Posted tagged ‘West Virginia’

Really…Airlines!

February 23, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            February 21, 2018

                                                  

The first time I was on an airplane was in 1974 when I flew from Chicago O’Hare to Rock Island, Illinois. It was a short trip, but no one told me that the conveyor belt that I put my suitcase on DIDN’T go all the way to the plane. I didn’t know! No one told me…and I wore the same clothes the whole weekend in Rock Island.

That’s a symbolic picture of my relationship with various airlines. Confusing and not on the same page communication-wise!

We flew back from West Virginia Tuesday night…and Wednesday morning!

There are more people flying these days than ever before, creating competition between the airlines and heightened anxiety and new levels of stress for the passengers. Last night I asked my wife where she would like to go for spring break. Her answer, dripping with frustration from the recent trip to West Virginia and back, was “Anywhere that does not involve an airplane!” It is a comment that signals a trend. Kind of like when you see a picture of a delicious looking entree in the restaurant’s menu, order it, but when the plate comes it does not come close to resembling the menu pic! Airline commercials are filled with smiling passengers, courteous flight attendants, and scenes of joy-filled peace, and then there is the reality!

One of the things that every airlines seem to do these days is push their credit cards. Sign up and receive so many flying miles that usually equals a “free ticket.” Free is a skewed term. It usually means an annual fee of just under $100.

It seems that on every flight I’m a passenger these days there is “the smoozing moment” of welcoming the elite, premier, gold, platinum, platinum plus, platinum pro, and other upper crust people who have paid the extra money to be recognized on every flight. Listen! Do we really need to give them a special welcome and have the flight attendants slobber all over themselves? I wonder if they did that on the Mayflower ship…gave a special welcome to those of the Puritan Premier club? If the plane goes down will the elite have a softer landing?

I know, I know, I’m cynical! It comes fairly natural after being squeezed up to the window of Seat 14A for three and a half hours. This is my rant!

I also know that every airlines has to contend with some people who are so obnoxious and demanding that even the Baptists wouldn’t take them. They are the entitled who could possibly be a part of the elite.

What’s the answer? In regards to obnoxious passengers, I have no clue, but in regards to how the airlines treats its customers…ask Chick-fil-A to come in and do some training for you!

Blue Ribbon Bill

June 30, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              June 30, 2016

                                      

I was an energetic eight, like a wind-up toy that takes off in unpredictable directions. That was me! Our family was living in Williamstown, West Virginia, home of the Fenton Art Glass Company. My mom and dad worked across the Ohio River in Marietta, Ohio. We were a family of five in a small town that was devoted to kids. One of those devotions was a summer program at the community park. Each morning, Monday through Friday, kids would come to the park for crafts, games, and Kool-Aid.

At the end of the summer was the annual gathering up the river in Vienna of kids from all the park districts in the county for various swimming races and track and field competitions. I had completed a week of decent behavior at home, not setting anything on fire or getting caught in a lie, so Mom and Dad said I could go on the bus to Vienna. I scurried off that morning, brown lunch bag in tow, headed for a day of adventure.

The community park in Vienna had a huge outdoor pool, even a terrifying high dive, which I kept my distance from. Buses filled the parking lot unloading children, most of whom had high-pitched voices like me.

Everyone got settled and the swimming competitions began. I was entered in the 25 yard freestyle for eight year olds, plus the 100 yard freestyle relay. I had my J.C. Penney’s swim trunks on, characterized by their lack of fashion and dullness. I, however, didn’t know that they weren’t in style. My mom worked at Penney’s! Everything I wore was from Penney’s, all the way from my “Chuck Taylor high tops” to my Towncraft “whitie-tighties” to the bow tie I wore on Sundays to church.

The announcement came for all eight year old boys to report to the deep end of the pool. I scooted along the concrete in that direction. Twenty five yards doesn’t seem like very much, but from the deep end of the pool it looked like the whole length of West Virginia. I stood there waiting and in another few moments one other boy arrived. He looked scared. Someone must have told him that he was swimming against an Olympic champion. He looked over the side of the pool into the water, and his eyes got bigger.

A man who looked all official approached us. We stared at him. We knew he was older than eight, plus he had clothes on, so he must not be in the race with us.

“Are you boys here for the eight year old 25 yard freestyle?” We both looked up at him and nodded yes.

And then my competition, while looking once again over the side of the pool, asked him a question. “Is this water over my head?”

“Yes, it is! It’s twelve feet deep.”

His eyebrows rose up to the top of his head, and then in a quivering voice he said to the man, “Well, I can’t swim!”

The man looked at me and said, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

I won! I hadn’t even gotten wet! I was the Wood County, West Virginia eight year old 25 yard freestyle swimming champion!

