Saturday, May 25, 2013

Navigating the Airport


Recently I had a 34minute layover between a flight landing in ATL – that’s Atlanta for anyone who isn’t Southern (or anyone who has never flown Delta). And, if you’ve been to Hartsfield Airport, you are well aware that a short layover is not good. For any of y'all that haven’t flown through ATL, this is how it works:

I’ll start with how the airport is organized. Hartsfield has Concourses A – E, the infamous Concourse T, and the “where did this come from” Concourse F. Here is the simple version1:

That’s just getting into the airport – adding in each Concourse map would make this way too long and redundant.  In this instance, my plane lands in Concourse D at Gate 44. The layout of each Concourse is that the extremes of numbers 1, 2 or 45,46 are at the far ends of each Concourse with the only way out being the middle. That is, A – D are basically straight lines. (Concourse E is a weird “T”; Concourse T is just weird; and we still don’t know what F is.)

Ok – back to the story: I land at the far end of D it’s 1:33pm and my connecting flight departs at 2:05pm (and, no, I had NOT booked the flight because I know better than to have booked such a short layover). My next flight is out of A, Gate 2. I run down the aisle to the middle of Concourse D; push past people on the escalator; have to decide whether to run and use the moving sidewalks or take the tram; power up the Concourse A escalator; and race all the way to the end where Gate 2 is located. I was actually praying for a delay. (Be careful what you pray for.) Lo and behold, as I am panting and sweating from the exertion, there is a delay - an hour. Now two. (Oh… and if you are seated behind say, Row 15, on the plane, you will never, ever de-plane in time to make that run because it takes every bit of your effort and time to make that next flight. Thank goodness I was in the front of Economy Class.) On the bright side of all the running and then the delay, I was finally able to get food.

These days you aren’t likely to get food on a plane. I mean, some of them don’t even offer food to buy, and I’ve now been on four flights where they won’t even come down the aisle with water, much less Coca~Cola or juice. It’s horrifying. You can’t bring water through security; you may have to race between gates not allowing you to buy the $6.00 12oz. bottle of water; and then the airlines have decided they won’t provide it for you either. What is this world coming to when you pay $400 for a plane ticket (or more) and can’t even get a glass of water? This problem I can’t fix.

However, I do have some ideas for fixing the Concourse-to-Concourse conundrum… The best, most practical one: they should make an express lane down each concourse aisle where if you aren't runnin’, you can't be in it. Move over tourists with 3hour layovers. Move over window shoppers. Move over people who are on their break hour from one of the million restaurants, shops and kiosks in the airport. Move over – because WE are coming through. Time is of the essence, people, and this is the fast lane. Would I like to stop and eat? Yes. Would I like to sit at the bar and watch the Dawgs play a quarter or two? Yes. Sadly, I can’t. I have a plane to catch… and it may as well be in another state. I am hustling. Please, please get out of the way.

Another even simpler idea is to just not allow people to book flights with less than an hour layover. Yes, I know some people will argue they want to get to their destination as quick as possible and use airports where 30-40 minutes is plenty of time to make a connection. Well, y’all can just rent your own private jet because those of us that book through and Travelocity take what we can afford. Sometimes, that means we don’t even see how tight those connections are – or we are delayed at our starting destination only to be stuck navigating a complicated, crowded metropolitan airport. Hell, the Atlanta airport is bigger than my hometown – at least by population. So, if you are a city unto yourself – Hartsfield, JFK, SFO, DEN (you know who you are) – then do NOT allow passengers to have short layovers. Please.

I have a few other ideas: One of them is to issue those cute li’l two-wheeled Segways to every passenger who needs a quick transit from one end of the airport to the other – whether due to inept booking or to delays prior to even landing at the airport. A second suggestion would be to cordon off all shoppers, tourists and lollygaggers. They just need their own li’l section to take all the time in the world to meander around doing nothing. Maybe instead of designated lung cancer rooms – that is, smoking sections – you could have “hangouts” for those fortunate folks with time to spare – aka the lollygaggers.

And finally the ultimate idea: use some of that research money to develop teletransportation. That may sound far off, but nobody thought Star Trek’s tricks of cell phones and computers would be real – yet now they are. Why can’t we shoot for “Beam me up, Scotty!”?


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Sport of Curling


It was recently pointed out to me that when I discussed non-football sports, I left out curling. I guess I left out a lot of winter sports – except for the X-Games, which has both winter and summer sports, and I addressed the under-televised X-Games. This led me to think about those winter sports – except hockey, which I clearly expressed my thoughts on that – and to address those winter sports in this post.

