Scared Granny

4 11 2018

The Boeing 727 “Whisperjet”

It was fall of 1988 and I had just begun my consulting career. I was flying out of Columbus on my way home from a project with Owens-Corning Fiberglass in Newark, Ohio. As I got to my aisle seat on an Eastern Airlines Whisperjet (Boeing 727), I saw my seat-mate, for the next hour, was a grandmotherly-type who had already taken her seat by the window. Following a cordial exchange of pleasantries, I pulled out my current read and was quickly immersed in the pages of something, I’m sure was exciting.


The lady sitting next to me seemed to be a bit fidgety as she focused all of her attention on the flight attendant, who had begun giving the obligatory safety instructions.


“You’ll find these instructions printed on the card in the seat pocket in front of you,” advised the flight attendant. “We suggest you remove the card and follow along.”


Granny, beside me, watched as she pored over the safety instruction card as if she was trying to memorize it. She craned her neck, looking toward the rear and then forward, to see the exits as they were pointed out by the flight attendant. She strained to lean over me to see the white lights on the floor that led to red lights. She was really into this and I’m thinking, either she hasn’t flown very muchor she’s an industrial spy for McDonnell Douglas. It was about then that the plane began to push back away from the gate. The sudden movement startled her and she jumped like she had just touched a spoon to one of her fillings.


Soon, we were hurtling down the runway and picking up speed fast. The wingtips began to flex upward, giving rise to the nose and soon, the rest of the aircraft. As we became airborne, and the weight of the plane lifted off of the landing gear, the landing gear struts, which were just below our seats, made a perfectly normal “bump” sound as the struts extended. At that, my nervous neighbor reached over and grabbed my left forearm, digging all ten fingernails into my skin like a cat clinging to a mouse.


I turned to her and asked if she had ever flown before. With a trembling voice, she said, “This is my first time and I’m scared to death. I wouldn’t be flying now,” she continued, “but it’s the only way I could get to Charlotte in time for my granddaughter’s birthday party.”


I tried to reassure her and told her the flight would be good practice for her return home.


“Oh no,” she exclaimed, “I’m not doing this again! When I go home, I’ll be sitting in a Greyhound!”


Now, that’s a woman who loves her granddaughter!


Following in the Footsteps of My Twin

18 12 2016

Where does this fall on your weird-o-meter? Last week I was doing work for a company in Jackson, Tennessee. Jackson is a small town about halfway between Memphis and Nashville. Because of the distance back to either airport, I planned to complete the work and drive back to a hotel near the airport so I could fly back home the following morning. I chose to fly into Memphis because I knew, from past experience, given the location of the two airports, driving back to the Memphis airport would be much easier.


On Tuesday night, my second night in town, I went to what turned out to be a diamond in the rough. It was an Italian restaurant named Baudo’s. Baudo’s isn’t much to look at from the outside, but the food was really good. Anyway, the hostess seated me at a small table off to the side of the dining room. Only seconds after being seated, a perky, young waitress came bebopping out of the kitchen toward me like she had just gotten to work. Actually, she had. I was her first customer. That’s one of the advantages of getting old. You get out to eat early, before the server has been worn down by demanding customers and 500 trips back and forth into the kitchen.


“Welcome back!” she said, cheerfully.


I told her this was my first time at Baudo’s.


“Well there was a guy here last night who sat in this same seat and looked exactly like you. You have a twin.”


Okay, there’s nothing unusual about that. I’ve always had people tell me I look like so and so. When I was younger, it was Dan Rather. Then as I got a little older, people told me I looked like Martin Sheen. So, I wasn’t very surprised at this.


Then I ordered my dinner…salad with house dressing and veal piccata with mashed potatoes.


“That’s exactly what your twin had last night,” she told me.


Now, that seemed a little odd but still not that big a deal.


The next day, I completed the work and made the two-hour drive to my hotel near the Memphis airport. It was actually in Southaven, Mississippi, about 8 miles south of the airport.


Even though I was surrounded by a plethora of restaurants, I decided, for a number of reasons, to stay in and just eat at the hotel restaurant.


The waitress was a generation older than the waitress back at Baudo’s, but no less energetic. I forget what they called it, but I ordered a cheeseburger with roasted red bell peppers and onions. About halfway through the burger, which I highly recommend, the waitress came by to check on me.


“Is it as good as last night?” she asked.


For a second, I wasn’t sure how to respond. Then I told her I hadn’t been there the night before. In fact, I had never been to that hotel before.


“Well there was a man here last night, sat right there where you’re sitting and had the exact same thing.”


Now that’s a little on the weird side. I was afraid I was going to return home the next day only to have my wife ask me if I enjoyed the back rub she gave me the night before!!

