Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chasing The Sun

      With the season's first snowfall, I was reminded of a story from my early day's working for America West Airlines in Columbus, Ohio. It was the winter of 1998/1999 and I woke up to a snowstorm in central Ohio. I turned on the television just in time to see the local news break into the regular scheduled programming  to give us an exclusive (not really exclusive as every local station gives the same report annually at any hint of a possible snowflake) report from the ODOT salt hanger. While the reporter bent down to hold a little salt in her hand at the bottom of the screen a ticket tape  showing area schools, events and airline cancellations or delays were rolling on and on. It was during this endless roll of cancellations and delays I had my epiphany. I could sit here locked up in my house watching the endless breaking weather reports, or listen to the radio as callers and DJ's complain about the snow they had to drive through. Or I could to do something about it. Since I had the next two day's off, I chose to do something about it. I grabbed my keys and got in my car and pointed it towards the airport.
        Getting to the airport was no easy task. The snow was coming down harder then I anticipated. The roads, although passable, were covered with drivers who thought it best to use the brake instead of the gas pedal. As I inched closer and closer to the airport at a snails pace I began to wonder if this was a bad idea. Was I going to get there to only find out all the flights have been cancelled?  Or that so many other flights were cancelled from other airlines that they put all those people on the one flight I was planning to get on? Or was I, judging from this traffic, ever going to get there on time? But just when all things looked lost the airport exit came into view, I made it. When I got to the airport I made a B line to the America West ticket counter and asked one of my co workers if the Phoenix flight was full or leaving at all. She told me yes it had seats and it was leaving and booked me on the flight quickly as it was going to be leaving in about an hour. I got to the gate just as they were beginning to board. Now as a nonrev passenger this is the most stressful time. Anything can happen as they board the flight. This is when you begin to pray for a twelve car pile up on 270, one that no one gets hurt of course, just one that keeps all those other people that are late off this flight. They finally started to clear standbys. I felt relieved when they called my name and handed me a boarding pass. I got in my seat by the window and looked out at my co workers struggling in the snow. If this was the day before it would of been me out there. I was thankful it wasn't and sad for them. A few minutes passed and the door of the aircraft was closed and the inflights put on their "this is how you operate a seat buckle" show and we were on our way. As the plane climbed into the air I looked down at the snow covered city and watched until we broke through the clouds and couldn't see it any more. I've made it, I've escaped the wintery prison below. As I sat back in my seat and closed my eyes I thought, "now what?"
          I woke up just as our plane touched ground at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. As we taxied to the gate I realized I had not really formulated a plan what to do next. Should I stay in Phoenix or should I go somewhere else? Guess I'm going to find out. I walked off the plane into the hustle and bustle that is the Phoenix airport. I looked around and said to myself, "naw, this isn't where I want to be today."
Just at that moment the gate next to the one I just got off began boarding a flight going to San Diego. I thought out loud "why not?" I turned and walked over to the gate agent and asked her if they had seats available on this flight. They did and I quickly got a boarding pass and was walking down the jet bridge to a destination that, just a few hours ago I knew was  the setting for Three's Company.

      As the plane took off I was very excited. Not only because this was the first time I was ever going to California, or to see the Pacific Ocean. I was excited because of the adventure I embarked on. It was a short flight over to San Diego and as we approached the airport I could see, for the very first time, the massive expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It was incredible. I knew exactly where I wanted to go when I finally got off that plane.
       When I did get off the plane I made my way to the America West ticket counter and asked the lady working there what was the quickest way to the water. She told me I could just walk outside the terminal and catch a 5 minute bus ride that will take me to the Star of India, a boat moored in the harbor, it's not the ocean but it's the quickest to the water. I said that would do and thanked her. I took the bus to the harbor and exited near the Star of India. I took a deep breath, smelling the salty air. I made it. I walked to the very end of a pier that was there and sat down with my feet dangling over the side taking in the entire scene. I watched boats come and go. Seagulls land near by and demand food from bystanders that decided to eat lunch there. But mostly, I just enjoyed the warmth of the sun as it beat down on my face. My smile must of been as noticeable as Mount Rushmore because a lady walked up to me and started a conversation. We talked about what a beautiful day it was in San Diego and how it's pretty much a beautiful day in San Diego everyday. I told her where I was from and that I work for an airline. And when I got up that morning it was snowing like crazy, so I decided to get on a plane and come to San Diego.  She then asked me , out of all the places I could of gone, what brought me there to San Diego?  I replied to her "I was just chasing the sun."

  I told this story to my friend Andy Hawk. A very talented songwriter and singer. It inspired him to write this song.


  1. Excellent story telling. I'll read this everyday.

  2. Excellent story telling. I'll read this everyday.

  3. Thanks Lee, I'm glad you enjoyed it. That makes writing it all worth wild.