The Road, Again…For Now
When I found out I had to go, I was depressed.
Winter is not my favorite time of year, and the thought of battling to get to the airport, get on a flight (that’s probably weather delayed) and going to a small city that’s a dot on the map in southeastern Kansas, well, it set me off. But I had no choice. It was for work.
What’s my work?
Even when I tell people they are confused, but I’ll give it a try: my work is to work with, sell and sometimes market tours to travel agents.
Travel agents? They still exist? Yes, I get that too, usually after the blank stare and the decision by the person I’m speaking with not to press me any further on my job, because…because…. they just don’t really care what it is I do.
So, Southwest is my carrier of choice out of Midway Airport, Chicago. The last couple of years the airline with the heart for a logo has stuffed more seats into their 737’s, making if an uncomfortable ride for anybody over five-foot one, and the Southwest flights have been full to the point of overbooking, even to places nobody wants to go; but Southwest is the best of the worst, and most of the time their cabin crew actually pretends to like you. A typical flight has me stuffed in a seat next to a wheezing business guy, who is appetite-enhanced and bleeding over the railings (so to speak) into my seat.
But surprise! Really, I mean surprise: the flight is only two-thirds full, if that. Oh, happy day. I seated myself on the aisle and had the entire seat row to myself. So what the pitch of the seats (how jammed together they are) was probably 29 inches, and my knees were brushing my chin: the sky god was smiling upon me.
And we arrived early.
Wichita had temperatures in the 50’s during the day. Not bad. In Chicago, it was in the 30’s and gray and cold and snow was on the ground.
What I saw
I’d been to Wichita — the one in Kansas, in case that was in question– before, but only on quick runs down from Kansas City, Missouri. Now I had some time here. I had travel agents to see, and, as I try to do, soak in a little of the culture, if there is any. Or that I would know what culture is.
Wichita looks bigger than it is. It has about 387,000 residents, and is the 49th largest city in the US. I just really didn’t know that. It has every major chain of hotel, restaurant, auto repair and big box store that there is. But there is still a smallness about Wichita that is appealing.
Wichita bills itself as the “air capital” of the world, or at least the US. Wichita brags about it being a trading center for thousands of years, obviously longer than most of the travel agents I would see have been around. It was part of the “Wild West” — yes, Wichita. It became a cattle center, and then, as if people wanted to get out of there: it became a center for the manufacture of small aircraft, like Beechcraft.
The downtown is small and compact and has some bustle to it, and the older center of downtown, is preserved in the Old Town Area. After I was finished for the day, I walked it from one end to the other, and took the picture of the old steam locomotive. The Old Town area has trendy shops and pubs and restaurants.
What I did in Wichita
My real reason for going to Wichita was to get people out of it, but only temporarily. I was working with travel agent Bonni who booked a group with my tour company, for a trip to Turkey. I was to talk to the group, in the church basement, on a Wednesday evening. I have spent a lot of time in churches, but not to pray. Usually it is to sell. I talk to people who are going to Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and more.
Every Wednesday the P Church of Wichita has a dinner. People come, families come, and they eat. And they drink, drink wine and beer. In most churches this is not the procedure. I met some of the people committed to going on the trip and some who were thinking about it. I also met Paster O. All were friendly, and the Mexican Buffett (catered) was really good.
I did my best to answer questions, and not one person questioned me about the safety of going to Turkey. Not one! I did mention it by way of saying that we and travel agent Bonni love repeat customers and we would never put anybody in harm’s way. For danger, I suggested coming to the south-side of Chicago, where I live and many people die.
The Way Home
When I got to the airport to get Southwest to get home, I found out my flight was delayed. But somehow, it arrived at the gate on time. Once again, I got an entire seat row to myself. And tomato juice, a double. It was a choppy flight, and for some unknown reason we circled Midway Airport back in Chicago at least once. It was a slow circle and I could see from my seat over the wing that they seemed to be spraying out more fuel than necessary. There was mechanical groaning and moaning,and I began to think that maybe there was landing gear trouble and they were dumping excess fuel over Lake Michigan. But no. We came in for our approach; the plane dropped like a rock onto the runway, and the brakes and thrust were applied hard, and we got to the gate — early.
The house was dark and it was cold inside when I finally got home about 9:30pm. I hate coming home sometimes, because the house is empty; not even a friggin’ goldfish. Part of the reason is because I live a lot of my life on the road. Have for the last 30 years. It’s not glamour; it’s not torture (most of the time); it just is –to get the job done.