Delta Is Not Ready When I Am

Isolation due to the pandemic has gratefully allowed me to ignore the destruction of our airline industry firsthand. After a weekend trip from Atlanta to Boston, that returned me to Birmingham, I can report firsthand that the friendly skies are no longer friendly, and the ground is even worse.

Our Saturday flight left Boston relatively on time at 2PM and nearly three hours later we were ready to land in Atlanta. I had such high hopes.

The tag on my luggage said “ATL”, why were we landing in Birmingham? I and three hundred other lost souls still want to know the answer to that question. I know the plane information says it will only hold 200 people but believe me there was at least another fifty percent jammed on that flight.

My guess is we will all remain in the dark as to the actual reason why we were diverted from landing in Atlanta eight minutes before our arrival time. Seriously, we were descending into the Atlanta area, on time and everything good when our captain came on the loudspeaker to inform us that the Atlanta airport was being shut down due to severe storms in the area.

Having flown into the Atlanta airport many, many times during thunderstorms, (admittedly some of them quite scary) I conjured an EF5 tornado churning its way up I85 leveling everything in its path. The fact that we were caught short and not offered a holding pattern to the south and east of the monster storm (tornadoes travel SW to NE) was surprising. The fact that we were diverted to Birmingham and not Macon or Columbus which are an hour closer to Atlanta is also a question for deeper thinkers than I. I was able to focus on the calm air of the flight and no storms visible from the window. Could the Atlanta tower have taken their weather advice from those seldom right but never in doubt “Storm Trackers” at Channel 11 News?

We arrived in Birmingham without a ripple, a cross wind, a drop of rain. We sat on the tarmac for an hour and listened to the futile attempts of the captain to get us underway again. “Could we get refueled on the ground and return to Atlanta?” Nope. “Could we go to the gate and deplane so people could go to the bathroom and get something to eat?” Nope. Could we just stew in our own juices for an hour or so while funneling three hundred people through the three bathrooms onboard? Yep.

Eventually Delta Birmingham found a gate for us to deplane to while they tried to come up with a plan for the 8-10 planes re-routed to “The Magic City.” No one has any information. The captain presumes that the flight will return to ATL on the morrow. Delta does want its plane back but doesn’t really care whether the passengers come with or not.

Fortunately for some, Birmingham was the final destination for a large portion of the flight. They are arriving home early. The Birmingham residents are happy, if only Delta decides to off load the baggage. What to do with the baggage seems to be the next big challenge for the multi-billion-dollar airline.

After an hour and a half, we can see that Delta has decided not to hold our baggage hostage any further and they off load it to the carousel. Let me relate that there is not a Delta agent that we can tell that has been assigned to shepherd the group of lost sheep back to their shelter. Just random popups from uniformed people relating more bad news. The captain has long since abandoned his ship. We gather together and stick close to his point of departure hoping another shepherd will appear.

We are informed that because of some convention in town that there are not enough hotel rooms for Delta to put us up overnight. The smart crowd (seasoned Delta flyers, no doubt) had already seized all of the rental cars while we were waiting in line for the bathroom on the plane. We are a hundred or so now, adrift in the airport that appears to be closing for the night. My God, Chik Fil A has closed!

Finally, someone wearing a ramp agent vest tells us that if we can find a room that our flight will head back to Atlanta at 8AM the next morning, we are already ticketed. Otherwise, Delta was trying to secure a bus to carry those interested, first come first served, back to our original destination. Fifty-three or fifty-four of us. Weirdly, some of us hear that the bus will be arriving at the upper level. Primal survival takes over and we rush to be first in line at the door we presume will be our gateway to return home.

There are two reservation agents putzing around behind the counter who offer us water in massive bottles and snacks in bite-size packages. I muse that Delta is only offering snacks in hundred calorie packs as a means to fight America’s obesity problem and eventually get us all down to a size where we need no seat space at all, just slots like in a mail-room. We are told that the bus is on the way and that they are working on getting the manifest so they can check off who gets on the bus. The bus arrives but the manifest does not.