Let me start by saying, I actually like curling – for a sport seen on major (American) television once every four years during the Olympics. I remember the first time I saw a curling match. I don’t remember the exact year, but it had to be between 2003 and 2007. I was on a cardiac surgery rotation while in residency, and we were about to do a heart transplant. There was a delay such that the attending surgeon and myself were forced to wait for about 30 minutes in a small room in a very small hospital somewhere in the middle of Idaho. In the corner of the room, there was a tiny television (obviously, everything was small there) and the Winter Olympics were on with a Curling Qualifying Round as the highlight for the evening. Now, first of all, I didn’t even know what curling was and secondly, was shocked that this li’l known sport would be the highlight. It was fun to watch, though, and I soon found myself wanting to learn more about the sport.

The World of Curling Federation1 dates the sport back to the 1500’s, starting from Europeans throwing stones across ice as a pastime during the winter. Obviously, the current sport has a definitive form and a definitive set of rules. It first appeared in the Olympics in 1924. Basically, two teams of four face off throwing stones towards a “bull’s eye” down a lane of ice. Each player throws 2 stones, which are 19.1kg and made of a rare polished granite.2 The “Skip” is like the team captain. As the stone is thrown, two other players (primarily the “Lead” and “Second” unless they are throwing) will sweep the ice to make the stone go faster or slower and curl left or right.3 The order of throwing is Lead, Second, Vice and Skip, but it is the Skip who is giving instructions to the sweepers on how to sweep. Some excellent resources to learn more about curling can be found at the official USA website: and The Curling 101 website: . YouTube also has some good videos. Enough about curling…

Briefly, as to other sports I may have missed… Many of them just don’t get adequate mainstream coverage. Soccer, which is awesome, is starting to change some of that, but it has certainly been hurt by a deficiency of media representation in this country – unless, it’s the World Cup or Olympics. In that case, we’re all in (meaning we are watching the US Women’s Soccer team win games.) I love rugby – more on that later, though, because I have a Southern story involving a combination of rugby and an important day in American history. I also have some really hilarious anecdotes from my days as a player. Now, figure skating, speed skating, gymnastics, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, etc. – all of those take incredible dexterity, strength and endurance. I respect those athletes – but you can ditto the above statement. With the exception of professional boxing, they aren’t as often highlighted unless it’s a world championship or the Olympics. We could also talk about archery, volleyball, bobsledding, bull fighting – even bocci ball. I could get into discussing body building, scuba diving, cheerleading, cricket, darts, diving, equestrian, hand ball and log rolling. There’s kayaking, lacrosse, sailing, luge, racquetball, rock climbing and shooting. Let’s not forget surfing, weight lifting, polo, water polo and even the old fashioned tug-o-war. There are so many sports, and I intermittently follow many of them. I certainly respect these dedicated and self-sacrificing athletes laboring to master their chosen sport. However, I don’t avidly seek those events out or look out for every competition, news clip or update.

It’s just that…. well, those sports aren’t football, and that sport is still king of The South.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Random Commentary


Many folks would think a classic Southern song would involve Hank Williams or Johnny Cash. They are classic – no doubt. I, however, wanted to focus on a more humorous – and perhaps more clearly accurate summation of one part of The South. Ray Stevens is now known as a wonderful comedian and has achieved world-wide fame. However, when I was growing up, he was kind of a local boy – I‘ve seen him live a few times at the Expo and some other big agricultural-type events that I doubt he’d bother with these days. Nonetheless, he’s quite personable and has an excellent ability to tell a story. I’d like to break down one of them: Mississippi Squirrel Revival. Please note that his lyrics are in italics and my comments are in parentheses and NOT in italics. Also, please note that the commentary on the lyrics are purely my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the singer/songwriter.

Well when I was kid I'd take a trip
every summer,
down to Mississippi.
To visit my granny in her ante bellum world.

(Here, I’d like to say it’s not uncommon to 1) call your grandmama “Granny” and 2) to spend extra time with the grandparents in the summertime. Also, there is no doubt Mississippi is rife with ante bellum life.)

I'd run barefooted all day long,
climbing trees free as a song.
One day I happened catch myself a squirrel.
I stuffed him down in an old shoebox,
(It was quite common to either catch an animal or shoot it – kind of depended on the day, your mood and what weaponry you had on you.) punched a couple holes in the top and when Sunday came,
I snuck him in the church.
I was sittin way back in the very last pew
(Commonly, we call ‘em “back row baptists.”)
showin him to my good buddy Hugh,
when that squirrel got loose
and went totally berserk!

