September 6, 2010
I hear a lot of griping from my friends these days about travel. Trains are much more luxurious and dependable in Europe. Japanese taxi drivers wear white gloves and decorate their cars with curtains while in New York City, taxis are, well, let’s not even talk about it. And the deluxe plane travel of years past is now reduced to something akin to traveling by bus. Still, I’m sick and tired of all the grousing. Get over it, people. There is so much to enjoy and even learn while on the road if you would only open your eyes, minds, and hearts to the great adventure of getting from point A to point B. Here are only a few examples:
Hermes/Mercury, God of Travel. Fresco by Tiepolo.
I boarded an Amtrak train at New York City’s Penn station behind a couple who were arguing about which side of the aisle to sit on. A train conductor who was passing by at that moment said to them without breaking stride, “Both sides of the train arrive at the same time.”
Did you know that?
There were four of us in a taxi traveling home—three in the back and I in the front next to the driver. Underway, we had a major disagreement about the concert just heard. They liked it, I didn’t. I felt the need to turn around in my seat again and again and explain my point of view with continuing objections from the back. I shook my head in frustration. Why couldn’t they understand what I was getting at? We pulled up to a stop light and the driver, who had remained silent up to then, leaned over, put his hand on my shoulder, and said in a gentle voice only I could hear, “Keep on your medication and everything’s going be alright.”
Who said New Yorkers aren’t helpful?
We were about to land in Portland, Oregon. As the wheels touched down, the pilot announced, “Welcome to Portland…… Maine.” We passengers let out a collective gasp, followed by “Just kidding, folks.”
Flying at 35,000 feet on April 1st, the co-pilot announced that the pilot was celebrating his birthday. “Captain Williams just turned 92 today, and although he can’t see or hear very well anymore, he still remains his usual cheerful self. Please give him a hand, ladies and gentlemen.”
God bless him.
I was about to land in Miami, Florida when the pilot made an announcement. “Thank you for flying with us. We realize that you have your choice of bankrupt airlines.”
I rushed from Jordan Hall in Boston to Logan Airport still dressed in my tails and barely made the last flight out of town. Breathlessly, I boarded the plane and told the flight attendant (who looked me over with ill-disguised curiosity) that I would slip out of my superman costume in the bathroom as soon as we took off. Later, as I sat in my seat once again dressed in normal street clothes, the pilot made an announcement. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. The weather is good. We will arrive on time. I hope you are enjoying the flight. By the way, we have a distinguished guest on board. Clark Kent.”
Wait a minute. Isn’t Clark Kent superman’s…? Oh, never mind.
Because of bad weather, one flight after another of mine was canceled. I remained stranded in the Little Rock, Arkansas airport for the entire day. Finally, I managed to catch the last flight out that evening. As I entered the plane, I could not resist telling the flight attendant about the terrible day I just had. She looked me over soberly and said, “Taking off is optional. Landing is mandatory.”
I was asleep and therefore didn’t hear the flight attendant announce that the airline was now charging for all drinks. When she arrived at my seat, I awoke and asked for orange juice. “That will be two dollars, please.” Indignant, I asked whether there wasn’t anything free on airline flights anymore. The flight attendant smiled impishly. “Hold out your hands and I’ll pour some ice in them”, she said. We both laughed. Shortly thereafter, I fell asleep again only to be awakened by “Psssst.” The flight attendant had taken a seat across the aisle from me. She leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Want some free orange juice?”
Psssst. That’s all for now.
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Thank you for writing this. We complain about travel – as if we’ve forgotten that travel times used to be measured in days, not hours. We forget that the great musicians of days gone by, whose playing we idolize, traveled by boat from Europe and by train across the U.S., suffering far more inconvenience than our spoiled selves, not to mention long separations from family and friends. The convenience of travel should be humbling to us.
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