And away we go

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors

Right after 9/11, Dan and I spent a few days in a small,1920s era Bed and Breakfast located steps away from Romar Beach, Alabama. It was called Romar House. Every evening from 4-6, the inn hosted a free wine and cheese bar for the guests. Everyone attended and the ensuing conversations would form an intransigent community. A lot of the inn’s guests were there because due to flight restriction then in place, their vacation plans had been changed. Consequently, many of the evening conversations turned to past air travels.

Linda, the bride of a honeymooning couple whose dream trip to Turkey had been cancelled, shared a hilarious story of a years back trip she and her friend Nancy took to Greece. Worried about insomnia on the 11-plus hours of air travel the trip required, Linda asked her doctor uncle if he could recommend any pills she and Nancy could use for the trip. Her uncle gave her something and said, “Only take this once you are both seated in the plane and ready for takeoff.”

The day of the trip, Linda and Nancy boarded the plane and while waiting for the other passengers to find their seats, drank a celebratory glass of wine and took their pill. The girls were sitting in a happy haze when the pilot announced that due to mechanical difficulties, they must change planes. Befuddled but still mobile, the girls followed the other passengers to the new plane and were finally on their way. They were happy and relaxed, but still in control. At least they thought they were in control until dinner when Linda happened to glance at Nancy and saw that she was carefully buttering her hand instead of her bread.

Flying home to Knoxville via Atlanta requires one to fly in an incredibly small plane we call the flying suitcase. Once, while waiting through some sort of delay, stories began circulating around the plane concerning past trips.

One man was returning from a 4-day business trip to Japan where he never left the airport. Husband Dan shared that we were returning from Italy where security for Americans was in a separate space from other travelers.

One woman found an abandoned suitcase, picked it up and asked who owned the suitcase. Fortunately, it wasn’t a bomb.

I explained that when we landed in Italy and followed the sign to immigration, the sign led to a taxi stand. The winning story, told just before takeoff, was the woman who said that she was in a plane once that was struck by lightning.

Air travel stories aren’t just from passengers. My half-sister Nancy was a flight attendant for many years, the last few years her assignment was the 19-hour flights to Malaysia.

On the return flight of her last trip, Nancy dealt with an irate woman for many hours. At one point the woman was standing in the aisle screaming that Nancy was a witch. Knowing it was her last flight, Nancy snapped her fingers over the woman’s head and said, “You’re right, I’m a good witch and I’ve just turned you into a good person.” The people on the plane cheered.

Air travel stories, no matter what they are, are still stories of being in the air. The best image of the experience is a 1941 sonnet TV stations used to use when signing off. The title is “High Flight” and it was written by a 19-year-old American Pilot Officer John Gillespie MaGee who, before America was in World War II, volunteered to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

High Flight

By John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air ….


Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark nor ever eagle flew –

And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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