Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer Travelers. Summer Not.

Keep Off Walls, 2008

It’s August, the season of summer travelers, those irregulars who wander down onto the plane without knowing where they’re sitting, who become indignant when there’s no movie or hot meal, who grab your arm like a lifeline when the plane takes off, talk incessantly, and generally slow down things.

I wrote earlier about a road trip to Marquette, Michigan that exposed me to pasties, the Upper Peninsula’s gastronomical treat. After my work was done in Marquette, I flew home. It was a circuitous journey back to Virginia by way of Green Bay, Madison and Chicago. I showed up for my first flight in Marquette just as the sun was rising on a beautiful clear summer day. The air was crisp as passengers lined up at the ticket counter for boarding passes, the back end of the line spilling out onto the sidewalk in front of the small airport. Normally these lines moved pretty quickly. But this morning there seemed to be a snag. Eventually, those of us in the back of the line started peeking around the people in front of us to see what was going on.

Two elderly ladies, a mother and daughter, stood at the counter. Their belongings were gathered into a clutch of brown paper bags like the ones you got at the grocery store in those days. There was some dispute about their things. The gate agent, an earnest young girl obviously new to the job, was having a hard time resolving the problem.

“Mam,” she kept repeating insistently, “you can’t carry that aboard the plane.”

“Why not?” the incredulous older woman responded, while revealing that what she has rolled up into a bath towel in her grocery bag was a large pistol. That’s right, a gun.

“Honey, how long have you live in Marquette?” the older woman quizzed the gate agent, one part curious and one part grandmotherly.

“I just moved here.”

“Well, Hon, a girl on her own in Marquette needs a gun. There’s bears that come to your back door in the winter. And there’s some men who don’t take ‘No’ for an answer, either.”

About this time, a supervisor arrived and shuffled the elderly lady off to the side to resolve the gun issues. Her daughter, meanwhile, reached down into her shopping bag and withdrew another rolled up bath towel and laid it on the counter.

“I guess if you didn’t like my momma’s gun,” she said with resignation as she unrolled the towel and revealed a matching pistol, “you’re not gonna like this one, either.”

Other than the usual regional airline casual attitude about schedules, which caused me to miss both of the next two connections, the rest of the trip home was uneventful.


  1. Ha! I believe you'd call that "local color".

  2. OMG, that's a new one on me. I'll have to keep an eye out for rolled up towels. One more thing. Hilarious.