AND THEN THERE WAS THE TIME ...
OH MY GOD, IT'S MOVING
Murphy’s Law was in effect. Everything that could go wrong did.
It was late August 1983 and the night of my first official date – i.e., driving to pick the girl up, meeting her parent(s), etc. Late already in arriving at the agreed upon 7 p.m., the traffic lights on the way to Chris’s home, it seemed, had conspired against me.
Pulling the bright red station wagon (that I drove but my parents owned) into Chris’s driveway, I spotted a woman I assumed to be her mother (she was) in the front yard gardening. I put on the brakes, then opened the door. Exiting, something strange happened – the car began to move!
Two actions that would’ve seemed to be rather obvious had slipped my mind before I dislodged myself from the vehicle: Number one, I forgot to shift into park; number two, I failed to turn the ignition off. As I was halfway out the door, the car jerked forward. Shit! I jumped back in, slammed on the brakes, put the car in park, and turned the ignition off – just in time, too, for an automobile sat in an open garage straight ahead. Wishing I could start the car and drive right back home, I gritted my teeth and got out, then walked slowly – head down in shame – toward Chris’s mother, and apologized for my baffling behavior. She just smiled. She’s prob’ly thinkin’, Who’m I lettin’ my daughter go out with tonight?
There was more. On the drive over, I kept reminding myself to open the car door for Chris. Over and over, I repeated it so not to forget. So, of course, I forgot, my mind seemingly in the what-happened-a-few-minutes-earlier mode. Then, when it came time to make a simple right turn in the direction of the movie theater, I just kept going, prompting a quick turn of the head by my date. “Wasn’t that it?” she asked.
It was hard to believe. I’d lived in Canton, Ohio, my entire life and knew that turn in my sleep. Chris had just recently moved to the area.
Surprisingly, the rest of the evening went smoothly, but 15 years later I’m still waiting for our second date.
Moral of the story: Don’t panic.
SINCE WHEN ARE LIFELESS OBJECTS LIVING BEINGS?
Knowledge. In some areas you have it, in others you don’t. I happen to know a great deal about sports trivia. One topic I know virtually nothing about, however, is jewelry. This was never more evident than one winter evening early in 1994 when I experienced one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
Employed by a large company – Suarez Corporation in North Canton, Ohio – in which jewelry was one of its many products, my job was to sell it over the telephone to people across the country who’d purchased jewelry from the firm in the past. After a few weeks on the job, I wasn’t exactly burning the sales charts. In fact, I was probably at, or near, the bottom of the totem pole. I had yet to embarrass myself, though – at least until that one particular evening when I gave the expression “embarrassing moment” new meaning, turned it into an art form, brought it to a higher level.
As always, I received a stack of index cards when the shift began. Each card had the name of the customer and other pertinent information needed to make the call and attempt the sale, such as the patron’s phone number, address, and product(s) he or she last purchased. About an hour into the shift, I came to a card in which the name read, “Porter, James Barbara.” The last jewelry purchased by the Porters read, “Pin, Onyx Opal.” I dialed the number, and after a few rings a woman answered. “Hello?” she said.
My ensuing reply will forever be etched in my mind and quite likely in hers, too. “Is onyx or opal pin there?” I asked.
There was a brief pause, then a chuckle from the woman. Oh my God. I realized what I’d done. I’d misread the card and mistaken “Onyx” for the husband’s first name, “Opal” for the wife’s, and “Pin” for their last name! I’d asked Mrs. Porter if the pins they last purchased were home! How do I get outta this?
Rather than apologize and make a big to-do of the matter, I quickly interjected, “Is James or Barbara Porter there?”
“This is Barbara Porter,” the woman laughed, obviously on to my bewildering blunder. She didn’t buy. ... Shocking, isn’t it?
Moral of the story: Don’t be ignorant.
NINE HOURS OF NOTHING
United flight 2975 to Milwaukee will be delayed 30 minutes. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Folks, the flight’s been canceled. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience.
American flight 319 to Milwaukee will be delayed an hour due to inclement weather in the Milwaukee area. We apologize for any inconvenience.
