Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Traveler.

The year is approximately 1996 as a man quickly makes his way through the San Francisco International Airport. He is a traveler just like any of the other people zig-zagging the busy terminal weaving in and out before him. This traveler however is unlike the others in that he has no luggage, no passport and no rental car reserved. No companion, no carry- ons, and no concerns about delays or FAA rules and regulations. His ticket is a pocket full of quarters. His destination is 1980. As he makes his way towards the arcade in the international terminal to play Donkey Kong, visions of various journeys from the past dodge in and out of his mind just like the frazzled passengers in his path. He has been a traveler of sorts most of his life. He grew up in a middle class family who frequently took to the road with their travel trailer in tow. This family belonged to a trailer club made up of about 20 or so families that enjoyed meeting up at a camp ground or RV park one weekend out of every month. On the longer Easter week vacations they would caravan and cover several hundred miles down the coast to Mexico or the amusement parks of Southern California.

If there was one constant among RV parks it would be rec-rooms and if there was one constant among RV park rec- rooms it would be arcade games and pinball machines. Virtually every park back then had at least a couple of games and a couple of kids playing them at any given time. I was one of those kids. Those were some of the best times of my life. Each year as the schedule of outings was announced I would do a quick internal review of the rec-rooms of each park on the list. Occasionally there would be a park that was new to us. “They better have some machines if they know what’s good for them” I thought. Of course, most of the games back then were of the electro-mechanical nature as this was the early to mid 1970’s. I can still remember playing the old EM pins at Smith Woods in Felton and the Speedway at Travel Village near Magic Mountain. Travel Village had one of the better game rooms and was something I really looked forward to, almost as much as the amusement park itself. This would go on for years. Two travel trailers and tens if not hundreds of thousands of miles later, our trailering career slowly came to an end. When you are in elementary school, there is nothing cooler than your parents rolling up outside of the school around noon on a Friday with the trailer in tow to pick you up early and head off on an adventure. When you are a freshman in High School, there is nothing more un-cool than your parents rolling up outside around noon on a Friday with the trailer in tow to pick you up early and head out on an adventure. And so it came to pass. We would outgrow the trailer and it would eventually be sold. Life does that sometimes.

A simple “Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find gate D11 ? “ and my mind drifted back to the air terminal I was in. “Can’t you see I’m on my way to play DK on my lunch break? “ I wanted to say but instead I would set yet another lost passenger in the right direction and then be on my way. It’s not easy covering that much ground in an airport wearing a uniform and carrying a walkie- talkie without being flagged down at least once or twice. Don't these people realize they are cutting into my precious Donkey Kong time? Eventually I arrived at the arcade. The Donkey Kong in there was the lone artifact of the early 80’s era. It was neglected in every sense of the word. But for me, it was a destination that was probably just as satisfying as that of any other traveler in that airport. After a few minutes the radio came to life. ”Base to Dave, copy?”. Can’t they see I’m playing Donkey Kong ? !!! “Ya, I’m here” I replied. The radio crackled again,“We have Aircraft 337 out of service on D32 . Need you to meet inbound trip 17 at D27 and pick up an AOG ,then head to UA asap ! I wanted to fire back “I’m playing DK on 1P with JM2 on L4 and I have 86k , hold on !”
But as my very own resume states, “I procured aircraft parts and tooling on a global scale for out of service aircraft". Fellow travelers were counting on me. It’s what I was getting paid for. Amidst all the madness of a busy International airport terminal I had found my destination, but work had also found me. “On my way” I replied and I was on the move again.

It was hard not to think about all of those people spending thousands of dollars to get to their destinations compared to the relatively inexpensive yet memory laden trips we took in the travel trailer. I managed to travel quite a bit while with the airlines but it was never quite the same as an outing with my family in the trailer. Sometimes I wonder if those rec-rooms still exist in the trailer parks we traveled to. Sometimes I wonder if those parks are even still there. And while sometimes it is nice to hop on a jet and go far away to a distant land, sometimes a travel budget of 25 cents and a lunch break is all you need.

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