Cutting Through The Crap

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flying Pan


[Written yesterday, mid-air.]

My peak experience, commercial flyingwise, occurred when I was in Vietnam. (For that matter, the same is true for non-commercial flying: seeing tracer bullets arising from the jungle to my low-flying gooney bird was bracing; as was hearing ground control call out bandits at our six o’clock while riding in a flying gas tank over Haiphong Harbor. But those are stories for another day.)

On this occasion I was winging toward Hawaii on an R and R flight, while my wife was flying to the same destination, heading West. Knowing a guy in Saigon with some influence, I had been booked into the first class cabin; and this was in the days when first class meant something.

It was a shiny TWA 747. The upstairs was accessed by a spiral staircase, and as opposed to nowadays, it was an adjunct to first class. Namely, a bar, a lounge, a cushiony retreat. Generous and plentiful drinks were served to the brass there, and they looked askance at a guy sporting two silver bars instead of the stars and eagles that otherwise occupied the place. I was a little uncomfortable, but not enough not to enjoy the opulence which stood in contrast to my more humble accommodations back on base.

At dinnertime a cloth was spread on my seat table, wine was poured, after which the stewardess returned pushing one of those shiny steel roll-top steam carts, under the dome of which she dramatically revealed a standing rack of prime rib, smelling of home. “How much,” she asked, and proceeded to carve off an inch or two after incrementally moving her knife along the rack until I waved her to a stop…

I don’t remember it all. Was there a piano in the upstairs bar?

Anyhow, I bring this up as I’m flying to D.C., moments after having been asked if I’d like to purchase a stale (and, by its looks, a decidedly unboiled) bagel for six bucks, and an hour after an unsuccessful search for a pillow to bolster the lumbar region of a particularly uncomfortable seat. Cleaving my elbows tightly to my side to avoid the inevitable ulnar incursion of the brusque battering-ram of an especially unglamorous and opposite-of-shiny container on wheels, bearing crackers and soda pop and really bad coffee.

I should add that I’m in economy class, from which I can see the first class folks. The seats are bigger, but there ain’t no steam carts, and not a rib in sight.

Well, we lost the war. I don’t suppose we deserve anything better.

9 comments:

Ellen Kimball said...

Hello Sid,

Aha, you really are going to the rally! Hope it's a big success.

I'm with you in spirit, while the body is struggling with fever of unknown etiology... probably a slight case of food poisoning. I think of you often, although my contributions to your blog have tapered off.

Please favor us with pictures, if you can. I'll be busy on Saturday with my delightful "bonus" granddaughter Aliyah, who is the light of my life! I'll try to catch coverage of the rally late in the day. Jon Stewart told Larry King the rally will be covered by Comedy Central network. Will check later. Cheers! EK

Frank Drackman said...

OK Sid, don't tell me you didn't take any pics during your rides as a Flight Surgeon...cause I sure did..
Of course that means I have like 900 identical self portraits I took by holding the camera out in front of my face...
and if you flew in a 747 that means hommina hommina...(thats the noise I make when I'm cypherin' some figures) you must have been in the Nam' sometime from 1970-1973, which means, you might have done my Dad's flight physical the year he was there in 1972...Makes ya think...He was flyin outta Thailand, makin the world safe for democracy, and if it wasnt for Nixon's Christmas Bombing, we'd still be fighting the Gooks...
and after ya get done thankin Richard Nixon your kids didnt have to worry about the draft, I mean, until Jimmy Carter re-instituted it in 1980, lets thank Jimmy Carter for Air Line De-regulation, which made even First Class about like riding a Greyhound Bus...
I remember watchin my Dad leave for the Nam' outta Atlanta-Hartsfield, and he wore a SUIT!!! Just like all the other businessmen did back then, people dressed like they were goin to Church, and I'm not sure why he wasnt wearing his Dress Blues, except maybe cause they had a layover in San Fran-sissy-co and he didnt want to get spit on...

Frank

Sid Schwab said...

I was there in '72, mostly in Danang, RVN, but I was in Tak Li Thailand for the last four months. Lots of Thailand based pilots stopped in Danang, too, so maybe I did see him. I guess it would have been too late to have tied his tubes...

Frank Drackman said...

Har-dee-Har-Har, I'll have you know my Mom got HER tubes tied first...as soon as she was sure my sister had the requisite # of fingers/toes...
and I got mine done the same way, OK, it was a few weeks after our second daughter was born, you can't just whip out your junk in the delivery room and expect an OBGYN to know what he's doin...
I even did a whole post on it...
and yes, everytime I drop my wife by the nail salon I wonder if I've got a 1/2 Sister workin in there...
and ironically, if houses in San Fran-Sissy-Co didn't cost 1/2 a million(even back in the 70's) thats where my Dad would have retired, cause he LOVES San Fran, Rice-a-Roni, etc.
Thats right, I'd have probably gone to Stanford or Berkley, and be a dope smokin professor with one of those dope smokin professor beards...
Frank

Terry said...

You know Sid, this little vignette reminds me of why I love reading your blog. You write so incredibly well. I can virtually taste that rib...

So when are you going to write another book? Inquiring minds...

As you know I logged an insane number of miles in another life. Virtually all domestic in nature they were. And because of my "Elite" status (only because I had so many damned mnay miles), I was often treated to "First Class" via the "Upgrade"

NEVER have I experienced anything remotely close to the "Steaming Cart"

Hell I thought I was living large when they brought out the "heated cashews"

And by the way, I sure hope you were smart enough, or lucky enough to get an exit aisle. At your height, roach class is next to impossible on a long journey.

Give em hell back there.

TC

Ellen Kimball said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen Kimball said...
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Ellen Kimball said...

Happy Halloween! Font size problem truncated links in last two comments. Sorry about that. Once more, with feeling!

Short link to article and photo about Boeing 747 piano bar:

http://tinyurl.com/2ezyce8

Frank Drackman said...

Hi Ellen,

nice mask...