Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the category “Airplanes”

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Five

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Five

“Everything you see and hear that seems funny. Write it all down,”

The first thing that I wrote down that seemed funny was: Why in the world did he hire me? I have no real experience. I’ve never been in charge of a unit as large as the one I have now. The Boss, Van Swearingin, has men with thirty years of experience and he is dumping them like yesterdays coffee grounds and bringing in a collection of new people who look like they either worked for Al Capone or Herr Shicklegruber. And I’m supposed to be their “Captain.”

I figured that I had better keep this journal to myself. Me and “Pops” Mulroy were the only two I felt I could trust. I had to hide it somewhere in my office. Something I remembered from a radio detective show was that the best place to hide something is in the open, the last place anyone would expect, so I slipped the journal onto a bookshelf between two other books the same color.

For the first three weeks on the job I went around to meet all of the men who were my new “troops.” I broke them down into eight hour shifts. Midnight to 8 AM – The Red Shift, 8AM to 4 PM – White Shift, and the 4 PM to Midnight the Blue Shift. I expected there to be some grousing about the assignments, but there was none. Not a word complaining about being put on the Red Shift. Whatever unit I’ve been in there has always been some complaining and whining about working Graveyard, but not from these guys.

At Van Swearingin’s request, which is as good as a direct order, each man working security was to carry a sidearm and a billy club. A shipment of brand new Smith and Wesson .45 caliber 1911 Model semi-automatic pistols was delivered to my office a week later.

I picked out a few men who had some MP or Shore Patrol experience and made them my Sergeants. I needed a level in between me and the men. I couldn’t be everyplace all of the time. These NCOs set up and ran training schedules for each Shift Unit. They kept them busy until everything was up and ready to go. As a Unit came online, able to function, the old Security men were “retired.” To be honest – most of them were going to have trouble finding any jobs other than Night Watchmen or School Crossing Guards. They were either too old, too fat, or 4-F rejects who were turned down even by a world at war. A bunch of girl scouts would have been an improvement.

As I traveled between San Francisco and the facilities in Utah, South Texas, and about California, taking that DC-3 too often, I felt like I was living in a different world. What was going on in the factories, what they were making, was a mystery to me. The Plant Managers tried to explain it, but it was all too Buck Rogers for me. It sure wasn’t washing machines.

Each plant was out in the “Sticks,” away from main roads and big cities. There was a perimeter around each facility that had to be patrolled. I nixed the suggestion that we buy dogs to help guard the site. That would have made every plant look like a POW Camp.

I made some notations in my journal every so often. There were some unusual things that didn’t look or smell right. In each plant I overheard some of my “new” men huddled in a corner and talking in some foreign language. As soon as they saw me they’d switch to English. And again, no complaints – about anything.

They are suspicious of me and I can’t blame them because as more time passed I became more suspicious of them. That’s the kind of situation that makes my sleep somewhat restless.

When I was away from my San Francisco office my hours were from about 9 AM until the middle of the Blue Shift at 8 PM. That gave me a look at only part of the picture. I needed to see what things were like overnight.

I checked the Main Gate activity reports and I could see that there was more traffic in and out after midnight than at any other time. I didn’t know if that was unusual or not. I asked my Boss, Mr. Van Swearingin, during one of our weekly meetings.

“Oh, that’s not at all unusual, Tim. We have raw materials and parts coming in almost every night and finished product going out the same way. There is less road traffic that time of night and fewer curious eyes. Don’t worry about it.”

But I did worry about it. It’s in my nature. Nothing good happens at three in the morning. I was going to have to see for myself.

Surprise visits by the Brass were not at all unusual in the Army, even in the middle of a combat action. I figured it might be good for me to do the same.

It was a little after 2 AM when I drove up to the Main Gate at the plant outside of Fresno in the Central Valley of California – an area almost exclusively agricultural. Surrounded by Walnut groves and fields of Asparagus the Van Swearingin Ball Bearing Production Plant sat there looking like an abandoned Elementary School with all of the windows blacked out.

