2017.06.21 The skies have been friendlier


Things have changed since I last spent time at 32,000 feet. It seems odd to think that just a week ago I was still in Coconut Grove, Fla., visiting son Ben and family. But it’s been a busy week back here at home and Miami now seems like it happened quite a while ago.

The changes in airline travel are a mix of both good and bad. I’ve had to put some focus on health issues in the last year, to put it mildly, and I think my last Miami visit occurred in spring 2016. The recent visit fit nicely between the end of most school events and the Town and Country Festival.

You know my life is governed by the need to make a newspaper every week. There are times when I can’t go off traveling because of an event that needs my camera or stories to write from busy meetings that require lots of sorting through notes or listening to a recording.

But it worked last week. I knew it wasn’t going to be a very interesting newspaper that would follow, but off we went to preschool graduation.

What? Yes, it included Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” and caps and gowns, short testimonials from teachers, a video review of the year. But there’s a reason that it’s special in Ryland’s school. When you’re four years old, you’ve reached the end of the line. You graduate and move on to kindergarten somewhere else.

We drove to Metro airport on a Wednesday afternoon with plenty of time to go through all of the rigamarole that makes up contemporary travel. As soon as we walked in and glanced at the departures board, we learned that we were now three hours early. The flight was listed as “on time” when we left Morenci and, who knows, probably delayed by three hours by the time we reached Weston.

Learning of our delay probably coincided with the first time Colleen said, “I’m never flying American again.” It wasn’t the last.

There’s now an interesting source of food at Metro’s McNamara Terminal (Plum Market), but because we were flying American, we were in the North Terminal where TGI Fridays and the Earl of Sandwich have to be considered good stuff. It’s overpriced OK.

Our gate was changed during the long wait, but the flight did finally happen. We arrived at midnight instead of 8:05.

A startling change: Every seat had a small video monitor with a large array of free movies. Yes, I used the word “free.” Well, I might fly American again, but on the other unexplored hand, maybe this is now standard practice with every airline. Even Spirit? Probably not. I think Spirit now has a coin slot on the seat belt. “I’m never going to fly Spirit again” was uttered by Colleen long ago. And she meant it.

First I discovered that I could follow our flight on the monitor. That’s what I’ve wanted for so many years. That strange, rolling and twisting landscape below always puzzled me until I learned that it’s Tennessee.

I always want to know just where I am and just what I’m seeing when I look out the window. I was mostly looking at the wing on this flight, but I had the little map showing the airplane’s location. Hellfire, I even knew our altitude and how surprisingly far below zero the temperature was. I think it even listed the pilot’s middle name. All important stuff.

Then I discovered the really good material. Right there in front of me was season seven of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I once watched a YouTube recap of season seven and thought I was going to rip out my hernia surgery scars from belly-shaking laughter. This time I was sitting in an airliner and trying to stifle things a little. Colleen told me later that I wasn’t very successful.

For our return flight, we were delayed two hours once we reached the airport and our gate was changed three times. Once when I looked at the departures listing, our flight was listed with Iberia Airlines. Were we making a stop in Barcelona? Later it came through as Latam Airlines that serves South America.

In the end, after all delays and gate changes, we entered an American Airline jet and I laughed my way home, wondering how I was going to suddenly make a newspaper.

We did it. We made a paper with only a 20-minute delay and no gate changes. Take that, American.