As we head back to Hawaii for the 2019 Honolulu Marathon and Waikiki Merrie Mile, I recall another such trip 30 years ago when travel was quite different and the distance to go much greater.
Oh, jeez! We just found out the plane sitting at Lindbergh Field’s terminal 2 gate 50 has a mechanical issue and we have to wait four hours for our next update! Not the flight itself, mind you, just an update. Once again I’m reminded that travel is fun for those who don’t do it! Anyway, here’s the way it worked back in 1989.
The Continental flight to Honolulu lifted out of Newark’s Liberty International at 8:45 a.m. I’d been up since five packing at the Hotel Wales on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side. Not that the Wales fit the exclusive Carnegie Hill neighborhood. In fact, its main function appeared to be tryst-palace for the weasel-minded marrieds of the area. Redolent of bad blood and old lust, the bedding’s sheen frightened me into sleeping fully dressed on top rather than toasty, but tainted, beneath.
On the ride to the airport the next morning, sleep clung to the corners of my eyes like small shells left behind on the beach by the outgoing tide. A day of travel, eleven hours in all, had me centered on the task of reducing the apprehension such involvement in close quarters required, meaning, lay off the coffee and resist the pull to fully awaken.
After all the airport preliminaries, the silver bird banked gracefully to the northeast revealing the deep thicket of Manhattan skyscrapers below. From above, the towers transformed into the spiny defenses of a hunkered down animal in fear. Not that I harbored any fear of flying. In fact, I had always been something of a fatalist. Send-offs like, “Have a good flight” had always confused me.
“I don’t think me having a good flight is gonna make much of a difference,” I’d think to myself, even while saying out loud, “Thanks, I will.” I figured it was pretty much up to the captain to have the good flight since it always seemed like the fellas with the hash marks on their gabardines had a hold of the controls. Me, I was just going along for the ride.
Before long I drifted into the completion of last night’s abbreviated sleep, carried by the hum of the jet’s spinning turbines. Hours later I awoke – the captain was still having a “good flight” up front – as the latest James Bond movie, “Living Daylights” rolled its closing credits while window shades lifted throughout the cabin.
Outside beneath a broken cloud cover the Rocky Mountains jutted skyward, while rivers meandered through the snow looking like chocolate syrup squeezed into a glass of cold milk.
As we glided into San Francisco over the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, we were told there would be a one-hour layover as the plane was refueled and cleaned for the final 5 1/2 hour flight to Honolulu. Being a seasoned frequent flier I knew it was best to wait until the plane was fully boarded before re-entering, as the air-conditioning systems in airplanes never worked very well on the ground. So sitting there in the back of the Continental flight to Honolulu partially boarded and not ready for takeoff would have been a rookie mistake.
Before off-loading, I left a “Seat Occupied” sign on my cushion, as well as my journal and magazines in the pocket below the tray table. But when I finally did re-board, lo and behold as I marched through the crowded compartment, there in full battle dress plopped comfortably in seat 34A – MY seat – was a nun. Well now. Continue reading