A large unmarked truck was pulling out as I pulled up to the barrier by the Guard Shack. I had my I.D. badge ready.

“This is private property, Bub. Turn it around and scram.” Not exactly a professional way to deal with visitors.

“Here is my I.D. Maybe you don’t recognize me, but I’m your Boss. And where is your name tag? You’re supposed to be wearing that at all times while on duty. Now – lift the barrier.”

The anonymous guard squinted at my badge like he’d never seen one before. Then he backed away from my car and consulted with the other guard in the shack before lifting the barrier so I could drive up to the building. As I drove off I saw in the mirror the guard picking up a telephone. He was letting someone know that I was coming.

I pulled up by the building. My headlights showed me that there were three security guards waiting for me. A reception committee in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. I got out and walked up to the Ritz Brothers by the door.

“Good evening, Gentlemen. I figured I’d just pay you all a little visit.”

“Well, I wish you’d let us know you were coming.” None of them looked very pleased to see me.

“If I had this wouldn’t be much of a surprise visit, now, would it?”

– To Be Continued –

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Four

A couple of more flights in that flying coffin and I’d visited all of the Van Swearingin plants and offices. I hope that I don’t have to do that too often. Give me a car and I’ll drive to wherever I need to be.

I was bothered by what “Pops” Mulroy said to me during that plant visit in Salt Lake City. He said that his “retirement” wasn’t his idea, that he was being forced out, after almost thirty years on the job. He didn’t seem to be holding it against me. He told me to finish my “Grand Tour” of the other facilities, keep my eyes open, and then to call him. He slipped me a piece of paper with a phone number on it.

“Call me when you get back. Call me collect, but don’t call me from any phone owned by Van Swearingin. It ain’t only the walls that have ears.”

I went to every Van Swearingin property with the Boss, met a lot of people and never saw anything that looked like a washing machine. Most of the things being built didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. Some of the workers were wearing special suits like something out of Buck Rogers and behind thick glass shields.

When I was introduced to the Security Units at each plant I was given the same story. The older, more experienced people were all being replaced with younger men. They were all roughly my age and carried themselves like professionals. I didn’t get to talk with all of them. Some of them avoided me, keeping to themselves. They may have been soldiers, but some of them didn’t look like Americans. They had a look in their eyes. I can’t explain it, but they looked like some of the Russian and German soldiers I’d seen near the end. Hardened by the war and, I don’t know how else to say it, soulless.

Even though the plants were all over the place the HQ, the Headquarters, was in San Francisco. My office was on the fourteenth floor. I had a secretary I didn’t know what to do with, and a desk the size of an aircraft carrier. When the job applications started coming in they passed over my desk even though they were already marked “hired” or “rejected” before they got to me. I went over the applications and some of the “rejects” looked good to me: Former MPs or Shore Patrol, military police, who already know the ropes.

A few of those hired by somebody above me had spent time in the stockade or were discharged at the same rank they had when they went in – Troublemakers. That made no sense to me. Most of those guys would have a hard time getting hired to carry bricks anywhere, but they were now part of my new Security Unit.

I needed to talk to “Pops” Mulroy. I called him, Collect, from a phone booth in the Ferry Building down by the San Francisco waterfront.

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Places To Go, People To See

 

TODAY IS ONE OF THOSE DAYS when I feel like I could just fold myself up like a road map and put myself in a desk drawer for a bit of a break.

I did get a good night’s sleep, but I don’t think I’m done with it. Everything and everyone is in a fog around me. On some days I’d appreciate that, but not today. I have things to do.

We are going to be heading down to Texas soon and there are a number of things that need to be taken care of beforehand. I need to go to the Post Office to stop mail delivery while we are gone.