Let’s divert here for a moment to discuss the manifest. The manifest is the list of “souls” who are assigned to the carrier. It’s not magic, there are no spells or potions involved in producing one. You may have noticed assorted airline personnel like stewards checking them on their phone as they make sure you’re not sitting in a seat that has enough room, like first class. Anyway, it seems to be impossible for Delta to produce the manifest so that we can get on the bus. It is now 9-9:15 PM EST., and the bus driver is pointing out he’d like to get back home in time to go to Sunday services.

Mystery guy dressed like a ramp agent reappears and allows us to start boarding the bus. We are the lucky fifty-three that heard correctly that the bus would arrive on the upper deck. We believe there are others waiting on the lower deck, but we don’t seek them out. We squeeze into seats that are even closer together and narrower than airline seats. I know you don’t think it’s possible, but we’re sitting in seats designed for second graders. In spite of the discomfort, we are still elated to be leaving for our homes. Just one more bit of business keeps us tied to the Birmingham airport, the manifest.

The manifest has been supplanted by what we all know to be a legal pad. We spell our names as they appeared on our ticket to the agent that gathers the details for all of the fifty-three lucky survivors of the flight. I casually comment that had our plane gone down the manifest would have been published within minutes to a department at Delta charged with notifying next of kin. The agent is not amused, but then, neither are any of us. Being “stuck inside of Birmingham with the Memphis Blues again” was not on the schedule. Before we pull away from the curb, I get a text message from Delta that the 8AM departure for our flight the next day has been delayed. Who could have predicted that?

The bus ride is mostly uneventful with the exception of various body parts cramping and/or going to sleep. The bus driver knows what the ATL tag on our baggage stands for and gets us to the airport as quickly and safely as possible. The airport has chosen to have all Uber and Lyft transactions take place at the far end of the North Terminal parking. We are at the South Terminal. What’s a little schlepping at the end of a journey? It’s now 12:15AM on Sunday and we are finally breathing the hot humid air of our hometown.

The Uber driver is a chatty fellow and after I give him some of the high spots of our journey, afterall, he did ask, he informs us there had been no storms in the area that day. He had been at the airport around the time of our scheduled arrival, and everything seemed to be normal. No EF5’s, no active shooters, only normal business. Who am I to believe?

The next day, Delta sent us some apology sky miles and the excuse that the problem was due to the crew potentially going to overtime. We’ll just call that one bull-hockey while we muse on some of Delta’s past prevarications:

1984:     Delta Is Ready When You Are

1984:     Delta Gets You There

1987:     We Love to Fly, and It Shows

1992:     Ready When You Are

1994:     You’ll Love the Way We Fly

1997:     On Top of the World

2005:     Good Goes Around

Current:  Keep Climbing

The re-flight arrived about 1PM on Sunday delivering Delta’s equipment back to its original destination. Pick one of the catch phrases above.

A Change of Venue May Be Order

Thank God there is the occasional good news to offset all other news. This week we are confronted with the Uvalde report. The report is complete with the pictures confirming what we already knew. Children suffered and died because of the cowardice displayed by a vast assortment of men chosen for their qualities to protect and serve. Before we delve into that misstatement / misunderstanding, let’s look at the good news.

By all means watch the video, multiple times. What you are watching is a pizza delivery driver that just happened to be passing by realize that there was the possibility that he could do some good if he threw himself into action. He saved five children from a certain fiery death.

Most importantly, he raced back into the raging fire when he found that there was a six year old still in the house. You can see him bring her out as the firemen are putting on their fire-retardant gear for their assault on the house. Nick Bostic is the hero’s name and you can see from his shorts and t-shirt he didn’t need to suit up to go into action.

“I was ready to lose my life that night,” was what he said after the ordeal. He didn’t die, but he did receive a broken arm while jumping out of a second story window while cradling a six-year-old that now has a chance to grow up, graduate, marry, have children of her own. The Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I’m sure that now Bostic can count the children among his friends, but at that particular moment, Bostic was prepared to give his life for strangers. An example of pure bravery.

Now we flip the coin:

Note the difference in urgency between a house fire and a psychopath shooting children. Honest to God, watching these police it’s like they’re checking to see whose turn it was to bring snacks. With each piece of information revealed we find out more and more that the first order of business was not to stop the killing of innocents. Even after the child inside the class room got a call into 911 to explain that they needed help, the police just meandered about like neighbors at a yard sale. No urgency here, just innocents being slaughtered. “Let’s be careful out there.”

