Bound by duty and fueled with courage from Dan Rather's last broadcast the night before, I stepped up to the plate Thursday morning. My batter's box came in the form of a Delta Airlines Boeing 757 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. I would eventually ascend thousands of feet above the ground before landing at LAX.
But before being propelled 500 mph across the country, my trip was catalyzed by something else--- an unmitigated, unadulterated sense of responsibility and bravery. The flight attendant had asked me to sit in the exit row and possibly open a 44 pound door to let people out in case of some obscene midair collision or engine failure that would otherwise send the monstrous steel bird plummeting into farmland somewhere over Oklahoma. It would, no doubt, be an exciting position to be in.
The sound of the door opening would be like a sledge hammer coming down on cold, hard steel. Then like a giant vacuum, the wind outside. I would be directing passengers, in total control, recollecting Rather's stolid, unaffected composure at the news desk.
My eyes lit up when she pointed the finger and said, "You." Not to let this enormous task go unrewarded, she promised me more leg room, and if I was lucky, a complimentary pair of headphones to watch the sequel of "Bridget Jones' Diary."
"That won't be necessary," I said.
She didn't understand, I was motivated by something higher. I wanted to redefine my position as "passenger." It had such a passive connotation to it--- sit while we serve you. Thinking, What Would Rather Do, I said to myself, "What if I were to be a passenger-lifesaver."
This would be my moment to shine, one of those occasions to catapult oneself into the spotlight, and hopefully create a social ascension that endowed me permanently with a stratospheric stature.
Maybe Clint Eastwood would be there at the gate to thank me when we landed in Los Angeles.
"You're a real trooper," he would say.
"Troopie," I'd respond. "We say troopie."
Ever since I drove from Atlanta to Denver in a hellish experience that totaled 20 hours of nonstop driving, "troopie" has become a trophy for some unprecedented event.
My friend's brother, Patrick, was the first to receive the award. Having driven with us to Denver, he then turned around and flew straight back to Atlanta. Reportedly at his gate, some unpolished, forlorn Canuck heard of his great journey and told him he was a "real troopie."
Sadly for me, there was no trophy at the end of my most recent journey to L.A. The plane landed intact and unharmed at LAX around 10 a.m. PST. All I got instead was an earful of engine music and the inconvenience of jumping over someone whenever I had to use the restroom.
I was just a regular passenger today.
Justin Boron is the government and politics reporter for the News Daily. His column appears Tuesdays and he can be reached at (770) 478-5753 x281 or at firstname.lastname@example.org