Friday, February 20, 2009

Miscellaneous, Jumbled-up Thoughts From The Road ... And The Air

from Jacqueline 

I was out and about signing books in Houston on Tuesday, and while I was at the lovely Blue Willow Bookshop, I was asked how old I was when I became interested in books. I was in the process of buying three beautiful composition books at the time – I like to make notes for each book I write in a different composition book. My response was that I had my first library card at age three, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. Then we started talking about having good notebooks to write in, and I revealed that when I was a kid one of my favorite games was to play “offices.”

Now, this was interesting, as neither of my parents worked in an office, in fact, I didn’t know anyone who worked in an office, though I’d seen the school secretary and the doctor’s receptionist. But I loved the idea of having a desk with books, paper and pens everywhere. As we talked, a raft of memories came cruising in on the tide of conversation. I can remember pressing my poor kid brother into being my “assistant” until he couldn’t stand it a minute longer and mutinied, whereupon I’d get uppity and pull rank (I’m the oldest!), and he’d thump me, so I’d whack him back, and before you knew it my mother had us both by the scruff of the neck, sending us out into the garden with instructions not to come back in until we’d sorted ourselves out. And we’d end up climbing trees or building a camp, which was all my brother wanted to do anyway. Pretty good tactic, on my mother’s part.

The one thing I’m not good at, on the book tour, is flying. I’ve gone on and on about it here before, so I won’t get stuck on the issue again. But imagine my chagrin on the first flight of the our, when the two “dudes” in the seat behind me began talking about the fact they thought they would die in a ‘plane crash. “Dude, I’ll be going down like, whoosh ...” And I thought, “Dude, you’ll be going out of that exit door like whoosh even before we’ve taken off, if you don’t put a sock in it.” They needed someone like my mother to get them both by the scruff of the neck.

I’ve always been a people-watcher at airports – and a listener. While waiting at the gate for my flight from Houston to Denver, the elderly lady sitting alongside me was telling a woman she’d just met a little about herself – in a fairly loud voice. Everyone at the gate learned that although she was a Baptist, she belonged to a Presbyterian prayer group, but her greatest joy came from the fact that she was a clogger. “I’m a clogger,” she said. “Clog every Sat’dy mornin’, reg’lar.” Ah, bless her cotton socks.

You see a lot of advertising at airports, most of which is ho-hum. No I don’t need a United Visa card, and I’ve already got my Bose headphones ... and so it goes on. But every now and again I see an ad and think, “That’s clever.” So, if you’re at an airport, check out the new Earthjustice ads. You’ll see a breathtaking view from an airplane window, then the words (and I’m paraphrasing here as I can’t remember the actual words used), “If you want to see what we’re fighting to save everyday, ask for a window seat.” Clever, that.

I’ve always been a window seat traveler, not least because I love to look out at the land below (though not during take-off or landing). I have no idea where I am as I write this post, but below me America is spread out like a veritable table-cloth – fields and forests as far as the eye can see; lakes, ponds and pools; rivers with meanders, tributaries and ox-bow lakes. I can see never-ending dead-straight highways, long and winding roads, trails leading to farms, and paths to houses. I can see communities clustered, and in the distance a grand conurbation. I am looking at a map of America that is alive and teeming.

There’s a lot to protect down there – not just the geography of America, but jobs, families, the lady who clog-dances on Saturday mornings, the children who climb trees in their back-yards, and the kids who dare each other with their talk. It brings it home that “love thy neighbor” isn’t just something you might hear at your Baptist or Presbyterian church, but a sentiment that underlines a respect for the many ways of life that are worth all the protecting we can muster.

Funny what you see, hear and think about, on the road – and up in the air.

Have a lovely weekend!


  1. Hey, some dumbass stole Ridley's post.

    James O. Born ain't much of a copper if people be stealing posts right from his very own blog.

    Dumbass FDLE.

    'Scuse me, Ms. Winspear. You is far too fine a person to be mixed up with the likes of James O. Born and people who be stealing blog posts.

  2. Lovely post, Our J. I used to always sit by the window because of an irrational belief that it somehow helped the airplane fly. Now I sit on the aisle because getting out of the window seat is a big pain in the butt.

    You are a former flight attendant. Um, tell me again why you chose that line of work.

  3. from Jacqueline

    Hello FizzWater,

    No, I don't think our Jim stole Ridley's post - he's far too much of a gentleman to do such a thing. Guess you need to talk to Ridley about the missing post - maybe he was waylaid somewhere in China. I am sure he'll be back next Wednesday.

    Oh, and Mr. FizzWater, these all be good peoples, which is why I'm mixing with them! (and you know that, don't you? That's why you drop on by ....)

