Truth in Airline Travel — Early Bird Gets Jack Squat

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It’s been a bad 24 hours. Last night was date night with the missus, where we commit to putting the kids down and not staying asleep wherever we happened to fall – kid’s bed, staircase landing – but rather watch a movie together. We made it to our bedroom but alas, there m’lady dropped like a pair of wet corduroys. Before nodding off, she assured me August Rush was a good movie. It wasn’t. I mean, if you’re a musician I guess it was okay, but that’s like saying Cats was great if you’re a cat.

And get this – next morning Roger Ebert has no recollection of her recommendation, or ever even having seen the movie. Was this passive-aggressive? Perhaps. But so was my putting her homemade birthday backrub coupon inside the Tiffany Blue Box I’d found in my neighbor’s recycling. Truth? If passive-aggressive were a golf shot, I’d be on the Tour.

Next I met my buddy Hap for lunch, and he goes after Shana-the-waitress guns hot, questioning her mix of lemonade in his Arnold Palmer. Hey Louis Pasteur, what’s she supposed to do, titrate right there? This behavior is fine if Hap’s dining alone, but like two tethered mountain climbers, we’re in this one together. So now I have to be doubly charming to Shana, to guard against my food being violated, which under the Geneva Conventions she’s within her rights to do. It’s not Shana I worry about so much as Lars, the goth busboy with a vague dairy smell.

Which brings us to my present burden, something I hesitate to mention but feel I must. Let me put it this way. If I had one wish so close to the season of miracles, I’d wish for peace on earth and good will toward men. And if I had two wishes then sure, I’d wish for world peace, but second, I’d wish for flights that don’t land early when your only reward is waiting for your gate to open. At first I tried not to notice, like ignoring my daughter’s grudge for helping with her Of Mice And Men book report. (Way I see it, if you don’t know the lead characters are Lenny and George and not Lenny and Squiggy, that’s on you.) But I cannot ignore this hurry-up-and-wait any longer.

I don’t know how it is up there in the cockpit when you boys touch down. Maybe while you wait for the tower to call you home it’s all Steely Dan, foot massages and mango smoothies. But I can assure you that there’s none of that back in the cabin, where we’re strapped in like a knife-thrower’s assistant. There’s a Tibetan expression for what you’ve done. It’s called a d**k move. (It loses something in translation.) Why? For the same reason a lifeguard shouldn’t throw the life preserver ten feet short of a drowning victim. Or a father shouldn’t drive his kids to Six Flags thirty minutes before it opens and make them just sit there, staring at the rides.

Let me put it as clean as I can. Don’t put us down before you can send us home. Would you go to the dentist forty-five minutes before a root canal? I think not. I’d have thought this obvious, like knowing you can’t count on Benedict Cumberbatch in a bar fight. For here’s the thing. You may think you’re Sierra Hotel for arriving early, but to me the real aces are the guys who can land and go right to the gate. If you know you’ll get the Heisman from the tower, then just keep circling up above the clouds. You know, in that airspace of mutual distrust where you pretend landing is imminent and I pretend I haven’t turned off airplane mode.

Sure, this brings into play what I call circling agitators, they who rile up infrequent fliers with gratuitous comments like we’ve been circling a long time and this jet wasn’t designed to hold excess fuel. Now I’ve got to assure the woman in 9F who’s just trying to get back to Cedar Rapids that you (1) are wrong, (2) probably learned what little you know about flying from MacGyver and (3) prey on people so because you have daddy issues, when all I want is to finish Salt Water Sportsman. I’m certainly not that guy when we’re circling. In fact, I’m the opposite of that guy. We could be in North Korean airspace for all I know. But I know I’m not sitting on idly a tarmac, and for that I’m grateful.

So here’s my ask to you, Red Baron: just keep the eagle flying until mama bird says the nest is ready. And maybe pipe Reelin’ in the Years back into the cabin.