A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Thursday, July 01, 2004 :::
You pay for everything with time or money.

This has been the experience of A Mind That Suits, and last weekend was yet another confirmation of that iron law of life.

Monthly trips to North Carolina cannot be avoided: the father of a certain pudgy, balding English teacher has just entered his ninth decade, although he carries on like a child of 60. Daily golf or bowling, plus one very nice girlfriend, ensure that his views on life are those of a man much younger, and so his company is hardly a burden.

Nonetheless, on a teacher’s salary, the monthly trips are hard to pull off. And so A Mind That Suits makes ample use of the services of Travelocity.com. The only airlines that go to Wilmington at this grave juncture in history are Delta and USAirways, but they are constantly jockeying for market position. The wise traveler should be willing to spend the few minutes on-line that it takes to make them kill each other offering you a seat.

The competition works as it should when a cheap flight pops up between Reagan National and Wilmington. Reagan, kept alive solely because your Member of Congress wants to catch a flight home on Thursday night as soon after the bell rings as possible, is but a short Metro ride from the Catholic University of America. And the aforementioned father lives about 20 minutes from the Wilmington airport, if one knows the back roads. (For you city folks, this is strictly country driving. Speed limit?)

But during tourist season, the cheapest route may well be from Baltimore-Washington International (which is really just in Baltimore) and Jacksonville, NC, home to jack-diddly-do-dah except Camp LeJeune.

BWI is a $6 train ride from Union Station in DC, and going there adds an hour or more to the trip. But that is nothing as compared to the final destination.

This should help you get the picture: one flies to the Jacksonville airport accompanied by lots of teenagers with very short haircuts, if “very short” is defined as “shaved.”

And the tiny airport is served, so far as the experience of A Mind That Suits has shown, by propjets, which are mercifully much quieter than they were even 5 years ago. These are not large planes, and the last time that A Mind That Suits was forced to go to Jacksonville, all those troops that Donald Rumsfeld said we wouldn’t need were semi-secretly being mobilized and wending their way to Jacksonville. And so the very pleasant looking, 40-ish flight attendant who accompanied us on that flight drifted lightly to the back of the plane and announced that, with all the military gear on board, everyone would have to move forward to fill the front empty seats so we could take off.

A Mind That Suits thought briefly of disembarking at that point, but, hey, you only go around once in life.

Now, theoretically, the Jacksonville and Wilmington airports are equidistant from the house of the aforementioned father, who lives in the unincorporated hamlet of Hampstead, perched, if that is the word, on Highway 17 halfway between those two metropolises.

But this is just theory, upset by the simple fact that the “Albert Ellis Airport” is 12 miles on the other side of said Jacksonville, sitting in splendid isolation in the middle of a bunch of pig farms. To avoid taxing his lively yet not-young father, A Mind That Suits rented a car the first time he flew into Wilmington, and discovered that a rented car is part of the price of flying into Jacksonville.

As an aside, A Mind That Suits cannot help but comment on his favorite ever stupid government sign. There are three “gates” in Jacksonville, though really one merely sits in a large room and they open one door or another to let you on to your plane. There used to be two doors, apparently, but they added one. So over the security checkpoint, in plastic appliqué’ letters that could easily be changed, there is a sign informing you that this is the way to “Gates 1-2 & 3 .”

To make one’s way to Hampstead from said tiny airport, one has to pass through miles of pleasant houses, surrounded by the sprawling, disorderly green of exuberant Southern vegetation, one of the very best features of life down South.

And one has to wonder what all those nice Southern folk do to pay for those pleasant houses surrounded by exuberant vegetation, as “downtown” Jacksonville itself is a dismal strip of motels, “gentleman’s clubs,” and block-house bars with little tiny windows filled with Coors signs.

And, late last weekend, as A Mind That Suits drifted toward the main intersection in “downtown” Jacksonville, all of it—the tiny airport, the pig farms, the rolling countryside, the swarming plants, the motels, the strip clubs, and the very dangerous bars—inspired the thought:

For this to be the a** end of nowhere, they’d have to give nowhere a whole ‘nother extra a**.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 3:13 PM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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