THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING
On Common Sense Stuff
Hangarflyers Liars and Philosophical Society
Minutes of meetings
Location: Get-It-Quick Crossroads Store and Café
Date: June 12, 2005
One of the world’s greatest mysteries was solved at the last PHLAPS meeting. We do this on a regular basis, solve great mysteries, that is.
As is our custom, the meeting was not called to order, and no minutes of the previous meeting were read since none were recorded.
It was an incredibly beautiful spring day outside as we consumed huge quantities of coffee while dealing with questions of monumental proportions. With sky so blue it brought tears to your eyes and the azaleas dancing in brilliant sunlight, it was only natural the discussion turned to the weather.
“Why do you suppose anybody would want to live anywhere else?” Bobby Earl asked mostly to himself while gazing somewhat wistfully out the window at scenery of indescribable beauty.
“Harrumph, har, ah, that, my good man, is easily accounted for by the socio-economic conditions surrounding each individual and small micro-economic units associated thereto.” Wild Willard rolled himself around in his chair to more squarely face what he assumed was now to be his audience and prepared to pontificate. He’s a judge, you know, and accustomed to having folks listen when he speaks.
The others just rolled their eyes and started talking about other important issues, like fishing, boating, barbeque… We like to ignore Willard when we can, just to get his goat.
Bobby Earl hadn’t meant to pose a serious question, but I began to ponder the issue. Why did folks, who presumably have a choice and reasonably good sense, choose to live somewhere other than in the near paradise displayed just outside the window of the Get-It-Quick Crossroads Store and Café? I don’t mean specifically just in our immediate area, but why would a sane person want to live anywhere other than in the Southeast United States of America?
There was a time in my early adulthood that, I’m embarrassed to say, I was not particularly proud of the fact that I hailed from the Deep South. This arose from my understanding that the rest of the nation did not completely comprehend what genteel southern living was all about. I believed (and rightly so) that, in the minds of non-southerners, images of the Beverly Hill Billies and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath leaped forth whenever mention was made of anything or anyone from south of the Mason-Dixon line.
On one of my earliest sojourns outside the confines of that area of our nation blessed beyond measure with all good things (the South), I found myself at a rather posh dinner party in La Jolla Beach, California. How I got there, I do not recall. It’s probably safe to say someone made a serious error in social judgment. Actually, I think it had to do with some retired admiral who had done well in the business world and liked to show favors to young naval officers. Naval officers whose epitome of social achievement might otherwise have been haute cuisine under the golden arches.
At any rate, I found myself in conversation with a lusciously lovely young lady decked out in a slinky gown that showed glimpses of places I had no business looking. After a few minutes of swapping meaningless blather, she cocked her head, looked at me with curiosity, and said, “You don’t sound like a… a southerner.”
She had obviously searched hard for that last word, while discarding other choices like hillbilly, redneck, and ignorant nincompoop. I resisted the urge to respond with, “And you don’t sound like the air headed idiot you apparently are.” I resisted only because she had certain other attributes that, in my mind, more than made up for her lack of social skills. Instead, in a hideous display of my complete spinelessness, I responded with, “Thank you.”
In my defense, if you had seen her and you where a young, unattached (this was before I had even met my wife), male, you would have responded with whatever you thought she wanted to hear too.
But the point here is that at that time, prior to my becoming fully enlightened, I felt it necessary to somehow apologize for being from the South. If the same thing happened today, I would likely, with a healthy heaping of indignation, respond with, “Madam, if you don’t think I sound like a southerner, it is only because your ear is not trained to distinguish the finer, upper levels of linguistics. You are not skilled enough to recognize the speech patterns of those of us fortunate enough to hail from the one area on the face of the whole earth (and I have pretty much searched the entire planet) where most of the inhabitants have discovered the true meaning of life, have indeed perfected the art of living well.”
Of course now I wouldn’t be interested in her other attributes either.
Reflecting further upon Bobby Earl’s somewhat rhetorical question, I thought back to an incident that took place early in my airline career, just after one of the many mergers of that time. Mergers, you need to understand, brought together not just a bunch of airplanes (that then needed to be painted in a new paint scheme), not just a bunch of people doing the same jobs, not just a bunch of ground equipment, but whole different cultures.
