The pilot played the blues

Print Friendly

Last Tuesday I mentioned some of the travel I had done and a delay I was having at LaGuardia airport, trying to get to California. As it turns out, I did get there in time, but my connection time dropped from almost two hours down to twenty minutes in Denver. I had to run from the arrival gate to the departure gate. Denver has a lot of dead space between gates, so it was quite the trip.

After my keynote at the Sakai conference in Newport Beach (in Ocean County, a locale I had never visited before), I headed back to the John Wayne Airport. It’s never good when you get your boarding pass to have the machine tell you of a possible delay, but it did, without details. When I get an airline delay, I always think about driving home. I’ve driven home from Boston to western New York after all the outbound domestic flights were canceled after I arrived from London. That’s just seven hours.

I’ve driven home from Chicago several times, once after United canceled the last flight to Rochester on a Friday night. That’s 11 hours. Then this summer I drove home from Michigan when I got delayed in traffic on the day after a probably tornado. I don’t remember how long it took, but sometimes Ohio just never seems to end.

Anyway, I really wasn’t going to going to rent a car and drive from California, though I did check that it was 2659 miles (let’s see, at 600 miles day …). Therefore I just resigned myself to getting the flight whenever they decided to run it. The problem was bad weather in Chicago, but a secondary problem for me was really sketchy Wifi coverage in the JW Airport. I eventually got t-mobile several hundred feet from my gate, but when a flight is unspecifically delayed (that is, no exact time given), it’s best to stay close.

It was supposed to be a 1:45 PM flight and they finally announced that they hoped to leave around 4:00. If my connection through Chicago was not similarly delayed, I was not going to make it home that night. The United folks put me on a backup flight home at 6:30 AM Thursday morning, and I probably would have to sleep in O’Hare airport.

So I was sitting in the airport trying to stay mellow, and I heard a harmonica. I glanced up and saw an airline pilot walking by playing very softly. It was not a tune I could recognize but it made the situation surreal.

A little after 1:30 they announced that the situation had changed and they were going to try to get us out at 2:00. We boarded and then who should get on but the harmonica-playing pilot. He didn’t play over the PA system, but I wouldn’t have minded.

We got to Chicago only 20 minutes late. There was a last minute gate change and we disembarked at gate C22. I glanced at the monitor and my flight home was on time, and sitting at gate C21. I walked in the house at 12:30 AM.

Incidentally, that backup flight they had set up for me on Thursday morning got canceled.


  1. Bob, if he was a tall-ish lanky guy with strawberry blonde hair, his name is Frank if I recall correctly, and he will occasionally take requests. While waiting in O-Hairy for a flight to San Francisco he was asked by one of the flight attendants to “play something more up-beat”… so he broke into _San Francisco Bay Blues_, a tune burnt into my head by way too many listenings to Clapton Unplugged… I couldn’t help but sing along from my seat behind the flight crew in the waiting area. It seemed a rather appropriate choice of tunes, since we were sitting in a sleet storm waiting for a plain to arrive so we could head out on it to points warmer (vegas in my case, sfo in most of the flight’s case)

  2. Wow, I believe that’s him!

Comments are closed