It’s good to fly early in the morning. Although getting up at 5:45 a.m. is a pain, the ease with which traffic moves, the abundance of parking at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and the absence of a crowd there more than offset it.
I pull off I-485 onto Little Rock Road, only mildly upset at the slower drivers who refuse to give up the left lane, and see the sign everybody who uses the airport craves: ALL LOTS OPEN.
I put on my turn signal and pull into the first lot I encounter, Satellite 2.
I’m a little rusty. I haven’t been on an airplane since March, when I flew to Detroit to watch Davidson play Wisconsin and then Kansas in the NCAA basketball tournament.
The problem with flying is that you never know what you’ll get. To me, the ideal flight is I’m the only passenger on the plane. My second choice: I have an aisle seat, the middle seat is open and, if there’s somebody in the seat next to the window, they can’t talk, or don’t want to.
That’s how it worked: the seat next to me was empty and the only word the woman next to the window said was “Thanks” when, after we landed, I asked her if she had a bag overhead I could hand to her.
But you can’t have everything.
The woman in front of me leaned way back in her seat. That’s her prerogative, and not surprising when the airplane leaves a few minutes before 8 a.m.
She was tired. I wouldn’t do it, though, not if there were somebody sitting behind me. I never have.
And two guys in the row behind me, one of whom had worked 30 years for the government and the other who was in the airline business, talked like radio personalities. They spoke as if every word had import and they wanted to share them.
Mainly, in their outdoor voices, they extolled the airline industry. They talked about what a miracle it was that they could fly from Charlotte to San Diego for less than $300, which is a good deal, and they talked about the history of aviation and, I think, the history of civilization. But about the time they got to Mesopotamia, they quit.
I love Mesopotamia.
I did not hear them again until we reached the California line.
When some people recharge, they want to be part of a group. They want to immerse themselves in humanity and conversation. They draw strength from it.
When I want to recharge, I drop out. It’s as if there’s an offensive line between me and the world. I like people. I just don’t like them all the time.
Whether you recharge in a group or by yourself is the difference between being an extrovert and an introvert, I’ve been told.
When the beverage cart came by, I asked for a bottle of water. I think I read that drinks no longer are free, so I pulled out my wallet. But the U.S. Airways flight attendant didn’t ask me for any money. A few seconds later he returned. He asked for $2.
To be part of this Charlotte to San Diego miracle, I was happy to pay. Plus, the ice was free.
Hey, we’re passing over Tennessee. I think I see Nashville. All right, Vanderbilt, you beat South Carolina. But if you have any guts you’ll stop ducking the state’s best team – Wofford.
Here are some of
the things you think of during a more than four hour flight.
The best five shows on television are:
1 – Californication.
2 – Weeds.
3 – Entourage.
4 – Prison Break.
5 – Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The only movie I’ve seen in a theater this year is
“Pineapple Express” and the only movie I saw in a theater last year was “Juno.” I need to get out
more. But Movies on Demand and digital cable make it tough.
Speaking of movies, my top 10 movies of all time are:
1 – Shane
2 – Cool Hand Luke
3 – Casablanca
4 – Hard Times
5 – The Godfather
6 – From Russia with Love
7 – The Graduate
8 – The Day the Earth Stood Still
9 – Godfather II
10 – Dances with Wolves
From now on, I pledge to go to one movie a month. You’re my witness. I eat too much popcorn and drink too much Coke, but that’s part of the experience.
Man, if I were USAir, I would pop popcorn in the back of the plane, let the smell waft through coach, and go down the aisle with the popcorn still popping atop a cart.
If I were greedy I’d charge $5 a bag, if I wanted to make customers happy I’d charge $2. If I wanted them to return, I’d give it away.
We are now passing above Little Rock, Ark., I think.
Clinton! Are you down there, Bill? I still like you, Bill!
Here are my NFL picks, most of which are numbingly predictable.
New England wins the AFC East, Dallas the NFC East.
Pittsburgh wins the AFC North, Minnesota the NFC North.
Indianapolis wins the AFC South, Carolina the NFC South.
San Diego wins the AFC West, Arizona the NFC West.
Denver is the AFC’s second Wild Card, the New York Giants are the NFC’s.
Excuse me, we’re passing above Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma, I have nothing to say to you!”
OK, here are my top
10 bands or artists of all time. (I’m talking to you now, not to
Oklahoma. I don’t care about Oklahoma.)
1 – Led Zeppelin
2 – U2
3 – Robert Johnson
4 – Bob Dylan
5 – The Rolling Stones
6 – Leadbelly
7 – Otis Redding (I don’t claim to know jazz, but I have a CD, just him and his piano, and his work is staggering).
8 – Oscar Peterson
9 – The Replacements
10 – Son House
There’s also a bonus to opening day. There won’t be another preseason game until 2009.
I feel as if I can see Las Vegas from here. My younger son, Pete, lives there. He was a college student who planned to major in English. But online gambling interested him more than James Joyce did, and he dropped out to go to Casino College in Sacramento.
At 20, he was the youngest of the students. Joining him were men and women in their 30s and 40s and 50s, folks that had tired of their careers, or had them taken away, and were looking for something new.
Pete has lived in Las Vegas for more than a year, deals in some tournaments and works at a casino. I would not trust my older son in Las Vegas, but I do trust Pete.
“Hey, Pete, be careful!”
Finally, we hit the California line and prepare to land. I hear several “Go Panthers" around the plane. There cities that make you smile when you land, and San Diego is one of them.
You want my list of top 10 cities?
I didn’t think so.
Wherever you are, enjoy the game.