We prob’ly won’t be airborne for another 45 minutes. We’re sorry for the inconvenience ... venience ... venience.
On and on it went, from the lady with the squeaky voice at the United Airlines ticket counter to the American Airlines pilot who sounded like he couldn’t care less. It felt like Friday the 13th, but it was actually Friday, August 17, 1990, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. It was supposed to have been just a short hop from Akron-Canton (Ohio) Regional Airport, to O’Hare, to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, where Lynn would be waiting to greet me for one of my “long-distance relationship” visits. Instead, it turned out to be the layover from hell.
My United flight to Sudsville was to take off at approximately 7:30 p.m. after a one-hour layover following my 6:30 arrival from Akron-Canton. It was supposed to have been that way – only a 60-minute wait. When it was announced that the flight would be delayed 30 minutes, I handled it relatively well – I shrugged, sighed, and mumbled a four-letter word, prompting a pair of raised eyebrows from the elderly woman sitting next to me.
As I waited for my boarding call, I realized I was waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting. It seemed every flight was boarding but mine. Finally, it was announced that the plane had arrived from its previous locale and boarding would begin soon. ‘Bout time.
By nine o’clock, the aircraft was filled. Seated next to me was a southern belle named Tonya, who, hailing from North Carolina, possessed an obvious Southern accent (she thought I had a Northern accent). Tonya told me all about small-town life in the South – how there’s one grocery store, one gas station, one church.
Thirty minutes passed and the plane hadn’t moved an inch. While Tonya napped, I kept busy by flipping through my Sports Illustrated and snacking on peanuts and pop. When she awoke, our impending conversation somehow led to reminiscing about Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch and The Beverly Hillbillies. Classic television comedies can certainly make for interesting conversation, especially during a flight delay. The pilot announced just past 10 p.m. that flight 2975 had been canceled due to mechanical problems. Wonderful.
As we all filed off the plane – disgusted, tired, and cranky – we were directed to another gate, in a completely different terminal, where American Airlines flight 319 was to depart for Milwaukee in 10 minutes. Eyebrows raised, I mumbled to Tonya, “Boy, they sure give us a lot of time.”
Before we knew it, the two of us were up the stairs and around the corner ... down an escalator, up another. Three gates to go until destiny was reached ... then two ... one ... We made it! We still got time, too. Man, it’s gonna be nice to get on that plane and get there. Lynn’s gotta
be wait … wait a second. She mighta gotten sicka waitin’ and gone back to her apartment. She might not be there!
Sweating profusely from the mad dash through the airport – in which I felt a little like O.J. Simpson – I did the logical thing and called her place. No answer. Whew! She’s still at the airport.
Waiting in line at the ticket counter, I noticed a small piece of paper in Tonya’s – and everyone else’s – hand. I asked Tonya what it was.
“It’s a voucher to get on the flight,” she answered.
Apparently, each passenger on the United flight was to have received one in order to board the American flight. I’d presumed all I needed was my original United ticket.
“I didn’t get one,” I said, heart beating rapidly. Why don’t I have one?
When it became my turn at the ticket counter, I informed the female employee behind it that I had not received a voucher but declared, “I have to get on this plane!”
She told me to wait, that she would see what she can do. A few moments later, when the woman let me know that even though I was voucher-less, I’d still be permitted to board the plane, I breathed easier. The ensuing announcement darkened my short-lived happiness, however: American flight 319 to Milwaukee will be delayed an hour due to inclement weather in the Milwaukee area. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Just what I wanted to hear.
As Friday turned to Saturday, it became obvious a boarding call was as likely as the screaming young boy sitting next to me shutting up. Slim and none. Finally, at a quarter of one in the morning, it came, prompting a soft cheer from the weary group. Seated next to me on this flight was ... Magic Johnson? Looks just like him. ... No way. Tyrone and I rapped awhile before he dozed off (that’s two people in three hours who’d fallen asleep while talking with me. ... Hmmm).
Meanwhile, the weather situation in Milwaukee delayed takeoff another 45 minutes, and you guessed it, mechanical problems put it off another half hour to 2 a.m. By now, I was starving. No peanuts, no drinks. Water, and that was it.