Well what happened next is hard to tell.
Some thought it was Heaven others thought it was Hell.

(Without getting too political or into a religious debate, you’d be amazed at what one group thinks is “gospel truth” and another group thinks is outright blasphemy. The worst part is that they are usually quoting the same scripture and just in total disagreement over its meaning. As a child it was confusing. As an adult it is more confusing…)

But the fact that something was among us
was plain to see.
As the choir sang "I Surrender All"
the squirrel ran up Harv Newlan's coveralls
Harv leaped to his feet and said,
"Somethin's got a hold on me!"

(If this were a Pentecostal church, this would be a common exclamation … people would be excited not afraid.)


The day the squirrel went berserk,
In the First Self-Righteous Church

(I will insert a slight bit of provocative comment here to say that some – not all – churches are more concerned with their appearance and being “better than” rather than being in pursuit of having a relationship with God, bringing Heaven to earth, teaching the truth and reaching out to all people. It’s sad.)
in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.
It was a fight for survival,
that broke out in revival.
They were jumpin pews and shouting Hallelujah!

Verse 2

Well Harv hit the aisles dancin and screamin
some thought he had religion
others thought he had a demon
Harv thought he had a weed eater loose
in his fruit of the looms.
He fell to his knees to plead and beg,
and that squirrel ran out of his britches leg,
unobserved to the other side of the room.

All the way down to the Amen pew
where sat Sister Bertha "Better than you"
(If you’ve been to church in The South, you know these rare but very real members of the congregation. If you are Sister Bertha, well… you know who you are and what happens next seems like karma.)
Who had been watching all the commotion
with sadistic glee.
Shoot, you should've seen the look in her eyes
when that squirrel jumped her garters and crossed her thighs.
she jumped to her feet and said,
"Lord have mercy on me!"
As the squirrel made laps inside her dress,
she began to cry and then to confess
to sins that would make a sailor blush with shame.

She told of gossip and church dissention,
but the thing that got the most attention
is when she talked about her love life
then she started naming names! 

(There are many things churches down South frown upon. Some disapprove of dancing for any reason – although that’s less common these days. Some disapprove of drinking for any reason – although the vast majority of the congregation do so…we just don’t talk about it at church. And many political battles go on in churches that are divisive and really violate the whole concept of “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Hopefully, we are getting away from such nonsense; preaching less hell fire and damnation; and preaching more love and communion.)


The day the squirrel went berserk.
In the First Self-Righteous Church
in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.
It was a fight for survival,
that broke out in revival.
They were jumpin pews and shouting Hallelujah!

Verse 3

Well seven deacons and then the pastor got saved
and 25,000 dollars got raised.
And 50 volunteered for missions in the Congo
on the spot.
and even without an invitaion
there were at least 500 rededications.
And we all got rebaptised whether we needed it or not.

(I love that section although there's not much to comment on – except the sad hypocrisy in so many churches where appearances matter more than heart, where acts done out of duty occur more regularly than acts of pure love. Again, I think we are moving more and more away from that – gratefully.)

Now you've heard the Bible stories I guess
of how He parted the waters for Moses to pass.
All the miracles God has brought to this ol' world.
But the one I'll remember to my dyin day
is how he put that church back on the narrow way
with a half crazed Mississippi Squirrel

(Sometimes it takes an unusual shake-up to wake folks up. You know, we get quite patriotic when 9/11 happens or the Boston Marathon bombing or Sandy Hook…it doesn’t take long, though, for many of us to turn off our television and go back to worrying about playoffs and draft picks – which I love, don’t misunderstand – I guess I just wish the shake-ups were more lasting.

I’d like to think we are still unified in our stance against terrorism – DAILY.

I’d like to think we pray for our military every day – for we are still at war. After more than 12 years, we are still in a declared war. Teenagers today have never known an America in peacetime. Our men and women are still being killed in a war that will hopefully be over soon.

Our homeless rate and unemployment rate are both still unacceptable.

So…I’m glad sometimes an unlikely event like a squirrel getting loose in church can make a change in so many. It’d just be nice if that change lasted. I certainly don’t speak for the songwriter here, but that’s what this song makes me think about…when are we fooling ourselves that we are being good and faithful servants when all we’re doing is going through the motions? ...and what does it take to remind us how important it is to love one another and support one another?

I hope and pray we have a very real conviction to be patriotic, to love one another … to be unified.)

God bless The United States of America.


All song lyrics are by Ray Stevens

Quoted from :