There were two distinctly Iowan qualities in the woman behind the ticket counter at the Cedar Rapids airport Sunday morning; Midwestern friendliness and an enthusiasm for Tom Arnold. The man most famous to the majority of the country for his marriage and divorce from Rosanne Barr is revered in his home state. Iowans are like that; you stay loyal to them, they’ll stay loyal to you.
“There’s a celebrity on your flight!” said the woman, clearly excited to share the news.
Despite my Dallas-residing, too cool for school attitude, the Iowan in me was intrigued.
I walked toward security thinking, 1) I can’t imagine Tom Arnold appreciates airline employees alerting travelers of his presence, given the inclination of star-struck rubes to hassle people they recognize from television, and 2) my folks need to wrap up good-byes with their grandson ASAP, I gotta go find Tom Arnold!
Many people, especially from rural areas, approach celebrities for pictures and autographs. I do not. By leaving them alone I obey an unspoken code usually broken by those who rarely see celebrities in person. I used to work at a television station in Dallas and once shoulder bumped a diminutive fellow who turned out to be Richard Marx. Clearly, I can handle myself in the presence of megastars.
On this occasion, I was traveling with my 10 month-old son, meaning there was a good chance I would ruin Tom Arnold’s flight. To acknowledge the situation without breaking the code, I felt it appropriate to tweet him a hassle-free preemptive apology:
To my surprise and the pleasure of those seated around me, Gabe was a perfect little traveler. Over the two-hour flight, he didn’t have a single outburst. When he exited the plane, Tom (we’re on a first name basis) looked at Gabe, smiled and said, “Hey, Buddy!”
I had to admit it was a pretty neat interaction to tell people about. My Iowa friends would get a kick out of it.
Then on the way home, I received this reply to my pre-flight tweet:
Tom Arnold is the coolest. And not just because I’m from Iowa.