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Gorillas In The Airport

NOT LONG AGO WHILE KILLING TIME waiting for a plane in Houston we were seated near a family – Mommy, Daddy, and three Kids. The kids were glued to their phones, oblivious to anything else. Daddy was sitting there engrossed in a book, but Mommy was busy keeping an eye on her brood and doing her best to keep her Hubby looking civilized.

She was combing his eyebrows.

I’d never seen anyone do that to another human being before. It must be something that they do a lot in that family. Mommy was combing Daddy’s eyebrows, but he never missed a beat with his book. He kept right on reading while she did her eyebrow thing.

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It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. Some are pretty obvious from the outset. With others it can take some time before we realize that we have stuck our foot in it. I have been collecting a few examples of some wildly errant boo-boos that deserve retelling.

One of my favorites dates from 1959. The fine folks in Ottawa, Ontario were gathered to celebrate the grand opening of a new modern terminal at the Canadian Capital’s Airport. Everyone was having a great time…until it all fell apart.

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Drive On The Left

IRELAND FEVER HAS STRUCK AGAIN! Pack your bag, update your passport, and practice driving on the wrong side of the road. Well…maybe you can skip that last one until you get to Ireland.

What has triggered this relapse into the need for tea and Pub life? Let me tell you.

Last night my wife, the lovely and a daughter of the Old Sod, Dawn, received an email message from one of her brothers down in Texas. It seems that he and his lovely wife are contemplating a trip to Ireland next April. That alone is enough to start the engines up here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “I won’t eat Black Pudding.”).

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Look! Up In The Sky!

WHAT? WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. Wait a second until the Blue Angels pass over the house. They are beautiful…and LOUD.

The Navy Blue Angels Aerobatic Team was in town for the 2018 Terre Haute (That’s French for Awesome.”) Air Show.

I love Air Shows. They are a living display of Aviation History, the Present, and a peek into the Future. In the air before your eyes are planes from the World War II era, the aircraft defending this nation today, and the cutting edge technology like the F-22 with Stealth capabilities.

It is a History lesson that should be taught to everyone because our History is the best way to understand and prepare for the future.

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“This Is Not Raleigh”

 

I BLAME IT ALL ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. Going from 97 degrees outside into a nice hyper-chilled building makes the brain transform into a head of lettuce. Spend some time in an Airport and watch it all turn into the Produce Section.

We just got back from another one of our visits to Family in Texas. The average temperature down there was a little cooler than molten lava. Of course it wasn’t much different than Indiana/Kilauea. Our flight from Indy to Houston took off during what I like to call “Lunchtime.” That is anytime after breakfast and before supper. I hate eating on an airplane and my attempt to do so on this latest flight didn’t change my opinion. 

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It’s In The Bag

 

LET’S SEE – SOCKS: TWO PER DAY. Nicey-Niceys: One per day barring unforeseen circumstances. Hawaiian shirts: One per day with extras for any formal occasions that might pop up. Pants. That should cover it. Boots and metal-free cheap airport friendly travel shoes are a given.

I travel light. If I do it right my suitcase will weigh about six pounds. My Carry-on might come in at seventy pounds, but the main bag will be like a feather.

Point of Order! Point of Order!

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Life Is Full Of Dusty Buttons

SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT ALONE. That’s another way of saying my personal motto: “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should.”

Would you pick up a stick of Dynamite with a short lit fuse? You could I suppose, but it wouldn’t be a good idea. Would you go up to every stray dog on the street and try to pet it? You could, but again – not a good idea.

“Oh, look, Harvey, he has foam all around his mouth. He must have been getting a shave.”

Yeah, right.

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No Chafing Allowed

THE PLANE LANDS AND WE GO HOME. Our luggage arrives the next day. That seems to be part of a more frequently occurring pattern lately.

Yup, this is a follow-up to a post from last week.

Sometimes it is our fault. Sometimes it is the airline’s fault. Sometimes it is beyond anyone’s control. It is Fate, Kismet, Dumb Luck.

