I strayed from blogging for a bit, but now I have wandered back to play here again.
It is early on a cold Monday morning as I type this. I considered skipping work–taking a snow day and just staying in bed all day sounds very appealing. But I have concerns that the complete lack of snow outside, despite this abysmal cold, is sure to cause me trouble down the line. So, I am up. I pretty much crawled out of bed and then crawled into a cup of coffee. Splashing around–damn, got half and half in my eye…
I recently returned from a business trip–my second one this year. I went to Parsippany, NJ. where they actually have snow. The first time I went there, there were pretty snow banks everywhere. This last time, I found fewer snow banks, but the ones that still existed were becoming gray and dirty with age. Nothing gets nastier faster than long linfering piles of snow, At least in my “spent most of his life in Florida” limited snow experience.
I traveled to The Garden State via Newark airport.Speaking of snow…
Many moons ago, I worked for an airline reservation center. I did not work for an airline, but for a company that had been contracted to operate reservation call centers for the airline. This was very unusual at the time, but then the airline itself was unusual. It was called People Express and it was like traveling on a Greyhound bus that flies. But it was ridiculously cheap. Those were the heady days right after the airlin deregulation. You could make a reservation, but you didn’t pay until you were actually on the plane. Back in those days, airlines actually served food pretty much no matter where you were going. People Express would serve sandwches, but you had to pay extra.It was the cheap fares that made the airline such a success.
People Express’s hub was Newark International Airport, or EWR as it is known in the business. No matter where you went on People Express, you had to fly to Newark. Jacksonville, FL to Orlando? You still had to fly from JAX to EWR to get to MCO. We had to learn all the airport codes to do our job, and I remember the mnemonic device we used to remember the Orlando airport code was “Mickey COuntry”
I began as a lowly airline reservation person–something called a Sales Associate. I was eventually promoted to a customer service position. For the life of me, I can’t recall my title, but essential function of the job was taking escalated calls from unhappy to irate callers, transferred to me from Sales Associates. Those of us who did Customer Service had no actual power to resolve problems or to compensate these upset callers, so all we basically did was listen, sympathize, offer them an address where they could write a letter (yes, snail mail!) to register their complaint.
One ofthe women I worked with often handled less that happy customers by saying, “It sounds to me like you want a full service airline.” People Express prided itself on not being a full service airline, so this was as good a response as any.
I remember the most bizarre call we ever received was from a tearful woman who discovered, to her horror, that as the plane took off and began its ascent,the man seated next to her–a total stranger, in the words of Elaine from an episode of Seinfeld, took it out and began pleasuring himself. ( I guess the change in altitude really got him going.) When the horrified woman tried to leave her seat to alerta flight attendant, she was ordered to sit back down and buckle up! The plane was in ascent mode and FAA regulations require everyone to be seated and strapped in! Even back then, well before 9/11, you didn’t trifle with FAA rules.
If this had happened today, it would be all over the 24 hour news cycle. “Take off took on a whole new meaning for one playful passenger, according to the woman seated next to him….” and so it would go, all over TV and the world wide web. But, as it turns out, I don’t remember what (no pun intended) came of the man or his disgusted seat mate, except the woman in my office whohandled the call wasappropriately sympathetic as she gave the caller the address where she could write to register her complaint.
I told you that to tell you this–that customer service job was the catalyst for my very first (oh, look at me! I’m all grown up!) business trip. I was sent to the airline’s headquarters at the Newark Airport. As luck would have it, the night I arrived, there was a blizzard and the next day, I got to enjoy my very first “real snow.”
Actual photo of me, along with two colleagues, playing with snow.
The next evening, I took a shuttle bus into New York city to have dinner with my college room mate who then living in Manhattan. I will never forget the sight of hookers playing their trade in knee high boots. I guess prostitutes can’t take a snow day/night.
I flew out of the Newark airport on Friday. I have returned to Florida in time for a cold snap, but at least there’s no snow, therefore no plausible option to take a “snow day.” And you can’t just “call in cold.” They don’t buy that story for a minute. Employers are so demanding!
In previous blogs, I have mentioned the church near my house with the precariously listing cross upon its steeple. Here is some photographic evidence of the steeple of which I speak–including the crooked cross reflected in a puddle in the street in front of the church.
A little less than a year ago, a tropical storm came through the area and blew that cross straight:
Alas, this momentary weather miracle was not to last. Gravity and birds have been working that cross ever since. From the vantage point of my front yard, that cross leaned more and more to the right with each passing day.
Upon my return from New Jersey, one of the first sites to greet me in the little ghettopia where I reside, was the bare steeple, the cross having finally been torn asunder, the top of the steeple all ragged:
I had feared that when it finally did fall, the cross might deck some unsuspecting pedestrian. I was relieved to note the cross lies peacefully on the church’s slopping roof.
Poignant, yet somewhat comforting to know that the listing is no more, and now it is at rest.
I am sure there is a philosophical or theological opportunity here that I am missing, but the cold seems to have clouded my mind, so I will just let the photographs speak for themselves.
But I am reminded of the wise words of Mr. Tom Petty who once said, “I wanna glide down over Valhalla I wanna write her name in the sky. Gonna free fall out into nothin’. Gonna leave this world for a while.“
I don’t know about you, but for me, that provides some real perspective on how that cross must have felt as it broke loose and fell to the church roof.
Which reminds me of another quote—this time from Joseph Campbell:
We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.
Time for me to freefall out of here.