Maybe He’s Smarter Than You Think

21 05 2016

I had to go to Minneapolis this week to speak at a managers’ conference for a large food manufacturer. As many of you are already aware, I fly Delta almost exclusively, unless I’m going abroad and Delta just doesn’t go where I need to be. On this trip, I had a non-stop flight straight to Minneapolis.

When Delta boards an aircraft, they begin with the folks who need a little extra time getting down the jet bridge…those doing the Tim Conway shuffle. I shouldn’t say that because that’ll be me one day. They are followed by those having children under the age of two. As I watched the young parents line up to begin boarding, I thought, oh my goodness! There must be a Parents with Children Under the Age of Two convention in Minneapolis this week. It looked like they just emptied the nursery at Duke Medical Center and all the new parents decided to go, at the same time, to see grandma in Minneapolis; and, on the same flight…MY flight.

Well, kudos to Delta. They had the foresight to seat all of these families with their cherubs, together, near the back of the plane. A pox on your house, Delta! You had the audacity to put me right in front of them! Actually, when I entered the plane and saw that I was sitting directly in front of this group, I took it in stride. I really don’t mind sitting near babies, even crying babies. In fact, I feel sympathy for parents traveling with small children. If you are a follower of this blog, you know from past posts this isn’t my first encounter with flying tots. See Coffee, Tea or Screaming Baby. ( ) The Lord gave me the gift of being able to tune out crying babies, nagging wives (not mine, of course) and other annoying sounds. Little did I know that one of these ankle biters was about to put me to the test.

Now, this was a Regional Jet, so it wasn’t a very large plane. And, when you put a…well, what DO you call a group of infants and toddlers? If it’s a gaggle of geese, a brood of chicks, a kindle of kittens…must be a bellowing of babies.

I wasn't through telling you about my husband!

I wasn’t through telling you about my husband!

Well, I took my seat beside some lady who appeared to be about my age. Before the air could even escape from my seat cushion, she was talking to me. She was telling me that her husband was supposed to be in my seat, but he did something really stupid. They were on their way to Bozeman, Montana and he had made his own reservations; but, they didn’t discover until the night before, that he had made his reservations on the wrong flight. He was actually on his way to Bozeman via Salt Lake City at that moment. And she didn’t stop there. She went on and on like a square dance caller. Well, as I listened to her non-stop monologue, two thoughts came to my mind. First…she only THINKS her husband made a mistake and accidentally wound up on the wrong plane. He was probably halfway to Salt Lake City thinking about the poor schmuck who got stuck beside his wife. Secondly…where are the cries from all these babies when I need them?

It was about that time the child directly behind me began to wail. And wail. And wail. That gave me the opportunity to put my Bose headphones on and read my book without being too obvious to the lady that I felt we had engaged long enough.

Now, it has been my experience with small babies, that when they cry, eventually, they will begin to tire and go to sleep. Not this child. This six-month old had the endurance of a Kenyan distance runner. Three hours later, as we entered our approach into the Minneapolis airport, this child was still going strong. Her ears were probably hurting-poor baby. But then, a third thought came to mind. In 64 years she will probably be sitting beside a stranger in a plane explaining how her husband accidentally booked himself on the wrong flight. The poor schmuck!

Welcome to Town

29 02 2016

I gave a presentation at a big conference recently at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. This is the second largest convention center in the country, and it is big. I walked from one end to the other, and I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way, I crossed the Georgia state line. 


There was somewhere north of 16,000 people attending the conference and approximately 1,000 scheduled to attend the session at which I was to speak ( I believe about 500 actually showed up!). 


The quiet before the storm

The quiet before the storm

I stayed at the Hyatt Regency- not the Waldorf Astoria but still a really nice hotel about a half-mile walk by sky-bridge to the convention center. The hotel is a large 27 floor hotel with its own conference center, large enough to handle a good-sized conference itself.

Hyatt Regency-Orlando

Hyatt Regency-Orlando


While I was standing at the front desk checking in, I noticed a young, 30-something couple standing next to me. He was pulling a red suitcase on wheels and she carried a blue duffel bag with white trim. We all got checked in at about the same time and headed for the elevators. They seemed to be lost as they walked just ahead of me, which is understandable given the size of the hotel. So as they walked along gawking at the size and opulence of the place, I heard her say, “Where ya reckon the elevator is?” Having been raised in the South, I am fluent in Southern so I offered the helpful guidance of a seasoned traveler. “Just follow the signs and that’ll get you there,” I suggested. 


The young man then saw the sign for the elevators and turned to me, “Thank you, sir.”


Sir? I thought to myself; who is he calling sir? It’s easy for me to forget I have a 40-year-old child.