Being mere human beings, we are flying around in defiance of the laws of physics, gravity, and some guy named Murphy things are bound to go wrong every so often. All we can do is to try to prepare to sidestep the inevitable.

This brings us to why I have underwear in my carry-on computer bag.

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Krafty Pops A Wheelie

 

HOW ABOUT A LIFE HACK that, while it isn’t exactly wrong, it isn’t exactly kosher either?

My wife, the lovely and aeronautically savvy, Dawn, and I have just returned from another excursion to Texas AKA The Surface of the Sun. When the temperature would hit 95 degrees people started saying, Oh, good. It’s beginning to cool off.”

We were ready to fly home as soon as we dropped off our rental car – a Kia “Soul.” (BTW – it is a Kia “Soul” not “Sole” because nobody with soles or feet would ever fit into the back seat. Double amputees only could ride there.)

Our scheduled flight from Corpus Christi to Houston was delayed for more than an hour by bad weather in New Orleans. Once it arrived we had a quick 35 minute hop to Houston, but our once planned 75 minute layover there was now reduced to ten minutes. Uh, Oh.

We landed at Gate 25 and our plane to Indy was sitting at Gate 51. In Houston that is a distance similar to that of the Earth to the Moon. Big Uh, Oh.

This is where the “Life Hack” comes into play.

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There’s Always Something New

DRONES – THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DIFFERING DEFINITIONS of that word. Some are nouns, others are verbs, and others just a pain in the neck. Then there are some that kind of slop over from one category to another.

To Drone: To speak endlessly in a monotone voice with no apparent effect other than to induce sleep. Usually done by politicians and…No, that’s pretty much it.

“What’s causing that Drone?” – A Scottish Bagpipe Band must be nearby. Either that or it’s “Here come the Killer Bees!” (Pointless Aside: I went to school with a fellow who got a full-ride college scholarship because he could play the bagpipes. I could play Yahtzee, but I got nothing.)

“Oh, look! There is a Drone flying over our house! Hand me the rifle.”

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Packing Luggage Is An Art

WHENEVER MY WIFE, the lovely and transportationally adept, Dawn, and I go anywhere we are faced with a dilemma – What should we pack and what should be left at home.

Some things are obvious – Socks. I need socks so I make sure that I pack them. Other things like….oh, the refrigerator, stay at home. A notebook and extra pens go with me. My Giants beach umbrella with the built in beverage cooler stays at home too. Other things are not so easy to decide about.

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Will You Puh-Leeze Make Up Your Mind!

“YES – NO – MAYBE… WE’LL GET BACK TO YOU.”

These people are driving me crazy – as if I need much to get me there…

To give you the opportunity to run away and hide I will tell you now that today’s blog is about my most recent encounter with my favorite whipping boy: the bozos of the TSA.

We are on the road again down to Texas for a Family visit. We always enjoy going there. No…We always enjoy being there. It is the “going” part that we can do without.

If you have been following this Blog for any length of time you have read my tormented soul screeds about my skirmishes with the TSA. You’ve seen me call them all sorts of names, most of which would get me off of their Christmas Card list forever. Now, after all I’ve said about them and all the names I’ve called them, they have thrown me a curve ball that made me speechless and nervous all at once.

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Don’t Give Me The Bird

 

SOME DAYS I THINK THAT I JUST LET THE WORLD WALK ALL OVER ME. Every day I see people who, it seems to me, are just taking advantage of the basic goodness of the world.

I’m not talking about blatant Con Men or people who perpetrate the cruel and nasty on people. No, I mean those who push on the envelope of everyday life for their own benefit. You know what I’m talking about. They are the ones who if they were out Trick or Treating would try to finagle an extra Milky Way from the nice lady at the door.

