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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

At Random

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Whatever happened to air-pockets?

A few days ago, coming out of the local Burger King, I noticed a twenty-something young man wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap.

"How long you been a Yankee fan?" I asked.

"Oh, my dad was a Yankee fan before me. I go back to Ricky Henderson."

Ricky Henderson? The rankest of newcomers.

"I'm 64 years old. I go back to Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer, Elston Howard, to say nothing of the Mick," I replied.

"Wow," he murmured, a little awestruck, I thought.

Driving off for home that day, I thought to myself, "Damn, I'm older than I thought!"

I think the earliest things we remember in our lives revolve around our parents and our homes. I know it's so with me. And they don't have to be personally significant. I, for instance, remember clearly sitting on the living room floor in our Pelham Manor house coloring in a coloring book while my father read the papers across the room. Why would I remember that? I have no idea. Where's Sigmund Freud when you need him?

Thinking of how we got from one place to another in my life, the earliest I can remember is our old Buick (circa 1943 or so), me alone in the back seat, my mother in the front seat, my father driving, both of them smoking non-stop with the windows all closed.

Why didn't I complain? Because I didn't dare. And, besides, smoking in cars was perfectly respectable in those pre-environmental safety days. So my eyes stung for the whole trip to wherever we were going.

I started flying from LaGuardia to Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, back in the late 1940's, when air travel was, if not a rare treat, at least mighty unusual. In those days, the Douglas DC-6 propeller-driven was the airlines' vehicle of choice. You walked into the door of LaGuardia (there wasn't yet a place called Kennedy, nor even yet a place called Idlewild), purchased a ticket, checked your luggage, then sat until someone called your flight number. Then you walked out the door onto the paved air field and up to your plane, where you'd climb a portable flight of metal stairs until you came to the side of the plane, entered the door, and had a flight attendant (then called a stewardess) direct you to your seat. From then on, everything went according to the clock, there were no delays.

Once in the air, the pilot welcomed you, the stewardess demonstrated what to do in case of "sudden descent," and then began to distribute the small meals (that always tasted good to me).

There were no in-flight movies or stereo radio just the purr of the engines.

Turbulent weather at the place of planned-destination might cause your pilot to decide to land elsewhere, but this was rare.

What was not so rare was the occurrence of what were then called "air pockets," sudden lurches of the plane, which might well result in your bowl of soup or cup of coffee landing in your lap. I never knew what caused these air pockets, but in the age of jets they seem to have been completely forgotten/solved.

When you were a very little kid, the pilot came out and asked you if you wanted to help pilot the plane you were riding in. Your immediate answer would be, "Wow, you bet!" and you would follow him up to the cockpit, where he would lift you onto his lap, and release the wheel into your hot and sweaty hands. (When you finally got home, the first thing you told your friends was that you had flown a big DC-3).

Flying was all different in those days. What I remember was the complete absence of security measures and security personnel. The relative sparseness of people. Also, of course, the relative shortness of the airplanes: there was the DC-3 and sometimes the DC-6, but nothing like the monsters now in the air. When you looked out the window in flight, below you you saw individual farmers' fields, like a patchwork quilt.

It was all so exciting, yet at the same time, so comforting.

Now, you have to beware of hijackers wielding knives and other such "weapons," pipe- bomb carriers, and the everyday mobs of passengers and screaming children.

Today, you might consider taking a Greyhound bus to your destination. Some years ago, when we didn't have any money, I took my daughter Jessica to Cincinnati by Greyhound, to see her Great Aunt Vera, because it didn't cost very much.. I was just at the point of deciding I had made the right decision when I looked across the aisle and saw a young woman with a small boy on her lap.

The woman was reading out loud , very loud, from an issue of "Playboy."