So as we stood together, waiting for the elevator, I noticed the name tag on the red suitcase. It had the name Margaret Starling with an address in Opp, Alabama. Assuming he was pulling her suitcase, as I was pretty sure he wasn’t Margaret, I said to the young woman, “Margaret, are ya’ll in town for the Grainger Show?” She told me they were but her name was not Margaret. I told her I assumed it was because of the name on the suitcase her husband was pulling. “Oh, we borrowed it from my mom. My name’s Mindy,” she told me.


Okay, I’m thinking- rookie travelers. Rookie travelers borrow a suitcase from friends or family and then stuff it with two weeks of clothes for a two-day trip. Rookie travelers buy one of those silly neck pillows to use on the plane. Rookie travelers wander the hotel looking for the elevators. I’m not slamming rookie travelers, mind you. It was just an observation. 


So, we exchanged a few more pleasantries as the elevator arrived and the doors opened. When we got inside there was an identical panel of floor call buttons on each side of the doors. I remind you, it’s a 27 story hotel- the young woman exclaimed in her south Alabama drawl, “My gosh! Look at all them buttons! I ain’t never been in an elevator with that many buttons.” I believe the tallest building in Opp, Alabama is Mayor Rob Nester’s two-story chicken coop.


The young man then responded, “I ain’t never been in an elevator with buttons on both sides of the door!”


Clearly, they were impressed and clearly, they were no longer in Opp. 


Oh No! I’ve Lost My Phone!

13 02 2016

Admit it. You’ve done stupid things. We all have. You, just like I, have done things only to look back and say, Boy that was dumb!


If you can’t think of anything, then allow me to help you.


How many times have you reached to pull your cell phone from its holder, your pocket or your purse, or wherever you normally carry it, while you were talking on your cell phone?


I was on a business trip to some far off land and, as usual, when I returned to my hotel room following dinner in a nearby restaurant, I pulled my cell phone from that annoying, yet essential, plastic holder attached to my belt to call my wife. As we spoke, she asked me if I had gotten a text she had sent me earlier in the day. Instinctively, I reached down toward my hip to grab my cell phone.


Now, had things stopped there, I would have probably been able to get away with that little mind cramp and my wife never would have known what stupid thing I had just done. But, no! I wasn’t satisfied to buy a cabbage from the “stupid farm”…I had to buy the entire farm!


Shift to Panic Mode!

My heart jumped into my throat as I panicked. After feeling the empty holder, I said to my wife, “I left my phone at the restaurant!”


“You what?” she asked.


“I left my phone at the restaurant! Either that, or it fell off somewhere. I have to go and see if I can find it!”


Now, I do have a reputation as a bit of a practical joker so I believe my wife’s initial thought was I was up to something. She never told me so but she had to be thinking, This can’t be real.


Finally, she said something like, “Maybe it’s on your ear.”


Suddenly, I realized where my phone was and we both had a good laugh.


Since then, I have come to learn that I’m not the only one who has done that. If that has happened to you then leave a comment to let me know I’m not the only one who has suffered such a momentary lapse of awareness. Maybe the studies are wrong after all-perhaps cell phones do affect the brain. I have to blame it on something.

A Call to Dooty!

7 02 2016

A Busy Time at a Busy Place

Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport (ATL) is the busiest airport in the world. By my estimation, in my travels, I have passed through ATL over 1,000 times. If you spend that much time in any public location, you’re bound to see some things out of the ordinary, from time to time. Last Friday morning was just such a time. I was standing at gate A-21, waiting to board my flight back home, as tons of people walked past. It was then I noticed a young woman walking toward me with a Yorkshire terrier on a leash. Accompanying her was an older woman, whom I surmised was her mother. She was walking a black Chihuahua

Please step aside. Can't hold it any longer!

Please step aside. Can’t hold it any longer!

(Thank you spell check!). As they got nearer to me, I was wondering what the airport rules were regarding pets. Turns out, unless they’re service dogs, they’re supposed to be in a kennel, such as the empty kennel the young lady carried over her arm like a purse. They were about 20 feet away from me when, ruh-rho, the yorkie decided to stop and do his business right there in the middle of the concourse!


Doggy See-Doggy Doo

I guess the Chihuahua must have been watching and thought it was a good idea because he, also, assumed the position. It didn’t occur to me right away; but, soon I realized I could get a picture. I had no idea why I might want one; but, I didn’t want to blow an opportunity like this. I’d figure out later how I could use the picture. Maybe I would use it as a meme to illustrate one of the many Obama failures; or, one of a plethora of Clinton scandals. I fumbled for my phone so I could capture this touching scene in pixels and share it with my friends and family. But, as it turns out, I didn’t need to rush as the two crapping k-nines just kept going and going like the Energizer bunny. These guys must have stopped at Denny’s for the grand slam breakfast on the way to the airport! The young woman had grabbed a handful of napkins and begun cleaning the mess up, but the dogs were dropping it faster than she could pick it up. It soon became clear that the poor pooches had no choice. They had to take a potty moment or risk exploding.


