When I was a kid, we lived on the outskirts of a small town. It was the kind of town that you better not blink when you were driving through, or you would miss it. I would describe it as a “one-traffic light town,” but it’s still waiting for that first traffic light. To get to my house, you drove through town and up a small hill and then made a right turn at the appropriately titled Hill Store. You continued past a small development, where most of my friends lived, a series of farms, most of them Amish, and chicken hatcheries, and made two more turns and you’d get to my parent’s house.
Come fly with me.
The good thing about the wide open space and rolling hills is that when it was dark out, there were few lights from the town and you could look up into the nighttime sky and see as far as the eye could see. I would complain about having to take out the trash or whatever chore sent me outside, but I would be in awe of the stars.
There would be more stars than I could count. I would look first for the Big and Little Dipper. I’d look for other constellations like Pegasus and Virgo, but I didn’t know them as well. The stars held my attention for a long time, but I would inevitably start looking for the blinking lights of jets racing across the nighttime sky. It wouldn’t take long.
Fly like an eagle
I would imagine being on one of those commercial jets and taking a red-eye flight to anywhere, fun, and exciting. I imagined flying to California or Florida. I’d travel to Los Angelas to see my favorite baseball team at the time, the Pittsburgh Pirates, play the Los Angelas Dodgers or travel to Key West in Florida. I imagined flying for business to London or Paris. I imagined being someone of importance and brokering huge deals.
Oh sure, the planes I saw at night could have been cargo flights, but the thought never entered my mind. I was focused completely on how I might make something of my life. In reality, FedEx, the world’s largest cargo airline, has a cargo fleet size of 684 aircraft, and UPS has a fleet of 290 aircraft, with a large percent of the aircraft flying at night.
The years have passed. I still love listening to Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon” or the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing “Aeroplane” and I still love to travel for pleasure. However, the bud for work travel has long fallen off the bloom.
I traveled a few weeks ago for work. It was nothing like I imagined as a kid.
I worried nonstop about being late to the airport and taking forever to get through airport security and then when I was at my gate, I was annoyed about being early and having to wait for the plane departure. When we finally boarded the plane, I walked jealously past the first-class passengers and their plush leather seats and then later cringed at being smashed together with the other economy passengers like sardines.
I was anxious and grumpy the whole trip. My work travel looked nothing like the travel I imagined in my mind long ago looking up in the sky. In fact, I’m wondering what ever happened to that little kid who used to look up at the stars?