Earlier this week on a flight from Rochester, NY to Washington DC, I made a new airplane friend! His name is Anwar we hit it off pretty quickly as our flight was held up because they could not get the front door of the plane to close. He is 6’8” and I am 6’3” so, needless to say, there was a lot of man in those two seats! Our talk started, like most small talk does, about the weather and gas prices. The gas was a full dollar cheaper where he was headed in Texas than it was in Rochester. Got to love New York taxes!
Anwar told me his father named him after Egypt’s third President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Anwar Sadat. Originally from the Bronx, NY, he went to college in Philadelphia and played Division I basketball. One of my favorite stories he hold me was about when he was being recruited.
My man lived in a tough spot in the Bronx. There were a lot of drug dealers and other “self-employed” people in his building. Once they found out how good Anwar was at basketball though they all left him alone and did not bother him. They knew he was going to have exciting opportunities in the future. When he started being recruited, the coaches would come to his home to meet him and his family. Brining middle-aged white men into his building looked suspicious to the “entrepreneurs” who lived there. Anwar did not want it to look like he was bringing narcs in, so he had speak really loudly and say things like, “So if I come and play ball for you, I could start AND I would get a scholarship?” That was very eye opening to me. Talk about a problem I would never have to even think about living in white-bread suburbia…and being a barely mediocre basketball player.
Anwar wound up being red-shirted his first season and by his Junior year was starting as a power forward. The stories he shared about being a college athlete were colorful but shall not be repeated. Let’s just say he had a very different experience than I did as a Resident Assistant.
At the end of his senior year he had one more year left of playing eligibility but was also finishing up his biology degree. Anwar decided, kind of on a whim, to take the MCAT. When his score came back way better than he expected he talked to his mom and asked her if he should stay and play one more year or if he should apply to medical school. She asked are you going to make it into the NBA? When he said, “probably not,” she said something to the effect of, “then I think you have your answer.”
Anwar is now practicing emergency medicine in Amarillo, Texas. Emergency medicine has one of the highest burnout rates because of all the serious trauma you are constantly exposed to, but he loves it. My man also has the travel bug. He recently got back from visiting his family in Jamaica. Last year he went to Ibiza, Spain, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and a host of other places. He, most importantly, is a proud father and, perhaps just as important, we are now airplane friends.
If you liked this story, and want to read more like it, feel free to check out the rest of my Airplane Friends posts. Click on this link and scroll down!