The nap was short-lived, but I felt slightly refreshed. I had found a chair in the corner of the terminal which had both a charging port which was operable as well as a wall that was close enough to prop my head against.
There is a point in your life when your appearance is no longer high on your list of priorities. I am sure I looked like a failed 5th grade science project, probably crafted with too much water and not enough flour. You know the one; multiple parents walk by and say to their children, “It’s ok honey, at least he tried.” But in fact, I really hadn’t tried at all. I just wanted to be comfortable for the four-hour layover.
The charging port was only a benefit because I just didn’t want the music to stop coming out of my left ear-bud. The right remained dangling due to the fact that the wall pressed it too deeply into my ear canal. My iPod (yes, I still have one) has a battery that drains too quickly. It’s about nine years old and I just read “in the trades” that Apple was discontinuing my preferred model. This crossed my mind several times as listened to Glenn Campbell followed by April Wine. I think the little Nano gets confused at times and is trying to tell me something; or it could be the battery is just getting old.
One of my favorite things to do while sitting and listening to music is to find someone who walks in the perfect cadence to the song I am hearing in my ear. Like that video of the North Korean Army marching to the Bee-Gees “Stayin-Alive.” It humanizes what would otherwise be a scary scenario. We probably need more people marching to the Bee-Gees.
Due to another man’s misfortune,I hadn’t slept on the three-hour flight that got me to my chair. I say that because he was the kind of guy that I wanted to talk to. If he hadn’t been wearing the uniform of a pilot, I still would have talked to him because he was from the south, and in my experience, people from the south tend to enjoy chatting about this and that.
“This and that” are my favorite topics.
While the life of an airline pilot is far from glamorous, he had been in the Marine Corp prior to becoming a pilot, so everyone’s perception of glamour is relative.
He had worked for Fed-Ex, flies corporate jets from time to time, and in the most interesting part of our conversation he told me how he used to fly baby chickens into Mexico in a DC-3. We laughed about all the things that DC-3s have flown out of Mexico and I remarked that I had no idea that smuggling chickens was “a thing.” For the record, it was a sanctioned activity.
We talked about radial engines, manifold pressure, hot rods, and his wife and kids. Chris is a stellar dad, and I can tell you that because of his nature and quiet demeanor. I could also see that the Marine Corps bulldog was hiding behind his smile. The kind of dad that a kid would be lucky to have.
In the tit-for-tat world of conversation, it came up that I was a cop. I make sure that I never tell anyone what I do for a living prior to finding out what they do because sometimes people would rather not know. Let’s be honest, cops are not on everyone’s short list of “people I want to meet while stuck beside them for 3 hours of flight time, not including being 13th in line for take-off.”
I like to think of myself as more of “the guy I met who was a decent human, and he was a cop.” But I don’t dictate what people think of me or my career choice. I was also once a radio guy, a machine shop guy, a kid that worked at McDonald's, a man that worked in a shoe store, a member of the housekeeping staff at a hospital, and I raked blueberries. My hope is always that I continue to be the same guy that did all those jobs. As a matter of fact, I know I am a better cop because I have not always been a cop.
I believe strongly that you had better understand people and their plight before you are given the ability to change their plight.
I sent my kid to an island to work on a lobster boat for many summers, partially because I knew he wanted to be a cop. He worked in a grocery store as well. I wanted him to learn how to serve people and have a few cuts and calluses on his grubby little paws before accepting the awesome responsibility for other people and their problems. And, oh my, when people come to you with their problems, you should have had a few yourself. He is a cop now, and I hear good things about how he treats people. One of my few real successes.
Chris immediately and sincerely thanked me for my service. I reciprocated by thanking him for his, both in the the military and in the air. There was a pretty good chance that he had flown me around the United States in the past. Neither one of us took the other’s job for granted, and I like to think that we all could do that if we put our minds to it.
Chris had to catch a flight out of New York and would be gone from his family for three days at a time. That is no picnic and he has the awesome responsibility for the safety of everyone else’s family. Think about that next time you walk by that open cockpit door at the end of your flight.
After dozing for a few minutes, I watched a group of passengers getting off a flight from Virginia. Old, young, light-skinned, darker-skinned, tall, thin, fat, short, and sometimes bald. Men and women on a plane. A cross section of our current America. None of them arguing, some smiling, and some worried. If we can get along stuck inside an aluminum tube, how come we don’t get along equally well when we share our different ideas?
I don’t have the Bee-Gees on my iPod, but I wished I did at that very moment.-Stayin’ Alive.
Instead of looking for differences, we should look for similarities with our “seatmates.” I think it might be time we just thank each other for our service to mankind. Baker, mechanic, investor, nurses, mothers, ministers, housekeepers. Just, thank-you for your service. It’s a line you can deliver without ever having to raise your voice.
Today, I just want to thank you all for your service. Be well.
TC (email: cottonblend at blauer.com)