I Pity the Pooch!

Part of me tried to feel sorry for her; and, another part felt like she got what she had coming for being stupid enough to walk two nervous dogs through the busiest airport in the world, on the busiest travel day of the week, in violation of the rules. I really felt sorry for the dogs since the owner had made no plans to allow them relief time. What…did she expect them to hold it all the way from Amsterdam to Atlanta? Had she done a little planning, she would have known there are animal relief areas, with real grass, at the airport where pet owners can take their animals. Or at least she could have gotten them doggie diapers.


No, she’ll get no sympathy from me, but at least I found a way to use the picture. I’ve created a new word for the dictionary. You’ve heard terms like e-cig, texting, snapchat, photobomb, and others. I call this pixel-pooping. So, put that in your Funk & Wagnalls, and please pass the Charmin.


She’s Not Siri but She’ll do!

8 03 2015

It’s almost embarrassing to share this, but then I realize there are probably many in my generation in the same boat. I have technology available to me, which I have simply made no effort to learn. As long as my computer or my smart phone does what is essential, I make little or no effort to learn any of its other capabilities. In other words, I’m satisfied with the status quo.


Tuesday evening, I had to get from Plattsburgh, in upstate New York, to my hotel in Burlington, Vermont, in the snow and the dark; so, I pulled up my handy-dandy Droid with its electronic brains and unparalleled geographic knowledge and punched in the coordinates. Okay, I entered the addresses but punching in coordinates sounds so much better. It’s a guy thing. Now, all I was trying to do was pull up the map showing me the recommended route to take. I figured, as always, just give me the map with the road numbers and names and I can take it from there. But then I noticed something on the screen I had not noticed before. There was a message reading, “Begin Navigation Now.” Wondering what would happen, I gave it a gentle touch.


Speak to me, Droidett.

Speak to me, Droidett.

“In 1000 feet turn right onto Wall Street.” Hey! It speaks, and with a female voice. My Droid is a Droidett! Until that magic moment, I assumed that only iPhones did that. I followed the precise directions turn-by-turn until I reached the street on which my hotel was located. Then, just as I was about to turn into the driveway of my hotel, “In one quarter mile, your destination will be on your right.”


No, that wasn’t true. It was right there in front of me. I was parking in the parking lot of my destination. Still, the voice repeated, “In one quarter mile, your destination will be on your right.”


Well, I just wrote it off as a mistake on the part of MapQuest or whoever was behind this geographic faux pas and got out of the car into the blowing snow and minus 5 degree wind chill.


At the front desk, my concerns of being at the wrong Hampton Inn were allayed when the desk clerk had my reservation. So, as I stood there registering, I heard a muffled voice coming from my coat pocket…“In one quarter mile, your destination will be on your right.”


I looked around and although there were plenty of people, none were close to me. It took me a moment to realize where the voice was coming from and, when I finally did, I ignored it. But then, two minutes later, there it was again; so, I pulled my phone from my pocket and tried in vain, amid the crowd in the lobby, to shut it off. How on earth do you shut this thing up? What was a comforting voice only ten minutes ago was now an embarrassing annoyance. Will I be forced to get a new phone because this voice won’t stop trying to get me to drive another thousand feet? Finally, I noticed another message near the bottom of the screen saying something like “End Navigation.” That did it. She finally stopped.


Now jump forward. The next day, I flew into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. I needed to get from there to my hotel du jour, which was 20 miles from the airport. Hey, I’ll use my newly found navigatetress to direct my way. I entered the requisite information and headed out. My electronic way-finder worked beautifully. After parking my car at the Hilton in Lisle, IL, I sat there behind the wheel for several minutes waiting for the voice to continue, while trying in vain to find that message, “End Navigation.”I didn’t want a repeat of the embarrassing moment from the night before. I finally gave up and went inside to check in. After getting registered, I was standing inside the elevator on my way to the fifth floor when I heard singing. My first thought was my SIRI sound-alike was continuing to give me directions only now in melodic harmony. Then I realized I was hearing Taylor Swift piped into the elevator.


After giving the whole situation some thought, I concluded that the Navigator shuts itself off when you reach your destination; but, until you reach your destination, it will keep blasting out directions until the Rapture occurs or the charge dies, whichever comes first. So let that be a warning to you…if you use your GPS to get you to a funeral, you’d better darned well make sure you get to the right funeral.