Forgiving the possibility that the “first responders” were not adequately armed for the situation, although two of the three officers do have semi-automatics and body armor, how can we forgive the inaction of literally hundreds of up-armored police who arrived on the scene minutes later?

The Texas Rangers have made hay off of the phrase, “One riot, one ranger” for over a hundred years. How do they justify not one ranger being willing to confront the killer? How do they rationalize taking the weapon from an off duty officer who wanted to go in and get his wounded wife? How do they explain arresting a mom that drove forty miles to the scene that was frantically trying to free her child? It seems that the ones that had the courage to do something were pushed aside that day.

A lot has been said about doors and keys and classrooms and/or offices. The first group into the hallway knew where the shots came from. They knew it was a classroom. The little girl begging for her life to the 911 operator told the operator where she was. Meanwhile, we hear Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Arredondo yelling into the void that he thinks is the shooter. Arredondo apparently thinks he can send the shooter a pizza and that after a while the shooter will fall asleep and the officers can slip in and take his gun away with no loss of life to the police.

Look at this timeline provided by the Texas Tribune and the Texas Department of Safety

12:46-12:47 p.m.

Arredondo gives approval to enter

12:46 p.m.

“I can hear the police next door.”

— Student who called 911

12:47 p.m.

“Please send the police now.”

— Student who called 911

12:50 p.m.

Officers kill gunman

I count three minutes from order given to situation ended. Imagine the difference in the situation if the breach order had come at 11:38 when Arredondo arrived on the scene? We don’t know how many babies would have been saved, but surely more than the final result.

A lot of times you hear that the cover-up was worse than the crime. All government agencies have been very reluctant in being transparent about the events at Uvalde. This is one time that I think the crime of cowardice, of shirking one’s sworn duty is far worse than the coverup. There will be trials. I’m assuming that the defendants will ask for a change of venue since the defendants have definitely tainted the jury pool. I’m a big believer of defendant rights, but this is one case I think should be tried where it happened.

Hopefully justice will be served and policies put into place to prevent this from ever occurring anywhere in our country again. Just remember if you’re ever in a life threatening situation, call Domino’s.

Sons And Their Fathers

Just finished watching the documentary “Unprecedented” directed by Richard Ray Perez. This is the documentary that has provided behind the scenes footage to the January 6th committee with regard to what was going on within the Trump camp on the day of the insurrection. Lots of “state of mind” questions seem to have gotten answered by some of the documentary’s footage.

The filmmaker was allowed to follow the Trump family all around the country during the 2020 campaign. The film gives the viewers a behind the curtains view of each family member as they stumped hard to Make America Great Again, Again. There were very staged sit-down interviews with the family, but the real meat came from the snippets taken before and after the individual rabble rousing.

What came through was how dedicated the children were to helping their father maintain his power. Their interest was not unselfish, nor was it sympathetic to the multitude of issues, mental and physical, the Donald exhibits. The “fifty speeches in forty-eight days” was the price the children were willing to pay for the family to maintain its stranglehold on America and continue the dynasty.

We all remember the Clampett Trump family visit to the Queen and what the Trumps felt was the opportunity for the two bloodlines to mingle and strategize. That’s how it works, right? One person is elected and then the family just takes turns being the supreme leader until they’ve all had a turn? The documentary makes the leap that it will be Don Jr. that will follow in the Donald’s footsteps, and not the fairest child Ivanka. Start popping the popcorn if they are both still free during the next election cycle.

It’s admirable that the daughter could be perceived as the heir apparent, and if you ignore all of the salacious gossip surrounding the pair, and I don’t, it would seem right and proper that Ivanka would win out over her mouth breathing brothers. But how sad for the brothers. Here are two guys that no matter how hard they try, they, like their father, will never win the approval or the love of their father. No amount of risk taking, felony committing, womanizing, race baiting, double dealing or cheating will ever be enough to win the favor of their father. How sad.

