Lessons learned while waiting for a planePublished 9:41am Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Column: Tales From Exit 22, by Al Batt
I fear brake lights while driving to airports.
Their glow is similar to when people tell you something for your own good. Shining brake lights never bring good news on a busy highway.
I made it through airport security and headed for the gate. There, I found a group of sad-eyed people milling about as their energy drained. No carefree non-planners there.
Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” was rattling around in my mind. I’d just gotten to this part, “Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads. I felt so good like anything was possible.”
That’s when I decided to use my keen powers of observation to see whom I’d been sitting by for 15 minutes.
On one side of me sat a young woman wearing a T-shirt reading, “I don’t care.”
She was eating a sandwich bag’s worth of celery. She probably didn’t have time to floss.
On the other side was an older fellow who saw that I was looking his way and told me that he had two more flights to sit through before his arrived at the gate. He’d gotten there early so he could constantly check his boarding pass.
The custodial crew was hard at work, filling what needed to be filled, emptying what needed to be emptied and placing plastic sandwich boards outside doorways to let folks know that restrooms were being cleaned. That’s a good thing. No one wants to do unintentional splits on a wet floor. That’s playing flushin’ roulette.
Airports are noisy. There are announcements, blaring TVs that I can’t turn off and cellphone users bellowing at someone in Beloit.
There isn’t much room on airplanes. The seats are cramped on Sardine Airlines. I’m a tall guy, but I don’t recline my seat. If I did, I’d announce my intention and then feel guilty. The secret is to recline slowly, not surprising the person seated behind.
I boarded an Alaska Airlines plane. This airline had the industry’s best on-time performance for the third consecutive year in 2012, with 87 percent of flights landing on time, according to FlightStats. The Juneau Airport is sandwiched between 3,000-foot mountain peaks and at the end of a 15-mile-long channel notorious for gusty, shifting winds and thick fogs. In 1926, Congress forced the U.S. Postal Service to cede airmail routes to private operators, a moment widely considered the birth of the airline industry. Alaska Airlines began in 1932, when Linious McGee bought a three-seat airplane. This airline hauled cargo after World War II and participated in the Berlin Airlift in 1948. In the 1950s, it was among the first to offer inflight movies. In the 1960s, it chartered flights to the Soviet Union, tricky business at the height of the Cold War.
I moved, not effortlessly, from plane to the Alaska Maritime Highway. The price of a ticket on the ferry is always fare. A fellow traveler on the ferry told me that he was from a small Alaskan village that had the highest accident rate in the country. There were only two cars in the village and they were involved in a two-car accident.
I love to travel. That’s why I keep bags under my eyes. I’m thankful for them.
Last year’s Thanksgiving repast was a legendary meal. At least that’s what they called it down at the emergency room.
The cook left the turkey out over the weekend. It cooked at room temperature. The meat fell off the bones.
Despite that, something smelled good.
“Do I detect a hint of rosemary?” I said.
An oven mitt had started on fire.
The meal was gluten-free for some, glutton-free for none.
I watched a lot of running, blocking, kicking and tackling. It wasn’t football. It was in pursuit of gravy. I maintain a gratitude for gravy. After dragging my sleeve through gravy, I know it’ll be there if I feel peckish later.
Thanksgiving teaches. If I want someone to hold the door for me, I should carry a covered dish. Those who do not finish their turkey are doomed to repeat it. Life is like stuffing a turkey. You get out of it what you put into it.
I’m thankful for pockets. I shudder at the thought of a world without pockets. I’m thankful that many cold days are sunny. That I know so many good people.
Trying to remember all that I should be thankful for is like herding cats.
On the flight home, I dozed unskillfully in my seat. I opened my peepers and was thankful that I had eyes.
Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.