Western Airlines, based at LAX, mostly flew the 11 western states and Hawaii, and called themselves the champagne airlines. That's before the carrier was gobbled up by Delta in the late 1980s. Western had one of the most popular spot ads seen on Los Angeles television. It featured a smiling and contented eagle sitting atop the fuseloge, and leaning back on a pillow propped up by the tail on which the Western logo was clearing visible. |
The eagle held a glass of champagne, turned to the camera and said, "Western Airlines, the o-o-only way to fly."
One of the last times I flew on the carrier was a morning flight from Salt Lake City to Chicago for the purpose of attending a management seminar. As I sat reading waiting to board the flight, I was continually disturbed by a loud commotion coming from an adjacent boarding area. The cause of the to-do was about twenty or so athletic-looking young men talking and laughing loudly, and playing grab-ass. They probably ranged in age between eighteen and twenty-two and had very well-developed physiques. The guys were really toned and soap-opera star handsome. At first I thought they might be college baseball players,except they seemed too muscular and some also had a few cuts and bruises on their faces. I reconsidered...maybe lacrosse.
I boarded the flight early, being an uber-frequent flyer big cheese, and opened a book to pass the time. Suddenly, there was a great deal of furor coming from the jetway--loud shouting, laughing, and scuffling. I looked up to see the young men from the boarding area coming down the aisle tussling, slugging each other on the arm, and smacking each other on the head. They took seats all around me. I was surrounded. Two older men in neckties, and a young lady with a clipboard followed them onboard. The older guys were pointedly annoyed and yelled at the boys to knock it off--to no avail. The young lady seemed oblivious to the commotion, as though it were normal and expected, and took the seat across the aisle from me.
I was curious so I touched her arm and said, "Excuse me, miss, but is this group some kind of college team? Baseball, lacrosse, water polo, or something like that?"
She smiled, and said with a kind of laugh, "Oh, no! This is the Salt Lake Golden Eagles Hockey team."
The eagles were a minor league team owned by the Calgary Flames of the NHL. My wife and I attended their games on several occasions at the Salt Palace--now replaced by the Delta Center. Unlike many of the major league NHL teams this group had no slow-footed, clutching and grabbing, cagey veterans, just unbridled youths trying to make the big-time.
"I see. They look so young! You have a game in Chicago?"
"No, sir. We're going to Flint, Michigan."
"The Flint Spirits?"
"Why, yes. You're familiar with our league?"
"Pretty much. I saw you guys skate against the Fort Wayne Komets about a month ago. The season is almost over isn't it?"
She furrowed up her brow. It was cute. "The regular season is over. This is the playoffs."
I decided to show off my knowledge, "Ah, yes. The Turner Cup. The Eagles have won the last two, which is surprising losing the best players to the NHL and starting over each season."
"Well, that's the nature of minor league sports. Successful teams pass their players up the line. That's what each of the lads dream of." She smiled and turned up her palms. The phrasing of the last sentence also suggested she was Canadian.
"Right. Well, thanks and good luck."
Twenty minutes of so after take-off the cabin settled down. About half the passengers tried to sleep, some worked on papers or laptops, and the rest of us either read or worked puzzles. The flight attendents offered a beverage of our choice, including champagne (The o-o-only way to fly), in spite of the morning hour. I settled back, closed my eyes, and thought about the last time my wife, Kay, and I attended an Eagles game...
The Eagles took the ice amid a huge cheer from a sparse assembly. A lady with two children (one of each) two rows ahead of us was especially vociferous. I noticed among the players was this one block-of-a-guy, scraggly, older skater who wore the number 100.
I went on a rant to Kay and all other within earshot. "See, right there--that's what's wrong with hockey!"
"What?" said Kay.
"That Neaderthal wearing 100. God, he may as well be wearing a sign that says he's a goon! He'll come in the game, start a fight, the fans will cheer, and he'll be done for the night."
Kay made a motion for me to quiet down. "Not eveyone is interested in your opinions."
I sat down, and sure enough, halfway through the first period my prediction came true. Triumphantly, I shouted, "See! That guys needs to do us all a favor and retire! What a freaking clown!"
The mother with two kids turned around and glared daggers at me. Being a mature adult, I stuck out my tongue at the kids. One of the little smart alecks flipped me off! Imagine that!
I left between periods to refresh my beer and get another hot dog. When I returned, the ice had been resurfaced and the Eagles were poised to enter the rink. The mother and two children became over-the-top excited. Number 100 turned around, grinned at them, and waved.
"Hi, Daddy!" yelled the kids.
Gulp. "Rats," I said to Kay. "Let's move to the other side of the arena."
I pointed at the young family. "I don't want them pointing me out, and having that guy try to find me after the game."
Kay was amused, "All talk are we?"
"Darn right. I'm a runner not a fighter. Oh, and a lover too." I said with a wink and a smile.
"Oh, puh-lease!" said Kay.
The flight attendant made an announcement that we were twenty minutes from touchdown, which roused me from my reverie. Suddenly one of the Eagles sitting directly behind me jumped up and ran two seats ahead of me. The hockey player in the aisle seat was asleep. The runner leaned over and savagely bit the sleeper--hard--right on the forehead. Giggling like a maniac, the biter retreated to his seat just in time for the flight attendant to announce we must remain seated for the remainder of the flight. Meanwhile, the sleeper yelped, jerked awake, turned with an out-of-it sleeper's look, realized what had happened, and then grinned. His forehead sported prominent upper and lower incisor marks.
The plane pulled up to the gate, the bell dinged for us to unbuckle and get up, and I opened the overhead compartment to retrieve my garment bag. Unknowingly (I suppose), the "biter" stood with his head almost in the open compartment looking for something. The biting victim noticing his attacker's proximity reached up and violently slammed the door on the guy's head damn near knocking him out. All the Eagle hockey players within range, including both principals, got a kick out of the maneuver and laughed heartily.
I hoped they were as hard on the Flint Spirits as they were with each other.
Western Airlines: They o-o-only way to fly!
Gene Myers http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/AfterHours.html Read AFTER HOURS: ADVENTURS OF AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN available from www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com and www.borders.com
New!!! SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE, PublishAmerica (August 2010)
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