Boarding Pass Breakdown

Anyone who travels much spends a good part of their travel day clutching their boarding pass.  We get it when we check in on-line, we make sure we’ve got it as we head to the airport, we present it to the TSA agent who peers intently at it for a nanosecond, then scribbles on it as we go through the security line, and then we give it to the gate agent.

american_airlines_boarding_pass_aa_198But how much attention do we really give this document that is, briefly, very important to the successful completion of our travel plans?  Other than glancing at it to remember our seat assignment or boarding group, does any traveler actually read their boarding pass?  For most people, at least, it’s as casually ignored as the tags on mattresses or the detailed agate-type agreements you immediately click yes to when you log on to the internet in a hotel.

The New York Post has an interesting article about some of the information on boarding passes — and specifically, how flight numbers are determined.  It turns out that, typically, airlines assign the lowest numbers to their most prestigious, long-distance routes.  Flights heading east or north usually get even numbers, and flights heading west or south get odd numbers.  Flight numbers with four digits starting with the numbers 3 and higher indicate flights operated by airline partners. And some airlines assign special numbers to reflect the destination, like American Airlines assigning the number 1776 to its flight from Boston to Philadelphia.

But I think the most interesting fact is that airlines at least give a nod to superstitions in assigning flight numbers.  If you’re flying to Asia, you’re likely to see an 8 in the flight number, because that number is considered lucky in many Asian cultures.  The numbers 13 and 666 are avoided, and when a flight crashes, the flight number gets quietly retired and replaced with another number.  The airlines might be superstitious, or maybe not, but they at least recognize that some of their passengers are.

Just something to think about the next time you’re twiddling you thumbs at the gate, waiting for your flight to board.

Daring To Hope

This is for the Cleveland sports fans out there.  Anyone else is welcome to read it, but they won’t really fully understand it.  They can’t.

I know how you’re feeling.  You want to buy in to the Cavs, full-bore and without reservation, and go into the game tonight with supreme confidence that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and the other members of the Wine and Gold can win and pull off the most improbable comeback ever and, for the first time in NBA history, bring a team back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA championship.

141204-clenyk-11But something’s holding you back.  We Cleveland sports fans don’t like to admit it, but it’s fear, and also guilt.  Fear, because we feel like we’ve seen this story before, and when we open our hearts to one of the Cleveland teams, our hearts always get broken.  I don’t need to recount all of those instances to you, because they’re engraved on our very souls.  The saying is “once bitten, twice shy,” and we’ve experienced that a hundred times over, to the point where we’re cowering in the corner when our teams do well or hardening our hearts by predicting failure in advance, thinking that if we do so and failure does come it won’t hurt quite so much.  That doesn’t work, by the way, because even under the hard, calculated public veneer there always lurks a delicate blossom of hope, fresh and unguarded, ready to be crushed anew.

Everyone — even non-Cleveland fans — can understand the fear component.  What they don’t get is the weird sense of guilt.  Every Cleveland sports fan I know personalizes the losses and believes, deep in the pit of their being, that they honestly are the cause of 52 years of misery.  Maybe it’s because they watched the game on TV, or because they didn’t.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t wear the right shirt, or because they didn’t go to church, or because they feel that they haven’t always been a good person.  I guarantee that, as I write this, hundreds of Cleveland fans are doing nice things for their spouses and kids and friends and are hoping that their good deeds might cause the cosmic tumblers to click into place for the Cleveland sports team, just this once.

It’s the professional sports version of the Butterfly Effect.  We know that we can jinx the Cavs because we have jinxed the Cleveland teams in the past, over and over again.  We routinely get accused of jinxing by our friends and family.  (I’m looking at you, UJ!)  I’m probably jinxing things by writing this, or I would have jinxed things by not writing it.

So we live our lives by these curious rules that make us watch games from a particular chair or eat a particular snack or send text messages to particular friends, hoping that we don’t do or say anything that brings it all crashing down around our heads.  We’re so bound up by our superstitions and fears and guilts that we can’t just enjoy it, ever.

I can’t change you, any more than I can change myself.  It’s just how I am, and it’s how we all are.  Because we’re all in this together, aren’t we?  We Cleveland sports fans are linked together in ways that fans of successful franchises can’t possibly imagine.

So, I wanted to wish all of my fellow Cleveland fans well, and tell you that I’m all in.

Stevie Wonder

IMG_5078Last night Kish and I joined JV and Mrs. JV to catch Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life:  The Performance at the Schott.  It made for a long evening — the show featured every song on that titanic double album, plus some extras and an encore medley of Stevie Wonder hits that ended with him and his singers leaving the stage at about midnight after a thumping, crushing version of Superstition — but it was worth every minute.

IMG_5060Stevie Wonder is aptly named.  In the ’70s, he was one of several artists — Neil Young was another — who could be counted on to produce stunning songs, time after time.  It was a wonder that he could do it, again and again, without a single clinker.  During that period you could buy a Stevie Wonder album, unheard, with complete confidence, secure in the knowledge that you were going to get terrific music and interesting lyrics that would move your feet and expand your social consciousness at the same time.  Talking Book, Innervisions, and Fulfillingness’ First Finale were all great albums, and Songs in the Key of Life was the double-album capstone that cemented Wonder’s status as a full-fledged, multi-faceted genius who could effortlessly cross musical genres to capture the urgings of his inner voice.

