook came out on the way down it got stuck and clogged up all the luggage. There I was, in a dress and heels, navigating the turntable going round and round as I tried to grab my garment bag hanging from a chute in the ceiling.

    Again, sorry we didnt connect at TFest! But I sat next to Amy Shojai and quite admired her bling – indeed! And the best part of TFest was the people, especially to meet in person so many from online. It IS a great time to be an author!

    Reply
  42. Thrillerfest sounds like a hoot, I’m sorry to have missed it.

    As it happens I went in the other direction – to LA. Well, ok, Long Beach. Remarkably it involved a coupe of the best behaved (and sleepy) babies I ever met on a plane!

    Cheers!

    Reply
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