Category Archives: Seen and heard

When Too Cool Isn’t, or How I (Sorta) Met the Canadian Beckys


Since December, I’ve been commuting to Boston pretty frequently for my job. What started as a monthly trip turned into once every two or three weeks and, most recently, trips three weeks in a row and four in the past five. I generally only spend two or three days there, so I’m still in Charlotte more than not.

I’ve written pretty sparely about my experiences commuting – here’s the exception. But that ends today. This is about the weather and my recent odyssey home – complete with a Cyclops of a sort, roadblocks, the Flying Canadian Beckys, and more. So here goes.

Whether the weather matters – and how

Of course it matters. When I started going up last winter, I worried about the cold weather. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t really that cold this year. I remember one morning in the single digits (it happened to be a departure morning ). Other than that, I don’t even remember anything colder than the mid-20s. Tolerable, in the world according to Arthur where I’m ALWAYS too hot.

So now, of course, it’s spring – even in Boston. And compared to Charlotte, it’s much cooler. You’d think that would be a good thing, right? You’d be wrong.

Here’s why: Because it’s cooler to start with, it seems most drivers/businesses in Boston apparently see no reason to use (or even have) air conditioning. That’s why being cooler isn’t.

Not The Odyssey, but my odyssey

I had to get home Thursday night (so I could see Garrett get some awards Friday), so I took a later than usual flight back – it was to leave at 9:01 and land at 11:30. Of course, it didn’t, but that would up being a good thing – some interesting stuff happened.

The Big Lie

Have you seen all the TV and print reports about how terrible it is to get through security right now at airports, with three-hour waits common and folks sleeping in airports because they missed their flights and every other horror available?

I can’t speak for every airport, of course, and I know there have been some actual problems in Chicago. But I can speak for Charlotte and Boston (and I’ve read similar sentiments from Sports Illustrated football guy Peter King). It’s all overblown. The combined amount of time I spent in line and going through security last week for my trip was less than 2 minutes – yes, I said minutes.

What the cyclops didn’t see

In The Odessey, one of the problems Ulysses faces on the way home is the Cyclops – a one-eyed giant bent on killing him and his crew. The cyclops I encountered at my gate in the Boston airport wasn’t a giant, and she had two eyes. But she only saw one thing – herself.

I heard her talking to a guy near me as we waited for our group to be called to board the plane. She lived in Orlando but wished she lived in Tampa.  She was already obnoxious when I heard her say it.

‘I’m in Group 3, but I’m going to stand up there and get in the way and get first.’ This matters, because on full flights – and all Boston-Charlotte flights generally are full – it’s a mad dash to get your carry-on bag in the overhead container. Even in Group 2, it’s difficult. So jumping the line is ridiculous. And she bragged about it.

This flight was more than full – they apparently sold one seat twice. They resolved it, but it was a big hassle because nobody was sitting in the right seat. In part because of …

The Canadian Beckys

Despite the cyclops, I made it to my seat (a couple of rows behind her – I gave her a major glare as I passed but I’m pretty sure she was oblivious to anything that didn’t directly affect her – and got my bag stored OK.

And then I started noticing something: A parade of young women – most appeared to be somewhere around 15 years old – all wearing shirts that said ‘Becky.’ They started trading seats with non-Beckys so they could site near one another and a woman whom I guess was their chaperone.

I don’t know if they made up a choir or a sports team or a club or what. What I do know: They talked. A lot. Which is why I knew they were Canadian. One of them, Becky 7 (and I swear I’m not making that up), mentioned that they were from Canada. And that she was excited to be going to Charlotte. The chaperone reminded her that they really wouldn’t be spending much time in the Queen City – I don’t know their final destination.

But I know that Becky 7 also was excited about going to Chick-fil-A  – I boycott eating there but figured I couldn’t justify leaving the name out of this. And she also wanted to eat a grit.

Getting home

Becky 7 and the other Beckys chattered pretty constantly through the flight. Which was delayed. But we did finally get back about 11:45ish that night. And I gotta tell you, the Charlotte airport was active. By which I mean it took forever for me to get out, board my shuttle and exit the airport.

But now I was on the last leg of the trip home. Which I thought would go quickly. Except it didn’t.

I-485 wasn’t too bad, but when I got off on the local road that comes near my house, things took a turn. Or didn’t. Because I didn’t move at all. Because of construction on that road. I’m not sure what they were doing, but they closed a lane. And, like the refugees in Casablance, I wait. And wait. And wait.