We were sitting in the crew lounge at the main airport hub of the newly formed company, a place we fondly called The Ice Palace. One of the pilots from the “other side” was gushing forth to whomever would listen about the virtues of living in the upper mid-west. “Why, you have all sorts of great outdoor activities,” he said with nauseating enthusiasm. “There’s snow skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.”
I was just contemplating the joys of staring down a hole in the ice while shivering uncontrollably and listening to my teeth chatter, when an old, ex-Southern Airways captain, who had been nodding in a recliner chair in the corner, raised his head, pushed his hat from over his eyes, and looked squarely at the one spouting forth. “Son,” he said, “let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard of anybody, anybody at all, retiring in Miami and moving to Minneapolis? Think about it.” With that, he slid the hat back over his eyes and settled back into his nap.
So, that brings us back to Bobby Earl’s question. Why do presumably semi-intelligent people continue to live in the forsaken wastelands of the frozen north when without a great deal of effort they could move to the area of near paradise south of that famous line?
The august and semi-erudite members of PHLAPS came up with a theory, which is just as good as a fact in today’s scientific estimation. You see, years ago, when the frozen tundra of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and such was first being settled, it took a long time and a great deal of effort to get there, inasmuch as folks traveled by foot or at best on a good mule. When they got there, it was summer time, and the place looked pretty good. For about three weeks. But soon, when the “frozen precipitation” piled up to the top of their little log cabins (which occurred rather abruptly sometime in late August or early September), it was too late to go back. By the time the frozen stuff began to thaw, Mama was heavy with child (there wasn’t much to do during the long winter), so couldn’t travel. They would try again next summer. But next summer, you guessed it, heavy with child again.
Then it just sort of happened. They didn’t want to leave anymore, because their whole family lived in the area. Or rather, they wanted to leave but couldn’t because of the giant, extended family.
And that’s a good and valid reason for staying. It’s good to be around relatives. But then the members of PHLAPS, being the deep thinkers we are, came up with an incredibly ingenious yet simple solution to this problem. Every year each poor, unenlightened, Yankee family should move to a new house a half mile or so (a few blocks if you’re city folk) down the road. They should do this every year and always in a southerly direction with those living furthest north moving to the very edge (the southern edge) of the family group. After a few generations, voila!, they would find themselves living in paradise eating grits without ever having left the area “where all my relatives live.”
We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves for having solved this dire dilemma for our poor ignorant Yankee brethren, when a slow realization crept over the group. Face by face, one then another (Bobby Earl was last), smiles faded to looks of near panic as understanding dawned for what our solution meant for our children and grandchildren.
Without further discussion, we vowed to never speak of the “Frozen Mindset Solution” again. The meeting was adjourned with no ceremony. Even at the risk of being forced to do yard work, we went home to ponder the horrible catastrophe we had almost fostered upon the world (well, not the world but the very best part of it).
(Letter 3 of coupon code= O)
Location: Get-It-Quick Crossroads Store and Café
Date: March 25, 2005
Ravin’ Ray Riley came to the PHLAPS meeting yesterday with his hair on fire. For those of you who know Rrr, you know that this could be a description of his frame of mind in that he is very much an energetic fellow, full of new and wonderful ideas. But no, this had nothing to do with his demeanor. His hair was on fire.
Seems Ray’s classic 1976 GMC pickup truck died just as he pulled into the parking lot. His initial attempts at reviving it were not successful, and since it was just barely clear of the road, and since it would be highly embarrassing to have such a fine piece of machinery seen in a disabled state right there in front of everybody, Ray hopped out and popped the hood. The beauty of these fine antique automobiles (and trucks) is that their inner workings have not been all guncked up with a bunch of new and mysterious gadgetry that only some pinheaded PhD at Microsoft recognizes let alone understands. Ray had the air-cleaner off and the problem identified in seconds.
By peering down the carburetor throat while turning the engine over by shorting across the starter solenoid with a pair of pliers, he could plainly see the beast was not getting any fuel. This was probably because there was none in the tank. And this was probably because the fuel gauge quit working in 1981, and Rrr didn’t pay a lot of attention to how far he went between each 5-dollar purchase.
