The man with the box of eyeballs was walking briskly through Pittsburgh International Airport.
The package he was carrying was about the size of a kid's lunchbox.
It was affixed with stickers that read "Eye Tissue," "Bio-hazardous Material," and, if I'm not mistaken, the always relevant "Shoot The Puck!"
He was carrying vital organs. I was carrying a heavy suitcase of bio-hazardous dirty laundry, but I kept up the pace to satisfy my sleepless curiosity about other people's business. I needed to know about the box of eyeballs, if, indeed, it was a box of eyeballs. He wouldn't open it for even a quick peek.
Are you sure it's full of eyeballs? I asked.
"I am fairly sure," he said.
Could it be a prank?
"What sort of sick person would ever dream of using human eyeballs for a prank?"
Oh, beats me. Whose eyes are they?
"They're from some body down in South America."
Amazing. I've never heard of such generosity. You mean somebody actually reached into their head and plucked their eyes . . .
"No, no, no, you don't understand. They're from some body in South America. The guy's dead. They flew them up here to transplant them into a living person who's a patient at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center."
They're not planning anything unusual with them, are they? I mean they're not doing some wacky experiment?
Well, I remember a teacher who was rumored to have eyes in the back of her pointy head. See what I'm getting at?
"It's my understanding that these eyes are going to be transplanted into a person who today cannot see, and tomorrow again will be blessed with sight. It's as simple as that."
That's wonderful. A miracle. You should be proud of your role in this amazing procedure.
One more thing. If I give you $20, will you let me take one of those eyeballs into the bar over there? I'd like to drop it in somebody's cocktail. You know, just for a laugh.
"No, I won't do that. I'd lose my job, and you'd go to hell."
That's probably true, but we'd have a good laugh.
"Thank you. Good day."
With that, we headed in separate directions -- him to a waiting ambulance, me to a washing machine.
My driver's license indicates I am a full organ donor. Eyes, kidneys, heart, liver, lungs -- come and get it.
In its purest form, organ donation is a way for us to live on through others. That makes me sort of soul mates with actor Anthony Quinn. He was in the news recently for saying he wants his naked remains left in the desert upon his demise.
That way, he said, the birds, wolves, lizards and insects can take a little of his soul with them and he will achieve immortality.
That's going a bit too far for me. From what I've observed on the Discovery Channel, the lives of these critters are uniformly grim.
They kill one another, search endlessly for water and, with the exception of some rather unusual and entertaining-looking procreation techniques, generally lead a drab existence.
My plans are more conventional.
Give my liver to the factory worker whose own is wracked with disease. Add years to his life so he can enjoy each day with the wonder and joy of a child.
Give my kidneys to the single mother. Let them take away her worries and dread about the future so she can give love and guidance to the daughter who would otherwise be orphaned.
My heart? Save that for the grandmother whose own, though full of love, is weakened and failing. Let my heart beat for her as she enjoys a dance and a warm embrace on her 50th wedding anniversary. Let it be glad as she spoils another generation of grandchildren.
And save the best for my eyes. Give the right one to the little boy who lost his sight in a traumatic accident.
Let my eye see the girl he will marry. Let it be love at first sight. Let it show him the way through the tough times to the rewards and pleasures of a life well lived. Let it enjoy the grandeur of the Grand Canyon and the awesome birth of his children.
Do all these things for the good of those who will be here when I am no more.
But do one thing for me.
Take my left eye out to the airport and slip it into the cocktail of some jet-lagged businessman stopping by for refreshment.
Make sure it's facing up.
I don't want to miss the look on his face.