  4. I am reminded, every time I look out the airplane window, "My God, this is a big country."

    In the nostalgia department, how about those old b&w news clips of Pan Am stewardesses (the name at the time) in caps and white gloves serving tea and scones with fine cutlery?

  5. from Jacqueline

    Patty - to the question of why I was once a flight attendant. Well, I loved flying then, in fact, would often sit on the flight deck for take-off and landing (we always flew with more than the requisite number of staff on board, so someone always got to sit on the jump seat, just for the heck of it). In fact, going even further, over one period of several moths, I was with a crew stationed in the Middle East and we would fly one leg of each journey without passengers, so the engineer taught me how to do the "load and trim" (which was to do with the balance of oil in the engines) - just so he could get some serious shut-eye. I was even once at the controls of a DC10 for some time - they took it off auto so I could have a go. Our vapor trail didn't exactly strike a straight line across the sky.

    I don't know when I began to get a bit iffy about the whole thing, to tell you the truth, and I am better this year than I was during the last book tour.

    I chose that line of work because I was just out of college and wanted to travel - but I was broke, so I figured I'd get a job where I was paid to travel and stick with it for a couple of years. I was only 21 and it was great!

  6. ...And for L.A. readers, in case you think Jacqueline is slacking off, she's signing and schmoozing tonight at 7 at Vroman's in Pasadena; tomorrow at noon at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks; and at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow at Mystery Bookstore in Westwood.

  7. from Jacqueline

    Hey, Paul. I should dig out an old photo of me in my uniform (we had winter and summer uniforms, and we were called "stewardesses"). In summer we wore white gloves, though in winter we had black leather "outdoor" gloves.

    Oh, nostalgia reigns ....

  8. from Jacqueline

    Slacking off? I hardly have time to eat! Thanks for the plug Paul - see you all over the next couple of days, I hope.

  9. One trick I learned flying was to embrace layovers. I eat at a decent resturant, or at least Fridays or Chilis, use the time to wrok on a computer and walk around a little. It takes out a lot of the stress of flying corss country.

    Good luck on the tour, Jackie.

    Jim Born

  10. from Jacqueline

    Hey, thanks, JIm. Yes, I take the layovers in my stride - if you've got a good book, your laptop and 'phone etc, you're all set. You can also just sit and sleep - if you've remembered to pack your noise-canceling headphones. My husband bought me some for Christmas, figuring that if anyone needed them, I did. I decided that they were too bulky to add to my carry-on luggage, and boy, do I regret leaving them at home. Never mind, I'm meeting up with him on Sunday, and he's bringing them with him.

  11. hey jackie,

    if you ever want to bring out a picturebook of you stewardess-days, i still have a couple of breakfast and dinner tickets of the airline you worked for and a ticket of my trip to l.a. back in 1981.

    take care, sybille

  12. Hi Ms Winspear,

    My dad is supposed to be getting an autographed copy of AMONG THE MAD at your signing at Mysteries to Die For tomorrow. I'm sorry I can't go myself (I live on the other side of the country), but if some dude asks for the book to be signed 'To Sara,' that is me. I look forward to reading it, though!


  13. I thought I was the only one who noticed Ridley's post was missing. I asked in the comments on Jim's post, but no one answered me... :-O

    Wonderful post as usual Our J. :-D

    I remember my first flight into LA at dawn. I looked out the window at an alien red landscape...very Mars-ish. It was columns of clouds tinted red by the rising sun. Cool.


  14. Excellent amateur sleuth that I am, I have solved the mystery of Ridley's missing post and the puzzle will blow your mind. Unfortunately, I signed a blood oath not to tell. The plot thickens...

  15. I'm here again - and with a flight down to LA in between my comment stops!

    Sara, thanks for sending your Dad along - I'll look out for him.

    And Sybille - don't worry, I won't really be posting any old photos, though I am amazed you remember who I used to work for!

    Marianne - the first time I ever landed in LA, I thought it reminded me of landing in Jeddah! Righ now the sun is going down over LA-LA land, and it is quite lovely from up here in my hotel room.

    OK, Patty - what happened to Our Ridley? Did the Chinese secret police confiscate his laptop for Googling Paul Levine?

  16. It was so lovely to see you on Thursday, Jackie. You absolutely made Marie's day; she fizzled and sparkled all the rest of the day.

    I too love airport people watching, especially where the people get met. There's such joy and excitement then!

  17. Hey, Fran, it was lovely to see you all, too!

    I wrote about the meetings and greetings at airports on the blog last year - called it Love, Actually (with shameless theft from the movie).

    Look forward to seeing you on the next book tour!

  18. Hey Jackie,
    See you in Cambridge at the Harvard Book store March 5th. :-D