(Aloft 30,000 feet above America) – Thursday, January 19, 2012) There’s a new dusting of snow on the ground in Chicago; 15 inches of fresh powder in Utah, I’m told. My flight for Salt Lake City leaves in four hours. I woke up far too early to make it in time. We’ll be there with more than the usual 45 minutes to spare.
These are my thoughts at 4:45 AM when I come down the stairs to make coffee. Then there’s the regret of having to leave home. It’s crazy, I know. We’ve been planning this trip for nearly three months and now that departure is near you’d think I’d be reveling. Last night, after driving downtown to meet Martin (he made DVDs to give me because the production DVDs will be late a day in delivery), I was raring to start. But, today, in the dark with the sleep in my eyes and pajamas still on, I am brooding inside that I have to get moving.
The other burden I carry is heavier – just one small suitcase on rollers and a bag with my camera, computer, Kindle reader and business cards. But then I have Mike, too. My plan is to lay him out to be scanned on the belt at Midway’s airport security and hope that his ashes will pass through without scrutiny. Mike’s been on trips with us when he didn’t have proper I.D. and made it through. God’s way of looking over him, I suppose. Even in death, nothing’s changed.
A woman wearing fashionable cat-eye glasses and with face make-up that doesn’t match her cleavage takes the place on line in front of me. She is dressed like Sonny Bono in a shaggy hirsute vest and metal-tipped cowboy boots and is schlepping an ION TV tote bag. She is talking to a guy who is immediately in back of me as if I was invisible, and maybe I am in my olive green Carhart jacket holding a cherry wood urn wrapped in duct tape. They are making arrangements to meet at a party tonight at the Spur. This might be something to look in on.
I ask Maureen, my wife, to photograph Mike and me as we leave the area, feeling oh-so-good that he made it without incident. A guard reprimands us. But I pose as if she’s paparazzi and we get one.
Flight 2774 departs nearly an hour late. and because we are flying Southwest, I am stunned. The passengers are told that the plane, packed from stem to stern like an orange kielbasa, is overweight and the crew is deciding on what to do next. Then, in what seems like a public relations faux pas, we are told that the captain will pilot our bird low to the ground to burn up more fuel than if we were flying higher and dump what is left before landing.
My spirits lift as our Boeing 737 takes to the heavens. It is a three hour and forty-five minute flight. I give Jim, who is traveling with us, one of the DVDs that Martin gave me, neatly wrapped in a paperboard wallet designed by Dan’s brother-in-law.
Dan, by the way, will be waiting for us at the condo. His wife Leslie will be sheets to the wind from drinking red wine; so will we. Thanks Southwest Airlines, for pouring us free Bloody Marys. The crew may not be politically correct or behave as environmentalists, but they know how to treat their customers.