Until finally it’s my turn to go. Now I’m in the home stretch. Smooth sailing, right? Nope. I go a mile or two and there are two police cruisers straddling my lane. I could go around them, but I wasn’t sure I should. I’m not sure why they were stopped there, but after a minute or two, one pulls off leaving me a clear lane.

So I beat on, a boat against my current, borne back ceaselessly … actually I wasn’t borne back at this point. And unlike Gatsby, I wasn’t attracted by a green light.

What I nearly missed

No, mine was red. More specifically, it was the light from a huge blood red moon Thursday night. A not-quite full but pretty close to it red moon. It was beautiful – a small but welcome distraction that led me back home.

Where I wanted – and always want – to be.

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Longing for the Sound of Silence


I caught a break on my most recent flight to Boston. But it was a bad one. Things started well enough. I was taking the 9:40 flight instead of my usual 7:40 one, so that meant a little extra sleep. Which, as it turned out, was a REALLY good thing since I wasn’t able to nap during the flight.

That’s because of what happened once I made it on the plane. I had one of the Row 17 aisle seats – always great for me and my slight claustrophobia. Had no trouble getting my bag in the overhead. Everything was going great.

Until he started my way. I’m not sure how old he was, nor did I care. He pointed at the two seats on the row inside mine. I got up so he and an older woman traveling with him could get in. And made the mistake of saying hello. I think it was like inviting a vampire into your home.

From that point on, I’m not sure that he ever stopped talking to – make that at – me. Not when I started reading something – anything – on my phone. Not when I closed my eyes. Not when I turned slightly away from him. Not at all.

His name was Bob

Despite the short name, he was long-winded. Which wouldn’t have been nearly as bad had he been interesting. Or believable.

He said he’d been given last rites three times. And been in a coma. And came out of it after some voodoo or another in the hospital chapel. In which two other coma patients came out of it at the same instance he did. He’d been injured, he said, when a drunken driver (drunk before 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning) hit his motorcycle head on coming out of a curve.

Which might have been plausible. If he hadn’t told me about his painting prowess. He paints without using tape or drop cloths, he says. But using both hands, he says. Which makes him faster than any other painter, he says.

Or about how he got out of the Army after being harassed “for no reason” by a captain and sergeant who told him he’d never leave boot camp in Oklahoma, where they made him stand guard duty every night and train every day. He said he’d gotten out by calling a congressman he’d worked for as a child when the congressman was first running for city office. And how the captain cried when the congressman called to dress him down. And how another sergeant shook his hand for standing up to the corrupt captain. I’m not sure that’s how discharges work. I’m not sure that’s how discharges work at all.

Or how he broke 50 for nine holes of golf within four weeks of starting to play, winning $100 from a friend – he never lost a bet, he said.

Or how he was a shop steward for a shoe plant in the Boston area – he now lived in Maine but had been on holiday (in the British sense – my words, not his) in Melbourne, FL, but was flying to Boston, where he grew up, to visit relatives.

Or how he had a perfect record in grievance cases as the shop steward because he (a) know all the workplace rules and regulations and (b) played golf regularly with the company CEO.

Or how he knew the plant was going to close months before anyone else who worked there did and was able to get a sweet school maintenance job.

Or how in his new role as a school maintenance supervisor all the children run up and jump in his arms every time they see him.

Or how he hates Donald Trump – whom he didn’t mention by name. (Hey, I never said Bob was a total idiot.)

Or how he’s going to start a movement to end the Electoral College. Because he knows people.

Envy might be a sin …

Here’s the funny part. I’d figured the woman next to him was his wife. But it was actually his sister-in-law. His wife was sitting in row 16, the one in front of us. That meant it was impossible for her to have to listen to him.

Here’s the even funnier part. She originally was sitting in the wrong seat in row 16. It was the one furthest from Bob, on the other side of the aisle. Yes, I envied her.

The one saving grace of the experience. I’ve been trying to soak up the whole Boston experience – I’ve found the people there so warm and helpful – totally opposite of the stereotype. Of course I haven’t had the beans or cream pie up there yet. And until that morning, I’d never heard any Bostonite use the word “wicked” as an adverb. Sure enough, in the millions of words Bob through my way, one of them was “wicked.” As an adverb.

Later that night, as I was unwinding at the hotel bar at least partially from my ordeal with Bob, I got my second and third wickeds of the day. From the bartender (and I’m determined NOT to drink Sam Adams, by the way – that’s a story for another day) and one of the businessman sitting a couple of barstools down. I chuckled under my breath, downed the rest of my draft and made my way to the waiting clam chowdah and lobstah roll.

Hey, Words Matter. But too many words don’t. At least not in a good way.

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