Left speechless after traveling across U.S.

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Most Midwestern tenant farmers operated on March-to-March contracts.

By the first of November, the landlord told his tenant if he wanted him to move. March was the traditional month of moving. Maybe I’m a tenant farmer and don’t know it.

This past March, work took me to Louisiana, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, etc. I spent the entire month in one of my favorite 50 states.

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I never needed to wonder what time it was. It was time I should already be at the airport.

There is the trip I’ve planned and the trip I took.

There were several Roto-Rooter trucks parked in front of the hotel featuring random wake-up calls and unstable temperatures. Cab drivers were driving away business outside. The front desk had a “Do not disturb” sign. The desk clerk asked if I’d like to redeem some of my reward points for a nicer room. I told her that I was saving them up to buy the hotel or acquire superpowers. My room was so small, it had only two walls. The chocolate on the pillow had bite marks. I sat on a worn chair while reading a book and trying not to listen to the couple arguing in the next room. The thin walls made sharing easy.

I don’t fly. That’s why I have to take an airplane. I got a piggyback ride to the airport.

I went through insecurity where people worried that they might have left a water bottle in their carry-on bag. Agents asked if I had anything in my pockets. I didn’t. I’d purchased an airline ticket. I never complain about the price of a plane ticket. It’s bound to be fare.

Some consider an airport a place where optimism goes to die. The monitor showing arrivals and departures read nothing more than “Your guess is as good as ours.” Late night, early morning at an airport finds people stumbling around like lost souls. Desperate folks whose brains had been stolen by cellphones searched for Apple juice for their iPhones. I asked gate lice, airline passengers who crowd around a gate early waiting to board, to chip in for gas. I earn my frequent flyer miles by running from one gate to another. There was a whole lot of check-in going on. I don’t know why I have to pay to fly. The plane is going that way anyway. They could give me a lift.

When I boarded the aircraft, wing and a prayer airlines, my legs grew longer. I wish they could either shrink me or put me to sleep for the duration of a flight. Who’d have thought that legroom would become an option?

I watched a man attempting to stuff his supposedly standard-sized suitcase into the overhead bin. “It’ll fit. It always has,” he said. I think it was a casket.

The captain said, “I’m excited to announce that we’re reducing our services again. If there is anything we can do for you, don’t ask. In case of hunger, our seat cushions could be used as emergency rations. Please don’t feed the livestock. Please stifle your screams. We know you had a choice of travel. You’ll know better next time.”

The flight attendants did a safety demonstration saying that those in middle seats could be used as personal flotation devices and showed me how to fasten my seatbelt. Good idea. My shoes were untied.

The plane was so crowded, I felt like a T-Rex, able to move my arms only from the elbows down. Like gas, people expand to fill the space available. We argue silently over armrests. The flight was like sitting on a metal folding chair during a five-hour church service.

If I don’t want other passengers talking to me, I tell them I’m forming a volunteer committee to study government paperwork. I put my book into the airplane mode, knowing that if I’d worked harder, I’d be in first class. I hoped to be upgraded to copilot.

We taxied to our destination. It was either that or change planes in midair.

Baggage claim is a lottery. Skyway robbery. Luggage rodeo. A sacrifice to the luggage gods. Countless identical suitcases on a merry-go-round.

I grabbed my bag, found my car and went home.

When I leave home, I look back. I’m a horse looking back toward the barn. It takes a heap of living to make a home. I’m part of that heap.

The more rewarding the travel, the more blessed the return.

Home is where there is no tipping.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.