Like their father before them, the boys were instructed by a critic, not a promoter. The Donald only has time enough to promote himself and anyone that steals that limelight is suspect. It was very telling to watch the Donald viewing his son’s campaign speeches. The proud smile he had for Ivanka’s performance was turned into a grimace suggesting a bad bowel blockage after viewing his sons.

Not that the boys hadn’t thrown every accolade and hyperbole they could at the frothing crowd. The speeches promised “a chicken in every pot” in an America where only the “right” people could own a pot. The boys stood before God and everybody and promised that their daddy could walk on water, if the liberal congress and media would just get out of the way.

How the Donald was not overcome by the sheer volume of prevarications espoused by his heirs was amusing. These boys are world class truth benders and one would think that that alone would have put a twinkle in daddy’s eye. But alas the only twinkle in the Donald’s eye was for Ivanka.

We know that Fred Trump, the Donald’s father, drove his namesake to an alcoholic death. Fred Jr. couldn’t withstand the scorn heaped upon him by his dad who wanted him to follow in Fred Sr.’s real estate footsteps. From the looks of this video it looks like another generation of Trump sons is on their way to a substance abuse problem.

Sadly, there’s another generation of Trump sons being ignored by their father’s insatiable drive to measure up to their father’s expectations. All dynasties eventually fade away. The end of this one can’t come soon enough.

You’ve Done Enough

“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” was a rebuttal given by Joseph Welch to Wisconsin Republican Senator Joe McCarthy at the Senate hearings in 1954.

McCarthy, the lunatic Senator from Wisconsin, was distinguishing himself in front of America by conducting a witch hunt for communists. Lacking any of the qualifications normally found in a Presidential candidate, McCarthy and his sidekick Roy Cohn plowed through people’s personal lives in an attempt to gain national recognition for a potential Republican party nomination. McCarthy and his chief counsel Cohn ran roughshod over witness after witness under the guise of ferreting out any communists that might be “hiding under our beds” in an attempt to gain notoriety for himself.

The McCarthy hearings were aligned with the Hollywood Blacklist and authors and actors had their careers cut short by the accusation, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the communist party?” Relentlessly grilling and insulting witnesses, McCarthy set a tone for the meanness, the pettiness, that lies deep in the soul of the Republican party today. Finally, McCarthy was brought up short by the question from Welch, “Have you left no sense of decency?” America heard the question and decided that they did have a sense of decency and the hearings were brought to an end.

This past week came the announcement that a ten year old rape victim was denied an abortion in her home state of Ohio because she was determined to be three days past the six weeks cutoff date. Take a moment. Get a drink of water and slow down your life long enough to contemplate what a full term pregnancy will do to a little ten year old’s body. Now, take another moment to contemplate the psychological damage done to the child through absolutely no fault or action of her own.

Somewhere in the bowels of hell the Republican party has deemed themselves to be the prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner and media rep, all in one for all of us.

I’d like to think that it’s only a sliver of the Republican demographic that would be so heartless to enforce a pregnancy on a ten-year-old. I’d like to think that the majority of Republicans don’t think that rape victims should carry the child of their rapist, have to share custodial rights with the rapist, sit at the family dinner with their child’s father who might also be their father. I’d like to think that it’s only a sliver of the Republican party that is this cruel, this mean.

Evidence does not support my notion. Ronald Reagan famously said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the party left me.” Horse Hockey! Reagan left the Democratic party to quench his/Nancy’s lust for power, his need to tell everyone else what was right and wrong, to be the lead actor on the biggest stage in the world. Aided by unscrupulous individuals like Newt Gingrich, the Republicans set a course for dismantling all of the social programs so vital to the American poor and middle class. The heartless movement that they started has become the American Taliban we see today.

American Taliban, a bridge too far? What else do you call a society that is being governed by religious theories? If a sliver of society doesn’t believe in abortion, gay rights, miscegenation, a woman’s right to control her body and her destiny, and you have six Supreme Court justices willing to throw the Constitution aside in favor of dogma, what do you have?

When you throw in the sliver’s irrational support of guns, the guns that enable that sliver to have a “louder” voice than the rest of us, we wind up with daily crises that divert our attention from the main issues. These people want child rape victims to give birth to the consequence of their most horrible moment in life.

I ask you again, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”