The other day I saw a Facebook post from a friend who must travel three times around the globe each year. It’s all business, and it’s all hectic-passport control, meeting, on another plane, a car rental, two more meetings, flight delays-enough to send anyone on a one-way trip to a Carmelite monastery.
Modern business trips lack glamour, and that was also true twenty five years ago when I had to travel often. Three glorious memories stand out:
Back in the old days, circa 1990, you could walk right up to the gate and present your boarding pass. Security existed, but it was more perfunctory than protective. I had to take a very, very early flight from Philadelphia to Chicago, which meant catching an airport van about 5:30AM. I made it to the van, bleary eyed, and arrived at the airport with plenty of time. I excavated my bag from the luggage heap, tipped the driver, and headed to the gate. When I reached the ticket counter I fumbled in the side pocket for the ticket and pulled out…a tampon. Yeah, it wasn’t my bag. I went back downstairs and discovered a lady screaming at the driver, “That’s not my bag, dammit!” I told her that I’d grabbed her bag in error; she ripped it out of my hands and yelled, “Give me that bag NOW”. I apologized profusely, and added, “though you have good reason to be irritable this morning.”
I had to fly from Dubuque to Chicago, on the old American Eagle route (i.e., a plane that seated about twenty, also known as “sit down and start flapping”.) I boarded about 7AM, on a foggy morning-one of those trips when you climb the stairs and swear that Bogart’s on the tarmac waving goodbye. When I entered the plane, there was a huge commotion. An old woman had taken two birds for the flight, insufficiently packed into an old Dunkin Donuts box (with appropriate air holes)-the birds escaped and were flying around the cabin. The flight attendants were swatting at them with the in-flight magazines, and eventually corralled them into some sort of cage. However, the old woman would have none of it: she started screaming, “My birds! My birds! Feed my birds!” and hoisted what must have been a twenty pound bag of Hartz Mountain birdseed. The bag exploded, and the plane was inundated in bird seed. About a half-hour later the crew had managed to vacuum out all the birdseed, and what we now dubbed “Air Fellini” was ready to resume schedule.
On another American Eagle from Dubuque I arrived early enough to visit the snack stand before the gate opened. I ordered a cup of coffee; the guy behind the counter said, “Give me a minute, I have to wash out the mug.” I went without coffee until I reached O’Hare.
Wear loose shoes, and have a safe flight!