Things got worse. The complications escalated to the point where all passengers exited the plane and entered the airport again. There we were, some 60 tired souls pondering our immediate future a few hours before dawn. Some became so distraught, they opted for a shuttle bus, a four-hour ride or so. The rest of us roughed it, and soon boarded the aircraft once again.
“Folks, we have about 20 planes ahead of us, so please try to be patient,” the pilot announced over the intercom. “We should be off the ground in another, oh, 30, 40 minutes. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.” Ugh ... I swear all pilots sound the same. And how can there be 20 planes ahead of us? There wasn’t anyone else in the airport!
By three o’clock, the lights were out and all were sleeping – all but me, it seemed. With the tiny seats and rock-hard cushions, it puzzled me how anyone could sleep. I had as much chance of dozing off as I had of beating Tyrone in a game of 33. His snoring didn’t help.
A half hour later, as I was gazing out the window into the deep, dark night (er, morning), a loud noise startled me, and woke the rest (at least those who were asleep, which as noted earlier, was everyone except me it appeared). As Tyrone’s eyes opened, I realized the racket was the plane’s engine. Chitchat began to emanate throughout the cabin as others became aware, as well. The long wait was over, when at 3:31 a.m., we were finally in the air.
No announcement was needed to tell us, either.
Moral of the story: Fly Delta.
There we were, in the middle of nowhere, attempting to locate downtown Minneapolis. Lynn and I weren’t even in the state of Minnesota and were looking for its largest town.
We’d begun our journey in Milwaukee, where I’d flown from Ohio for one of my “long-distance relationship” visits with Lynn, and headed west on Interstate 94, virtually a straight shot to Minneapolis, on what was supposed to have been roughly a six-hour drive to visit my older sister Nina. Some four hours into our trip (we split the driving duties) on this hot summer day in late August 1990, we approached an exit sign that notified us State Route 35 South, which we presumed to be the final leg on our trip to the Land of Lakes, was upcoming.
“There it is,” I said, with one eye on the road and the other on Lynn. “We must be in Minnesota.”
“Are you sure that’s it?” she asked with a hint of doubt.
“Well, how many state route 35s can there be?” I answered, eyes rolling.
Thus, exiting 94 onto 35, the Twin Cities were not far off, we thought, completely oblivious to the fact that not once had we seen a “Welcome to Minnesota” sign. As a half hour became an hour, and an hour two, it was increasingly difficult to believe skyscrapers would suddenly appear as we passed cornfield after cornfield. As we approached a sign that read “7242,” my suspicions increased evermore. Are there really 7,000 streets in Minneapolis?
Imagine. Two intelligent (at least I thought so) adults driving around in the middle of nowhere – somewhere in the state of Wisconsin – searching for downtown Minneapolis ... Minnesota! I mean, what did we think, that the Metrodome would suddenly appear? We couldn’t even find a gas station, for God’s sake! Finally, we located civilization. ... Or was it? It was a tiny building – er, shed – called Wingfoot Airport, a clone of Wally’s Filling Station on The Andy Griffith Show, with not a soul in sight. Until 10 minutes later when a middle-aged man, a rugged looking fellow who looked to have a five – er, six – o’clock shadow, appeared. Lynn and I explained to the man, apparently an airport employee, our dilemma. He indicated to us on our map where we’d made THE WRONG TURN, and told us we had a ways to go before we hit Minneapolis. First, he said, we had to enter the state of Minnesota (something one does not exactly need a master’s degree in geography to figure out).
It turned out there were two 35s – a state route in western Wisconsin that runs north and south (the one we took), and an interstate in eastern Minnesota that travels east and west (the one we should have taken) – and that the “7242" sign we saw was some sort of country road number. Once the nice man got us off the beaten path and back on the road to our destiny, we made our way back to I-94, crossed the state border, and located I-35 West.
Some 10 hours after our journey began, Lynn and I arrived in Minneapolis, and by the time we got there, weren’t speaking. Or at least she wasn’t speaking to me.
Moral of the story: Get a triptik.