Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It's About Time!

Southwest airlines is FINALLY coming to the twin cities.

I have no idea how this is going to work. Will they fly only from here to Chicago and then travelers will have to change planes? Will they actually go to other places?

In the end, it doesn't matter. I'm just excited that a lower cost carrier (by comparison) is coming to the Twin Cities. Sure, people like to gripe about the ticketless travel and the fact that you have to line up for seats, but those are also people who complain about the way airline attendants look.

So what is there to complain about with Southwest? I'm not sure.

When I was in high school and college, I used to take the airline back east all the time. I never had one flight delayed (unlike...say...Northwest), I never had one flight canceled (unlike...say...Northwest), and I never had a back experience on their flights.

The first Southwest flight I was ever on was in 1995. This was two years after the company first started. Maybe it was because I was an idiot high schooler, but I really thought the idea of flying in their jump seats was cool. I was early to the gate, so I had a very low number. This meant I could get on early and choose whatever seat I wanted, and I wanted those jumpseats. I loved the idea of sitting and facing the other passengers. It didn't make me uncomfortable...but it did make some of them unhappy.

A few years later, I flew home from St. Louis on a near-Christmas flight (holiday or winter break). The airline attendants were dressed as elves, reindeer, a Santa, and (oddly enough) a rabbi. The flight was extremely fun. One gal reached into an overhead bin and pulled out a guitar. Suddenly the faux rabbi and the reindeer with the guitar started singing Christmas and Chanukah songs. Amazingly, the (not so full) flight sang. Was it the Vienna Boys' Choir or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? No, but it was nice, and it made the flight go quickly.

About an hour into the flight, the captain and head airline attendant decided to have a contest: The passenger that was closest to guessing the weight of the plane, the baggage, and the people at landing would win a bottle of wine. The second place finisher would get a twenty-five dollar certificate for food at the airport (again, this is pre-9/11). The only information the captain gave us was the weight of the plane and the weight of the fuel from take off as well as how much is burned off per hour.

The gal next to me and I worked up the math problem. I had seen everyone in line with me at the airport, so I knew almost everyone on the plane had one bag checked. Add to that the average weight of men and women and we were sure we had it. We ended up with the second place prize (which I gave to her). We were off by 150-some-odd pounds. The winner, a math major from the same university I was attending, was off by six pounds. The entire plane gave her acclaim, and she even got to take a bow to a waiting crowd when we got off the plane.

The last time I flew Southwest was when I was going to tell my parents I was getting married. I was nervous and fidgety, and the gentleman next to me noticed this.

"You ok, son?" he asked me.

"Yeah. I'm getting ready to tell my parents I'm getting married," I replied.

"That's great," he said. "You should celebrate," and he turned to the attendant and said, "Hey, this guy is getting married!"

"Really?" she beamed. "That calls for a party."

This was the last thing I was expecting, but the entire plane ended up having a party with food, some drinks, and general chit-chat. Finally, after a some time had passed, the attendant asked me to address the plane.

"Whaaat?" I asked thinking this was insane.

"Just introduce yourself and talk about why we should be so happy."

So I did. I told an entire plane of strangers that I was going to get married, and they cheered. It was the oddest and strangest flight I had ever been on outside of a flight from Miami to Quito where I sat near a pig...but that's another story.

Maybe the airline has changed since September 11, 2001. Maybe the people aren't as friendly or as fun, but I would like to believe that my nostalgia is not misplaced. And isn't that the point of nostalgia? We remember the greatest details of something that might be horrible. A friend of mine is now lamenting the loss of Yankee Stadium's bleachers after spending the last year bitching about how uncomfortable they are. Yet he knows his children will never get to sit in those bleachers like he did. Not matter how uncomfortable they may have been, the memories were pleasant. That's how it works.

As soon as Southwest opens a gate at MSP, I will take a flight. It's about time that a reasonable, well-run, and affordable airline was allowed to open here in the Twin Cities. I would have counted Sun

Of course, what do I know? I can't even speak about the Mile High Club. I could be wrong.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Balanced Chaos

I have to thank Margaret for this. When the world doesn't make sense anymore, when I cannot truly hold on to sanity and control my emotions, and when my caring nature begins to crumble, I think of my son. Little Leab, Lando, call him what you will.

His face reflects my nature. At first glance he seems troubled and upset, but if you look carefully, he just reflecting and contemplating the person looking on him as if taking her (or him) in.

And that got me thinking about who we are as human beings. We are nothing more than organized or balanced chaos.

We are not intrinsically good. We cannot be as human nature is not, for the most part, good.

We are not intrinsically evil. We cannot be as our decisions create our natures.

We are order and chaos delicately balanced. Fair is foul and foul is fair. That's what and who we are.

And yet so many of us want definitive answers to abstract questions. Why are we here? What is the point? What happens after we die?
We are not meant to know. It's like magic when you know how the magician does the illusion. The fun is lost. We are not meant to know the answers, but to create them ourselves.

Recently, my colleague in teaching Michele (my belle) asked an abstract question like this and it made me think about the best advice I ever got.
"When you do things right, people won't think you've done anything at all."
That's how you take care of others. You make them think they've taken care of themselves.

I'm rambling, but that's how I take care of myself. Someone else once asked me who I go to when I need help (because so many come to me). The answer is me. My burden, my albatross.

And it all comes back to those around me. That is my reason to control my emotions, to put the chaos in check. Find that reason. Find your center that creates the balance. We're here for only a short we might as well enjoy the ride.

Of course what do I know? I'm just a man of constant sorrow (thanks, Odysseus). I could be wrong.