Flying the unfriendly skies

Near Darke
By Hank Nuwer

Although I fly frequently, I don’t know any unruly passengers.

Except one, I admit.

Me.

This incident occurred the time I boarded a flight to Minneapolis and buried my nose in an airline magazine.

Vaguely, as I read, the flight attendant greeted passengers with the final destination being — Oh, no!

“Did she just say Seattle?” I shouted at a passenger.

“Yeah.”

I about broke his toes as I darted to the front of the plane.

“I’m on the wrong flight,” I cried, waving my boarding pass. “I need to fly to Minneapolis, not Seattle.”

The stewardess remained calm. “We land in Minneapolis and continue on to Seattle, sir.”

The walk back to my seat sure was a long one.

Perhaps the flight crew judged me more squirrely than unruly.

My interest in the airline magazine was professional. A good part of my income was writing pieces for the in-flight market. At the time, I turned out about 65 articles a year.

One of my clients was Ozark Air Lines. I had a regular sports column, plus often turned out one or two features. As a result, I wrote under my own name and the pseudonyms “Henry Joseph” and “Thomas Granger.”

In July of 1983, Ozark’s editor published my featured interview with rookie Kansas City quarterback Todd Blackledge but held a second story for another month. I happened to fly Ozark that month while headed to Los Angeles on another assignment.

I sat next to a gruff, burly man who looked like a retired secret service agent. He flipped open his magazine.

“I wrote that article,” I said, after he paused on the Blackledge article.

“Oh yeah?” he challenged me. “Let’s see some identification.”

I looked down at the page and blushed. The byline read “Thomas Granger.”

All the way to L.A., my companion made it clear he was seated next to the world’s biggest fraud.

I also have a problem with airport parking lots. Too often, I’ve returned from extended trips only to draw a blank on where I left my car. It’s embarrassing to ride with an airport security guard row after row until I spot my vehicle.

Last month in Anchorage, an airport employee ran toward my rental when he saw I was stuck at the pay exit.

My wife had handed me a ticket, and again and again, I jammed it in the slot. Each time, the ticket was rejected.

As the good Samaritan approached, I read the ticket.

“Gosia, this ticket says `Dayton airport.’”

“Oops.” She handed me the Anchorage ticket. The gate went up as the employee approached.

“Problem solved, thank you,” I called to our would-be savior and left the gate.

But a side glance revealed that my wife was about to crumple the Dayton ticket.

“No,” I said in horror. “How will we get our van out of the Dayton airport without a ticket?”

Now it was her turn to blush. “I forgot that we still need it.”

That was one of the few times I had an opportunity to throw trash talk at my wife. Usually, she’s the one nailing me with one-liners.

Like last month, as we went through security at the tiny King Salmon, Alaska airport, Gosia waited patiently as I asked an attractive agent for a card that said I was over 75 so that I could keep on my shoes.

“No way,” she said. “You don’t look anywhere near 75.”

I preened like a peacock as I turned to my wife. “Did you hear what she said?”

“She’s just being kind, dear,” Gosia said with a smirk.

I rolled my eyes. I’m used to getting no respect.

Take the time I boarded a plane in Los Angeles after an appearance the previous night on a national late-night TV show to talk with the host about an article I had written.

It was a Hughes Airwest plane. Passengers had no seat numbers and could sit anywhere they liked.

I was single then and thought the Lord had been very good to me as a flashy woman plopped next to me. “Hello, Hank,” she said. “I watched your show last night.”

We enjoyed a very memorable and productive conversation — for about 15 seconds.

My companion looked up in delight. Actor Lee Marvin passed us in the aisle.

She pounced on a seat alongside the handsome actor. “Hello, Lee,” she cooed.

See? Even the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield gets more respect than me.

Maybe I should switch from planes to Greyhound buses.

Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.