My birthday is today. Yesterday, Nancy and I celebrated with our daughter and son-in-law at the Dallas Fairmont Hotel, Pyramid Room. Much to my surprise and joy, Ada, the hostess when I regularly ate there, and Kim, the waitress who frequently served me, are still there after 20 years.
You may know I measure my years by finding my favorite, or the most famous, football player to wear my birthday number. The most famous Cowboys player to wear my birthday number this year is Hall of Famer , Rayfield Wright. Perhaps the best known player to wear my birthday number is Hall of Famer, Sam Huff.
In each memoir writing class we share 500-1500 words describing an event in our lives. I’m not planning on writing a memoir, but I’ve really enjoyed thinking back about memories.
I’ve enjoyed looking back and remembering things I have not thought about in some time. This last week I thought about my United States Air Force experiences.
When I was an Air Force Captain and lawyer, I represented the Air Force in Government Contract cases. At the time, the Air Force would do almost anything to avoid paying a commercial airline to take me where I needed to be for work. Instead, I was directed to fly on military planes.
For example, when I settled a case before a trial scheduled for a week in San Francisco, instead of allowing me to fly commercial either back home or on to Honolulu for my next trial, I was instructed (ordered) to show up each day at Travis Air Force Base to fly “space available” on a military flight to Honolulu.
I showed up three days and waited each day only to learn there was no “space available” for a lawyer like me who needed to get to Honolulu. Imagine what it was like those three days prior to having a lap top, tablet or cell phone sitting in the terminal waiting to see if I could get on a flight.
My second experience was less boring, but more hilarious. I needed to get to Hanscom Air Force Base, in Massachusetts to interview witnesses and prepare for a trial. I was told that due to budget issues, I could not fly to Boston on a commercial airline.
I waited and then one day I learned a plane was leaving that night from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to Hanscom Air Force Base. I was delighted until I learned that to get on the plane I would have to carry a firearm to guard some documents I was taking with me.
I explained that I had flunked out of marksmanship class because of an eye disease. That didn’t seem to matter.
I showed up at the appointed time with my weapon and walked with the pilot and co-pilot, reserves needing to get their flight hours, to what looked like the oldest prop plane in the Air Force. When we got into the plane I discovered there were no seats.
Where was I to sit, I asked? They pointed to what I would describe as something that looked a wooden milk case box, turned on its side. I was to sit on that during take off and landing, but during flight I could hang out just outside the cockpit. Needless to say there was no normal seat belt. Instead there was a rope for me to put around me and tie.
We took off. It was a little rough so I stayed seated on the milk carton. After about 20 minutes I felt a sensation unlike any I had ever experienced. It was like the bottom had fallen out of the plane. I quickly discovered we were going straight down in a nosedive.
I don’t think I ever thought of the possibility that we might crash and I might be done right there. I was more concerned about not losing my dinner.
Finally we leveled off and the co-pilot motioned for me to come closer to the cockpit. He told me the windshield had cracked when we were at 22,000 feet and we needed to get to under 10,000 feet in a huge hurry.
A few minutes later we landed back at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In the military, you don’t get to say what you will do or won’t do. But, I decided that unless I was threatened with a dishonorable discharge, I would not agree to carry a gun and not agree to fly in a plane of World War II vintage that had not seats.