Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cannon Fodder

As always, our family went to the States for Christmas. It was the usual round of visiting relatives, trying to squeeze in quality time with too many people, attempting not to eat too much and sometimes having to try to make it feel like we were having fun. The usual holidays...

That all changed on Christmas Day in Detroit when yet another airline disaster was narrowly and unbelievably luckily avoided.

My son and I were flying home on Sunday, since I had a gig on Saturday night. My wife and other son had driven on ahead because of a rehearsal for her back in Toronto. Because of all the restrictions and new searching procedures now in place, we didn’t get out that day. After 6 hours at the airport, they canceled the flight. No planes were making it down from Toronto, so no planes were available to take us home.

So how does all this fit in with Type M’s mandate of “all murder (writing), all the time”?

Well, I had plenty of time to just sit and observe, and under such a stressful situation (fully-armed soldiers all over the place, not looking very friendly), there was a lot to observe.

There’s always a bit of anxiety where flying is involved. Some fear it a lot, some less, but I don’t think that there’s anyone who doesn’t feel the slightest twinge. With the attempted bombing in Detroit, that anxiety was ramped up by at least a factor of ten.

What did I notice? First of all, almost everyone was watching everyone else — closely. Anytime someone moved, eyes would swivel in that direction. Obvious, too, was the fact that certain people merited more monitoring than others. Why is that guy sitting in the corner wearing such a heavy coat when it’s so hot? Those people down the row keep whispering among themselves — why? Down the hall someone dropped something and it made a pretty loud crash. Two women in our lounge area actually screamed and several people leaped to their feet. I swear they were ready to bolt.

With a plot I have percolating in the back of my mind, I got a first-hand look at exactly what I may wind up writing about. It wasn’t a pleasant situation to be in, for sure, but it turned out to be potentially very useful. I have several pages of notes in the journal I always carry when traveling.

Best part of the trip? The security people wanted to see inside my trumpet case. I took it out and the guy wanted me to take it apart, not something I wanted to do at a security check point. I offered to play it instead to prove that explosives weren’t stuffed into the tubing. I don’t think the security people or passengers around me thought “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” was the appropriate thing to play...

4 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

Better than "Nearer My God to Thee"

Vicki Delany said...

As one wag commented in today's paper:
Since we have a far greater chance of drowning in our bathtubs than of succumbing to a terrorist attack, isn't it high time the government installed security guards in every family bathroom

MTCoalhopper said...

How many other potentially inappropriate tunes are there? Taps? When the Saints Go Marching In? Amazing Grace? (always a funerial favorite)

The people down the aisle were whispering amongst themselves about the guy who was looking around and then scribbling madly in a notebook.

Every time I read about airport conditions, I long for the good old days of railway travel, which I'm not quite old enough to recall.

Rick Blechta said...

Dear Coalhopper,

I am just barely able to remember the tail end of "the good old days of train travel" and it's made me an addict for this form of transportation. And yes, the stories are true. Even in coach you were treated pretty well. Nowadays, we're used to being treated more like cattle when we travel, sadly, even on some of the trains.

And you're probably correct about the stares I got for all the scribbling. It was so easy to capture what many people were thinking from their faces. Everyone in that lounge area was uneasy.

Thanks for contributing!