My dream of having a band of minstrels.


On days when the air is still and fog forms over a river, it looks like the Great Wall of China is snaking its way across the Earth. Since many state lines overlay rivers, each state is safely protected from their neighbor. Unless you're driving a VW... it can safely pass through. When I was driving to DCA the other morning, I knew it may be an interesting day as each bridge I drove over suddenly had zero visibility. Reagan National Airport is on the Potomac River (damn that L'Enfant) and was invisible from the employee parking lot. Of course, I didn't call ahead to see if my flight was delayed. We should have the same text alert feature provided to passengers. "Captain, your flight is delayed. The inbound plane making up your flight is holding and soon will divert to an airport with dozens of other planes all in line for fuel too. And then they will all try and depart at the same time, which as you know - ain't gonna happen. Go back to bed. We will send you an alert when we need you."

I never got that SMS. I, along with many others, waited for the fog to lift. I ate the breakfast I brought. Later, I ate my lunch. I entertained old ladies with my silly stories and scared a man when he told me why it wasn't dangerous to take off in the fog.

"If the shit hits the fan," I told him. "And we need to return to the field, there's nowhere to go."

Actually, the fog was only over the airport and there would be plenty of available take-off alternates. He had already gotten under my skin though and his wife, who was in earshot, was a nervous flier.

Oh, the band of minstrels?

We finally departed and got to our destination hours late. The passengers for our next flight were anxiously Greaseawaiting our arrival. They applauded as we walked up to the boarding area. (We weren't taking the same plane that we brought in so they were at a different gate.) They were a lively bunch... they were the cast of the Broadway show Grease and were traveling back to New York after a performance on the road. Several of the band members had their instruments out and were playing for the other stranded passengers.

We were there and the passengers and bags were there - all we needed was an airplane. Danny Zuko told me it had just left. He said the gate agents told them it was needed for another flight but their spirits were lifted when they saw us. Then they sang,

You're the one that I want (you are the one I want), ooh ooh ooh, honey The one that I want (you are the one I want), ooh ooh ooh, honey The one that I want (you are the one I want).

I told them "I'll get us an airplane! We are going to New York!"

Again, they applauded.

One of the stage hands said, "I like a can-do Captain!" He slapped me on the back and added, "Make it happen, Captain!"

There was a pretty good chance we weren't going to New York. The fog had slowed things down and planes were stuck everywhere. My fears were confirmed when I called dispatch and heard commotion in the background. It sounded like a triage unit setup outside a natural disaster. "You're where! But your plane is... uhho. You're not gonna like this." He put me on hold and I smiled to Sandy Olsson.

minstrel_svirac2Dispatch came on the line and said, "I gotta plane for you. It's on the ground. It's at the gate."

I told the passengers over the PA, "Off to gate 48!"

And they followed me like I was the Pied Piper. A man played a stringed instrument behind me. I realized all this time the only thing missing from my life was a traveling band of minstrels to follow me where ever I go.