Fetching his official Dale Earnhardt one-gallon gas can from its place behind the seat, he strolled over to the gas pumps in front of the Get-It-Quick where he gave Charlie Ray, inside behind the cash register, the high sign so he would turn the pump on. Within minutes Ray had poured all but the last little bit into the tank of the truck. Having had vast and recent experience at this sort of thing, he knew not to pour all of the gas into the tank. Because the fuel system was completely dry (and because the fuel pump was old and tired), if the truck was to start on what battery life it had, some gas would have to be poured down the carburetor to go directly into the intake manifold.
In spite of his expertise in this area, the truck did not start right away and all too soon began to emit that groaning sound indicative of a rapidly failing battery. Had he flooded it by pouring too much gas in the carburetor? He had to know for sure as he could not afford to waste precious electrons (battery life) trying to start it with too much or not enough gas available.
Again, Rrr, standing on the bumper, hovered over the open carburetor closely watching as he turned the engine over by shorting the solenoid. Ol’ Blue, Ray’s affectionate name for his truck, grunted a couple of times as the starter ground around, then hung, belched, shook, and shot a streak of fire out the carburetor and directly into Ray’s flaming (now literally) red hair.
Through rather strong input to all of his senses, he rather quickly recognized that he had something of a serious situation going on. Patting himself on top of the head immediately fried his fingernails. Smoke could be seen billowing off, as well as smelled and tasted. A really scary crackling sound seemed sourced just above and moved wherever he moved. Recognition was quick. A solution to the problem was not.
Seeking immediate assistance, Ray ran toward the first person in sight, who happened to be a lady pumping gas into her car. She, upon seeing a wild man with his hair on fire rapidly approaching, spun to face him. In her state of panic (quite natural, actually), she continued to hold the pump nozzle, which came out of the receptacle and now spewed gasoline all over the ground.
Flamin’ Ray, even in his somewhat agitated state, surmised that looking for help from a lady gushing gasoline was probably not a good idea, so he changed course and headed inside.
The other members of PHLAPS had arrived earlier (on time) and were sitting at the big round table peacefully sipping coffee while waiting for their orders of fried cholesterol. Judge Wild Willard, sitting opposite the door, saw him first, but even WW, who is never at a loss for words, was at a loss for words. His gagging and strangling noises while his eyes bulged out on four-inch stems distracted the others and wasted critical seconds as Rrr charged the table.
Then all heads snapped back to face Ray who looked like a miniature version of Mount Vesuvius seconds before Pompeii disappeared from the face of the earth. To a man all present, in unison, snatched up coffee cups, cocked elbows, and prepared to douse the towering inferno. But just as quickly as the uniform motion set about, good judgment took over as it was recognized that the just served, steaming hot coffee might not be the best solution to Rrr’s woes. Said recognition may have been aided by the fact that Ray, even in his state of extreme agitation as his brains began to boil, saw what was coming and let out a mournful, “Nooooo”, while waving his hands and shaking his head (which only served to fan the flames).
Had it not been for our one resident bleeding heart liberal, who had, in the interest of conservation, insisted we not be automatically served ice water, the matter of the rapidly accelerating miniature forest fire would have been promptly put under control. As it was, though, no fire retardant other than the scalding hot coffee was available.
My main man Captain Cal, a man of action if there ever was one, hesitated but a mere second. Grabbing Rrr by the collar he half drug him half threw him through the door to the ladies restroom (it being the closer of the two). With fractions of seconds being critical, the sink was discarded in favor of the commode into which Cal thrust Rrr’s flaming coiffure (and head).
A rather strange conglomeration of sounds followed, “Sizzz, sitzzz, ahhhh, gurgle, gurgle.” Moments later, Ray stood and gave Cal a piercing look that was an incongruous mixture of heartfelt gratitude and intense loathing. Wild Willard handed Rrr some paper towels, Marshal Dillon (he’s a doctor) looked at the top of his head, and then without a word everybody shuffled on back to the big round table by the window.
We all just pretended nothing unusual had happened (and I guess for this crowd it wasn’t all that unusual), but due to the not altogether pleasant aroma (a combination of burnt hair, singed skin, and toilet water) emanating from our latest arrival, we sucked down our grits in a hurry and left.
No official PHLAPS business was conducted at this meeting.
Dedicated to preserving the fine art of spinning a good yarn.