by Larry P. Johnson
(Editor’s Note: Larry Johnson is an author and motivational speaker. You can contact him via email at [email protected]or visit his website at www.mexicobytouch.com.)
The first time I went up in an airplane, I was scared to death. I was just 12 years old. I had joined two fellow Boy Scouts on board a navy training plane in Chicago as part of a Boy Scout field trip. We had to put on parachutes and wear headsets. The noise was so loud I couldn’t understand a word of what the pilot was saying as we took off and circled the air field for 10 minutes before safely landing. I’m sure that if he had given the order to “jump,” I wouldn’t have heard it. Even if I had, I’d have been too paralyzed by fear to move.
But now I really love to fly. First of all, because you get where you want to go pretty quickly — well, most of the time anyway. I remember one Labor Day weekend waiting on the tarmac in San Antonio for almost 8 hours before we could take off to Houston. But, while waiting, we did have free access to the bar. (Ah, but that’s a story for another time.)
Another reason why I love to fly is the people you meet — the airline crew, the airport personnel and fellow passengers. On a recent trip to Chicago I met a skycap named Ernie. He told me he had been a prison guard for 21 years. After assisting me in navigating the security checkpoint at 4:30 a.m., he bought me a cup of coffee and a doughnut, then sat and chatted with me for 10 minutes before escorting me to my gate.
During my layover in Dallas, a flight attendant named Cindy kept me company for over half an hour with friendly conversation about her family and mine while I waited for my connecting flight.
On my way to a national convention in Reno earlier this year, I met a middle-aged couple from New Braunfels who told me that they had spent their honeymoon in Reno. Jokingly I asked them if the reason they had picked Reno was in case they might have had second thoughts while on their honeymoon. On the final leg of my trip I sat between two fascinatingly interesting people. One was a young lady from Milwaukee with a beautiful guide dog named Fifer. She said she was studying creative writing, wanted to write young adult fiction, and was attending her first national convention. The other was a young grandmother and airline ticket agent, retired after 21 years. She was eager to learn about the life experiences and viewpoints of blind people.
On my way back home from Reno, an airline maintenance employee named Carl befriended me and decided that my spirits needed a little lift. He gifted me with two one-shot bottles of Jack Daniels.
Talking with fellow passengers or crew members on a long flight helps you to forget about the cramped seating, the stale pretzels and the wait for your luggage at the baggage claim carousel. It helps pass the time and gives you the chance to meet some really interesting people. There is not a person that I meet from whom I cannot learn something, and there is not a person that I meet to whom I cannot teach something. And that’s how I see it.