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Throwback Thursday from 2016 – “Flying To Texas Can Be Fun”

 

Throwback Thursday from 2016 – “Flying To Texas Can Be Fun”

monorail catA LONG TIME AGO in a galaxy far, far away I grew up in Western Pennsylvania on the edges of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Most people refer to them as the Amish. That is an oversimplification of course. There are a large variety of “Amish” communities and sects – each with their own set of rules.

The date of the community’s founding determines some of the rules. Many will not use a technology that came about after the founding date. That is why some groups will not use motorized vehicles while other will. Some will use telephones, others will not.

Last week while we flew to Texas I saw something new. Passing through the Indianapolis airport I saw an Amish family heading toward baggage claim. This was the first time I had heard of Amish flying. “Must be a new community.”

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Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “I’d Like To Know The Rest Of The Story”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

I’d Like To Know The Rest Of The Story

deer eating popcorn

 

GETTING OLDER IS NOT for sissies. It takes guts and imagination. But it also demands that, as Dirty Harry Callahan hissed in one of his films, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

I know that I can no longer play golf like I used to, and that is a blessing, because I was a terrible golfer. People always claim that it is such a sociable game. Well, the way I played it I was always off by myself somewhere. So – No more golf, no great loss.

A lot of the things that I can no longer do, I really don’t care about: golf, tennis, tap dancing (scratch that. That’s a lie. I never tap danced in my life).

I have had to use my imagination to add things into my life that give it spark and entertainment value while eliminating the need for special equipment – This blog being one of those things. Another being high-impact people watching.

Being a writer, in one way or another, I have always been a people watcher, but now I do it with the enthusiasm of Michael Phelps looking for a fresh bong.

This trip to Texas has presented me, the people watcher, with a target rich environment – The Airport!

Ain’t no place better for people watching than big city airports.

 This trip has us wading through airports in both Indianapolis and Houston.

Just recently, on Christmas Day, I witnessed literally dozens of people who had decided to travel while wearing antlers. I assume that, if I came back to the airport in July, the numbers would fall – I hope.

I saw one fellow who looked like Santa, wearing a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, standing in front of the Arrivals/Departures monitors, looking decidedly undecided. Mrs. Santa was nowhere in sight. She may have been out antler shopping in the gift shop.

I can understand that airports can be bewildering. But, Santa? After circling the globe in one night spreading joy and happiness to billions?

Must have been some righteous Jet Lag for the old guy.

 He should have brought along an elf or two to help him out.

While Santa and the Antlered Ones made for an interesting visual diversion, it was while we were waiting to board in Houston that I heard the following announcement come over the Public Address System.

“Will Mr. Johnston, please return to the Ticket Agent Desk for Southwest Airlines. You are in Houston – not Dallas.”

Now, I’ve gotten a bit confused myself, at times, but even Santa couldn’t top that poor fellow.

I wish that we could have waited around to see how this all played out, but our flight was boarding. We knew that we were in Houston and that we were going Corpus Christi. Mr. Johnson could not confidently, say the same.

I bet his antlers were too tight.

Life Happens On The Road

 

BACK TO TEXAS – FOR THE TIME BEING. We have been home for Thanksgiving, but we will be lining up for flights heading south again for Christmas.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

As anyone over the age of 12 can tell you, family trips are no vacation. That’s just a law of Nature. Not that I don’t enjoy seeing and being with the fine members of the family. It is that “grown-up matters are the primary function of such trips. Life.

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What Is That Up There?

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE SOMETHING NEW COMES ALONG that makes me sit up and take notice. It is not often mind you, but when that something shows up I will be the first on my block to applaud.

The latest thing that has grabbed my attention is one of those things that can be both amazing and annoying – DRONES – those flying gizmos that seem to be everywhere.

Drones are being used by everyone from the Military, to Sports teams, to every Techno-nerd in town. I don’t have a drone and I don’t want one. It is like tattoos – I can appreciate the skill it takes to make them, but I’m not going to get one just to follow the fad.

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