Intersections – The Thing About Bubbas
By Nicki Salcedo
I took a drive to Augusta, Georgia this weekend, and it’s no surprise that I met a Bubba there. I meet Bubbas everywhere. They find me.
I grew up in Stone Mountain. There was a Bubba in my high school. He played some kind of sport. I was not friends with that Bubba, but I made assumptions about him based on his name. Boys named Bubba don’t like Star Trek or poetry or eating spicy food. I assumed that after high school there would be no more Bubbas in my life. I was wrong.
Years ago, I was on a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco and happened to sit among a trio of men. They wore work boots and still had the dust from a day’s work stuck to their sunburnt faces. I didn’t need to see beneath their collars to know their necks were red. As I buckled in, I began to worry. The man next to me was nervous about flying. All three of them seemed to be inexperienced travelers. I had a book I wanted to read and a crossword puzzle to tackle and five hours trapped in the air with these guys.
The first thing they did was introduce themselves. They were from Shreveport, Louisiana.
“I’m Bubba, that’s Bubba over there, and this is Buddha,” one said to me. Two Bubbas I could understand, but the third had reached full spiritual enlightenment? I’d watched enough of the TV show “Newhart” to wonder if this was a joke. Had they just Larry, Darryl, and Darryled me? They assured me it was the truth. They were co-workers going to work on the Alaska pipeline.
One of the Bubbas had taken a short flight within Louisiana one time. It was Buddha’s first time on an airplane.
A business man in the row ahead of us turned his body in our direction, and I could tell he was paying attention to our introductions in case something uncomfortable happened. I didn’t belong with these Bubbas, but nothing uncomfortable happened. I seemed worldly to them. “You must be smart,” the other Bubba said has he looked at my book. It was a historical romance novel.
I closed the book and invited them to talk to me. They wanted to talk. I thought it was to calm Buddha’s anxiety. Maybe it was. But they were three guys who liked to talk and liked to meet new people and didn’t worry about details like being different from me.
During that five hour flight, I learned about fishing and what brings three men to leave home for six months. They claimed Shreveport was a very small city. Too small for these Bubbas, but they had a lot of affection for their families and friends back home. After talking for only an hour, they had a lot of affection for me, too.
“Is your boyfriend nice to you?” they asked. They watched my face closely when I responded. Each man bowed up like warriors who might have to go kick some ass when the plane landed.
“He is nice,” I told them. Bubba, Bubba, and Buddha relaxed visibly, and we continued to talk for five hours. My book sat unread. I never started the crossword puzzle. I figured Buddha would not be nervous on his next flight.
I put on some makeup as the plane started to descend. “You do not need makeup,” Buddha said. One of the Bubbas agreed. “You’re pretty without it.” Every once in a while I hear Buddha’s voice when I look at mascara.
There have been lots of Bubbas in my life since then. There have been Skips and Chips and Juniors and Billy Bobs, but they don’t hold a candle to the Bubbas.
This weekend I went to a book event, and as I set up a burly, bearded, tattooed man approached. “Are you Nicki Salcedo?” he asked me, and then handed me an envelope. There are a lot of assumptions you can make about a woman named Nicki. That Prince song has not helped me. Then again maybe it has. Nicki is either naughty or a cheerleader or both. I admit that the edgy parts of my wardrobe come from The GAP, and I smell like IKEA.
I give off enough warning signs that Bubbas should stay away from me. They should assume that I don’t love football or conversations on a plane. But Bubbas know better than that.
When I opened the envelope, I found a birthday card for me signed by Bubba and his girlfriend. She is an avid reader. They drove from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Augusta, Georgia to attend a book event. He called me “ma’am” in that polite sweet way that Northern women can’t appreciate. He carried a box for me. He told me the story of how he met his girlfriend. I signed a book for them.
My new friend Bubba is a tattoo artist. He probably noticed that I have none. The closest thing I have to a tattoo are some scars on my face. One is shaped like two moons. He probably noticed that I am different from him, but he did not judge me for my silly name or the things I am and am not.
Bubba is a derivation of the word “Brother” and having only sisters, a brother is a nice thing to have every now and then. That’s the thing about Bubbas. Every now and then a Bubba just might brighten your day.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.