It did not seem like the right time to inform the man that I couldn’t swim either! I figured I could dog paddle at least until I got to the shallow end of the pool. However, I was okay with not having to find out whether to not that was the reality or not.

Honesty and openness had not arrived in my life yet. Those Sunday School lessons probably wouldn’t be taught until I was nine! He pointed me towards a table to the side where I was to go to pick up my blue ribbon.

A little later on our relay team was lined up to swim. Conveniently, we were the only team entered so we were awarded first place. I had won my second blue winner in the swimming competition that I didn’t have to get wet for…and even more bizarre, in the swimming competition that I couldn’t swim in!

In the afternoon, however, I outran about twenty other boys in the 50 yard dash. I moved like a young gazelle in my Chuck Taylor’s. Call me Speedy!

Three blue ribbons! Blue Ribbon Bill! One of them won legally with full disclosure, and two with tight lips, unable to spill the beans.

 

Winning My First Blue Ribbon…and Second

April 28, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 28, 2014

 

When I was eight years old I was a non-stop mover. I was the hyper kid before we ever used that term. I may have defined it. I had short brown hair…no sissy long hair for us in those days…a freckled face, and most of my front teeth. Women were always telling me I was cute. Of course, they were also all my aunts. Unrelated eight year old girls seemed unimpressed!

In the summer time our community of Williamstown, West Virginia was a paradise for kids. There was the community swimming pool, Little League baseball, summer tennis lessons on the high school courts, and the greatest outdoor basketball courts I can remember.

Williamstown also had a summer parks and recreation morning program where kids could come and get involved in different crafts, games, and other kid-oriented activities. At the end of the summer the Wood County Parks and Recreation competitions were held in Vienna, a few miles up the road. Children from the various summer program areas came together to compete against one another in swimming, track and field, and other competitions.

I can remember hopping on the bus that morning with the other kids from my park and heading up the highway. I had my school lunch pail containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white. (We didn’t know what wheat bread was in those days. If it was around it would have been viewed with a high degree of suspicion. After all, in 1962 we were told that there were all kinds of Communist subversive efforts going on. To us wheat bread would have been seen as a subtle pulling towards the dark side.)

      On the way to the competition my park director, a nice-looking young lady who I remember as being named Patty, informed me that I was going to be competing three events: the eight year old 25 yard freestyle and the 100 yard freestyle relay in the swimming competition; and the eight year old 50 yard dash in track.

I knew how to run fifty yards. I was fast. Whenever we played tag on the school playground none of the girls could catch me!

Maybe that wasn’t the best of ideas, now that I think about it!

The swimming competition started right after we arrived at the Vienna park, and being eight, my age group was to go first.

The announcer hit the volume on the loud speaker and said, “All those boys in the eight year old 25 yard freestyle race are to report to the deep end of the pool.” 

That was me! I entrusted my lunch pail to my friend Ronnie and trotted on my tippy toes to the  end of the pool that featured the diving boards. There was only one other boy waiting there. The starter waited another moment to make sure there were no other boys stumbling towards the deep end and then he turned to the two of us and asked, “Are you boys here for the eight year old race?” I nodded yes like a kid about to be given medicine, but the other boy looked up at the man with a pitiful expression of uncertainty and asked, “Is this water over my head?”

“Well, yes son, it’s twelve feet deep!”

     A couple of eyebrows rose towards heaven, and his eyeballs got as big as saucers, and he said to the man, “Well…I can’t swim!”

The starter looked a little puzzled and said, “Ohhh!” And then he turned towards me and continued, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

He handed me a blue ribbon, which I would have immediately pinned to my chest if I hadn’t been bare-chested.

The thing of it was…I couldn’t swim either! Honesty, however, had not arrived as a resident of my life, and I wouldn’t start taking swimming lessons at the Williamstown Community Pool until the next summer. I had the mindset that I could dog paddle twenty five yards. Lassie did it on TV all the time!

Besides, the deep end of a pool where the water was undisturbed looked deceptively shallow…like you could just reach over and touch the bottom.

But if you didn’t HAVE to get wet, why give out any incriminating information?

So I didn’t!

Thirty minutes later our relay team was the only team entered in the swimming relay race…so I doubled my blue ribbon haul…and was still bone dry!

The third blue ribbon was legit! I out-raced about twenty other eight year old boys in the fifty yard dash. I was like a greyhound in the midst of a bunch of dachshunds!

I enjoyed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and hid my three blue ribbons in the safe of my lunch box, like I was The Man from U.N.C.L.E!

I’m not sure I learned any lessons that day on the value of good sportsmanship and fair play, but…I was eight!

I still have those three blue ribbons in my closet. Every time I come across them while looking for something else I simply chuckle and remember.

Those were good days, days that still make me smile, except now when I smile I have all my front teeth!