When I got the e-mail I thought, that might be fun but there ain’t no way. Fly to Denver for 4 days to attend some convention I had never heard of. Something to do with the Christian Broadcasters, or booksellers association, or something like that. But as the days went by I started thinking more about it. I told myself, “Self, your 48 years old and never done anything like this. Besides you never know who might see, read, or discover your books.” So, I talked myself into it.
Due to my decision postponement, not procrastination; I could not find a direct flight from Atlanta to Denver. My brother in law, a legitimate frequent flyer, handled all the details. The day arrived and I was packed up and shipped off to Atlanta and that is where the fun begins.
I had heard horror stories, most exaggerated for the sake of drama, about getting through airport security. I did have enough sense to leave my ever-present pocketknife at home. When I got to the part where you put all your pocket contents in the plastic wash tub they had apparently stolen from a hospital somewhere, I dutifully emptied my pockets both shirt and jeans. Everything except my pocket change, which obviously has a few metal components. I had, a few years ago, suffered an unpleasant experience with a cardiac surgeon so I knew I was wired and was expecting a beep when I went through the detector. I learned here that any kind of delay in the orderly process causes a tremendous back up of people. I was reminded of a thousand cows trying to be first on the truck. So I handed the lady my pocket change, showed her my scar, and successfully went back through the detector. Observing the line of backed up and delayed passengers; I slipped my boots back on and fled. Walking off with my pocket full of change but no belt, no full pack of cigarettes and no twenty dollar bill that had been in my shirt pocket and no reading glasses. When I discovered this I thought briefly and insanely, of trying to go against the flow and try retrieving it. Then I just decided if I had come out of all that with no less loss than this I should just be thankful and learn from my experiences.
Due to the aforementioned delay in decision-making I had to change flights in Houston. I found all the places I needed to be with childish ease and was beginning to see it’s not as intimidating as I had worked it up to be. Maybe I just caught the airlines on a good day because my only delays were when I had to wait because I got where I was going early.
I did not notice her in the waiting area. I noticed the feller with a dress on and the woman with rings all the way around here nose. When I boarded the plane I understood why they loaded from the back to the front. The aisle was about a foot wide with just enough room so that you would have beat the other passengers senseless with your bag if they had been sitting there. I was in the very last row at the back and she was across the aforementioned aisle. A red headed, freckled faced young angel named Allyson, with big brown eyes, sent directly from heaven specifically to mother me on this maiden voyage. If anyone knows her I would like to thank her again. She lives in Denver and was on a flight out of Atlanta in July of 06. That really narrows the field down doesn’t it? We were separated on the flight from Houston to Denver but I let her read one of my books and she said she liked it.
This is also where I first encountered Jeffrey. On every fight I took during this unprecedented adventure there was a child who was the responsibility of the stewardess’s. They usually sit in the back and harassed passengers with unsolicited conversation. It was my good fortune to be seated by Jeffrey, maybe it was some kind of initiation process or something, I do not know, that is merely speculation. In the course of polite conversation, I attracted a lot of attention when I mentioned I was 48 years old and this was my first flight. That is when Allyson appointed herself my guardian angel and the time when Jeffrey went on the offensive. He was, as providence would have it, a frequent flyer. I reluctantly learned that he was 7 years old and this was his fifteenth flight. I was not impressed. Even more awe-inspiring was the fact that Jeffrey was an accomplished musician, and the Atlanta Braves next shortstop in waiting. He asked the flight attendant for coffee and said she could call his Mom if she needed to confirm his mature taste. We landed in Houston but Jeffrey was not finished with me yet, he had one last card he could play.
Because of the narrow aisles previously mentioned it became obvious that I was not going anywhere for several minutes but at least I could stand up. Another angel sent by the airlines, to sit between my interrogator, and me was a lot more mature and interesting to talk to than Jeffrey. She was a Continental employee who was going home to Houston and had used the empty seat. She had served as a buffer by fending of questions and comments coming from the window seat. She and I were discussing the relative merits of cornbread when an aroma began to drift up to the ceiling less than four inches above my head. It was an inescapable, impossible to ignore, but completely breath taking body function that is ignored in polite society. Acting on accepted protocol everyone was trying to ignore it when Jeffrey volunteered that he tried not to do it.
Remember here that I had left Georgia in July. I had been properly and adequately dressed for July in Georgia. My standard dress uniform of my “good jeans”, I’ve never been able to understand how my wife distinguishes which is which, a nice button up shirt bought for the occasion, my fire department cap, and cowboy boots. When we arrived in Denver it was 59 degrees and raining. But by then I just wanted a good bed and some groceries. I checked in, got my credit card looking key, and went off in search of the room. The number on the door and the number on the envelope was exactly the same but nothing happened. I went back to the desk where the sissy looking feller re-programmed it but got the same results. After the third trip back to the desk he just gave me another room and sent the maintenance guy with me.
I knew I was in big trouble when most everything on it was either Mexican or something else I was unfamiliar with. There was what they referred to as “Iced Tea.” A refreshing and delicious drink that hints of things Southern. This claim on the menu turned out to be misleading. God intended that tea, in this most cherished form, should be sweetened during the creation process. He created both tea and sugar and said that this was good.
The rest of the adventure was relatively uneventful and on my last call home I put in my order. A gallon of sweet tea, as God intended, for me to drink on the ride home from the airport. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel so I could alleviate some of my other nutritional deficiencies since I had spent most of the week living on breakfast and the occasional cheeseburger. No junkie ever enjoyed his next fix as much as I did my return to manna from Cracker Barrel. As God intended.