Leaving on a Jet Plane & a Trip to the Duty Free Store

The golden era of air travel.
The golden era of air travel.

The very first plane ticket I ever held in my fat little hand – I won in a contest.

It was an essay contest sponsored by Eastern Airlines (now long extinct). I was twelve.

500 words on “The Duties of Citizenship” launched me into the friendly skies for the very first time. I don’t remember a word of what I wrote but I do remember what I wore: a powder blue, polka dotted shift with pleated sleeves. Elegantly accessorized with black patent leathers and white anklets, of course.

Flying was way glamorous back in those days. It was 1967. A PanAm flight bag was a sexy accessory. Stewardess was an even sexier career choice.

Butterflies fluttered on my insides, as we contest winners boarded the plane. Listening to the safety instructions both mesmerized me and terrified me. And as I buckled my belt, a little thrill went down my spine — sipping Coca Cola in the clouds.

And where did we go? Nowhere really.

We went round and round circling National Airport (Not Reagan National as it is now known and never will be to me.). We circled for about half an hour and then landed safely back down to earth.

Friendly indeed were these skies on my fairytale flight. Not always to be, of course. My Frequent Flyer Followers, I am sure you have seen the Christmas classic: “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”?

So get our your pre-flight checklist and lets count them down:

Lost luggage. Check.

Oversold seats. Check.

Late arrivals. Check.

Delayed departures. Check.

Security nightmares. Check.

Flights cancelled. Check.

Planes grounded. Check.

Stuck on the tarmac. Check.

Wings icing up. Check.

Barometers raised. Check.

Anxiety produced. Check.

Anger riled. Check.

Irish up. Check.

And still we cannot wait to board that plane.

As I write these words, my baby brother, Joseph — my rocking, single,  gay baby brother — and I are on our way to visit our elder, horticultural sister, Maureen. We are on a plane, of course,  headed to Vancouver.

This rainy, cloudy, cold November, we are psyched for a little cross-country adventure: walking the seawall, wandering the gayborhoods, day tripping to Victoria, marketing with the farmers, and pub crawling through the West End.

We departed from seedy BWI (Baltimore-Washington) and landed just an hour later with Lake Superior in view. We had five full hours to fill before we boarded our next Airbus out of Toronto.

We could have just sat on our butts — but instead we miraculously turned our five-hour layover into a day at the spa.

We had brunch: poached eggs over polenta and sour dough toast. Joseph’s Chelsea boots got a shine and my fingernails got painted —RED for the very first time! We had coffee and read up for our Canada quiz. Then we calculated the exchange rate on our debit cards (very much in our favor.) We shopped a little and we talked a lot.

5 fabulous duty free hours!

Airports are duty free – whatever the hell that means. In reality it’s about not paying taxes on overpriced stuff. But “duty free” really works much better as a metaphor.

Imagine airports as magical places — declared totally duty free. Free to wander. Free to wait. Free to play. Free to adventure. Free to splurge. Free to vacate wherever you have come from. Free to get excited about wherever you  go. Free to get lost and free to find out who knows what.

A marvelous trip to the duty free store.

Vancouver, here we come!





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