Yesterday I flew from San Jose, California, to Austin, Texas, via LA. Taking a valuable guitar on a flight is always a little nerve-racking. I used to check my instrument in, protected by a case so hard it must have been forged in a special kiln on the planet Vulcan. Amazingly, the case invariably came off the luggage carousel cracked. Evidently all airports are equipped with mysterious engines designed with the assistance of Elon Musk to crush guitar cases.
Eternally haunted by memories of the YouTube video of the hilarious song written by a guitarist who had his instrument destroyed by United Airlines, (The song went viral and UA ended up apologizing and buying him a new guitar), I now prefer to carry my beloved Taylor (i.e. very beautiful guitar with a soul of its own) with me on the plane. However, sometimes there is no room in the overhead compartment and they have to check it in on the spot. This makes me nervous. But yesterday morning something unprecedented happened. Just as the baggage handler took my guitar from me, and I wept as we parted, not knowing if I would ever see it alive again, the stewardess (aka Blessed Angel of Mercy) called to him and told him to give it back to me.
“I want to put your guitar in an empty seat and strap it in,” she said. Were I not a monk I would have cast propriety to the wind and hugged her. She proceeded to treat my guitar like some kind of local deity, strapping it into the empty seat next to me and bringing it a special first class meal. OK I made up that last part, but she made it clear that my guitar was far more important than us mere human beings.
Fast forward to the second leg of my journey. I’m basking in the spiritual afterglow of being in the presence of the Blessed Angel, quietly reading the autobiography of comedian John Cleese, when suddenly the stewardess (not my Blessed Angel) poured a cup of hot coffee all over me.
This seemed so unrelated to anything else in my life that I didn’t know how to react. I was surprised, yes, but not angry. Fortunately the coffee was not hot enough to burn, but it was very wet, and there seemed to be an awful lot of it. The stewardess appeared to be more shocked than I was. She kept plying me with napkins to mop up the small lake of coffee in my lap but did not appear to know what else to do, like apologizing for example. Then she disappeared. A few moments later she returned, having taken some legal advice, and did in fact apologize quite handsomely. Sadly she did not respond to my joking suggestion that perhaps the airline might like to offer me a free first class ticket. However, she did bring three cookies from first class. The other two cookies were for the mother and child sitting next to me, for whom the coffee was originally intended. If I had been quicker thinking I would have apologized to her for thoughtlessly absorbing her cup of coffee into my clothing without permission.
When we landed in Austin, what should I find looming over the luggage carousels but several giant guitars grinning down at all of the passengers, hurrying about like a hoard of agitated ants. I felt helplessly mortal, perpetually tossed on the waves of fate and fortune. The lesson from all this? Who knows, but I’m definitely taking life less seriously from now on.