Caussey's Corner

Lay’s Potato Chips, Sara, Dr Pepper, and Me: A Texas Teacher’s Plane Trip

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California was already getting hot, yet the summer season was a few months away. Cool breezes from the ocean made the night pleasant, but folks knew that without abundant spring rain the state was going to be a bank of kindling perched on the Pacific Coast.

At night, the stars twinkled brightly and the vast sea of lights from metropolitan Los Angles filled the hills with brightness that washed nearly to the floor of the San Gabriel Mountains to the east.

Nissan was announcing the launch of their new Maxima, and two dozen or so print journalists had been invited to examine, drive, and write about the vehicle. We were staying at the Thompson Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills for a few days.

I had been retired from teaching for nearly a year and was enjoying every minute of it. No more kids, cafeteria duty, detention, lesson plans or more academic tests to administer. “Free, thank God Almighty, free at last!” Just drive a beautiful car, talk to adults, eat wonderful foods and, marvel sadly at the browning beauty of central California.

The trip had gone wonderfully, but I was ready to get home, even though my Sweetie had complained how rainy and humid Texas was and how hard she was working while I was having a wonderful adventure in one of the most glamorous parts of the world.

I managed to get the last Texas flight out, although I was the last to board, taking the last seat. I wanted to read, sleep, and drink a cool beverage on the flight while preparing myself for the weather back home in Dallas, Texas.

Lay’s Potato Chips, Sara, Dr Pepper, and Me: A Texas Teacher's Plane Trip

Photo: Pxhere

My seat was way in the back of the plane and the passageway to the seat seemed endless. I hoped my fellow passenger would leave me alone and not bother me with idle chatter. Then I saw my seat. Next to me would be sitting an 8-year-old precocious little girl, with a bright smile and a hand full of crayons.

She engaged me with a rolling dialogue of questions and personal opinions even before I was seated. I was already tired and irritable, and the plane hadn’t even left the ground. Neighboring passengers eyed me with suspicion while I tried to protect myself with a pillow as I turned toward the window. Things didn’t improve once in the air.

Her name was Sara, and she (along with her mother and sister) had been to LA to visit her grandmother. After what seemed like an eternity of talking, Sara used the oldest trick in the female arsenal to engage a disinterested male. She began to ask questions about me. Where I lived, how old I was, how many brothers and sisters did I have, and did I like girls. Fellow passengers were amused with our dialogue, by now trading their suspicious looks with collective smiles when they discovered I had been a teacher.

Here is kind of how our conversation went.

“How old are you, Mr. Durhl?”

“Well, I am 65,” I said.

“Wow! My granddad was only 58. But he died and that is why we came out to California.”

“Oh!”

Snickers could be heard around our seating area.

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Yes, I am happily married,” I stated with a degree of satisfaction to keep some of the late arriving chuckling down.

“Is she young or old like you?”

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