Last night we learned that he is aptly named, too, because his outer voice has somehow escaped the ravages of time.  Backed by a huge band that put out an enormous sound, a cadre of talented singers in their own right, and a string section of Columbus’ own, Stevie Wonder knocked the audience out with the 2015 versions of the jumping songs — Sir Duke, I Wish, Isn’t She Lovely, As, and the closing medley all kicked ass — but his singing on the ballads was especially extraordinary.  The star did full justice to beautiful but vocally demanding songs like Knocks Me Off My Feet, Ordinary Pain, Joy Inside My Tears, and Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing as if he had just stepped out of the ’70s.  If you’ve been to see a performance of a ’70s musical star lately, you know that it is rare indeed to find one who still has their full vocal powers as you remember them, and in Stevie Wonder’s case it was even more astonishing because last night he obviously was battling the effects of a cold.  But he is the consummate performer, he played and sang his heart out, and the songs themselves didn’t suffer one bit.

If Stevie Wonder and his show are coming to your town, you really owe it to yourself to see him.  He puts on an unforgettable show, and part of the joy of the performance is rediscovering this legendary figure and music that you loved long ago and that still resonates in your inner core today.  As we left the concert, shaking our heads at Stevie Wonder’s talent, JV and I agreed:  we need to get more of his music on the iPod, pronto.

 

Good Karma

IMG_4604Sports fans know intuitively that concepts like karma are vitally important to the outcomes of key games.  Whether you are at the game or watching at home, life gives you little clues about whether things are going to go smoothly and whether the ball is going to bounce favorably . . . or not.  Most fans are superstitious because of this inner awareness — if they wear the same shirt and follow the same routine, they are less likely to invite occurrences that indicate that the balance is tilted against them.

On my trip to Dallas, the little signs were everywhere, and I was keenly sensitive to them.

IMG_4587The trip got off on a wrong foot when my flight to Atlanta was delayed and it looked like I would inevitably miss my connection to Oklahoma City, but I somehow made it anyway.  I drove from Oklahoma City to Dallas without mechanical problems, bad traffic, or speeding tickets.  Thanks to the Friendly Flynns, we had a great place to stay and a great Game Day southern breakfast.  We found a perfect parking spot at AT&T Stadium, enjoyed a laugh-filled lunch with buddies from Cleveland, and did some tailgating with an old friend at a location where there were some hilarious signs and antics by excited ticket holders.  And somehow, in the crush of humanity, we randomly ran into colleagues at one of many temporary souvenir shops set up in a tent along one of the roads around the stadium.

And then, when I finally sat my wind-chilled bones in my seat high in the upper deck of the House that Jerry Built, the first image I saw on the enormous Jumbotron above the field was a sweater vest-clad Jim Tressel, a great coach and even better man who was present at the game because he was being elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.  With the comforting presence of Coach Tressel hovering over the field, how could the Ohio State Buckeyes possibly lose?  And, of course, they didn’t.

It’s nice to go into an important game with good karma, and it’s even better when that good karma produces the desired result.  The fates were with us.

Enslaved By Fear Of Jinxes

Being an absurdly superstitious sports fan is a terrible thing.

You’d love to talk about your team and how well they are playing.  You’d relish chatting about their residence atop their division, about how they crushed their divisional rivals, and about their ability to withstand the pressure and win close games.  You’d like to do some trash-talking and razz the fans of opposing teams.

You’d enjoy a chance to brag a little, knowing that sports success can be fleeting and you need to strike while the iron is hot.  But you can’t — you absolutely can’t! — because you understand, to the deepest fiber of your being, that if you even mention the team by name and boast to anyone — even overbearing fans of other teams — about how well the team is playing, you have ensured their ultimate failure just as surely as if you sabotaged their equipment.

That doesn’t mean you can’t silently support your team by, say, wearing a hat that demonstrates your allegiance.  But beyond that, you must maintain the strict jinx-avoiding vow of silence.  And if anyone asks you about it, or wants to talk about it, you must assume the most humble disposition imaginable and change the subject as quickly as possible.

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

Crow Woe

Once, life was pleasant in the college town of California, Pennsylvania.  Then, the crows came, and kept coming, until the town was home to thousands of the large black birds.

Now, residents wake up in the morning, look out the window, and see crows everywhere.  They hear the harsh caws of crows all night long.  They feel the oppressive presence of crows in the trees.  They walk out to their cars and find them covered with crow droppings, and when they venture outside they have to dodge falling crow bombs.  A local TV crew sent to get footage of the pests reported that the plopping of crow poop outside sounded like raindrops.  Local business owners say that the crow infestation is hurting sales.  No kidding!  Imagine what the crow infestation has done for home sales!

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds always scared the hell out of me, because the everyday phenomenon of birds in the sky became a bizarre, horrifying menace for no apparent reason.  The plague-like conditions in California, Pennsylvania sound like that.  I’m not the superstitious type, but if I lived in California I’d get the heck out of there before birds started coming down the chimney or the locusts and frogs appeared.

Tremendous Tribe !

To readers of the Webner family blog – for those of you that don’t know this already, Bob’s love for our sports teams, the Browns and the Indians is steeped in superstition, in fact Bob recently posted the following statement on his Facebook page in mid April :

“I am afraid to watch a Tribe game. I haven’t watched any so far this year and they are off to a good start. If I watch a game, will I jinx them ? Or have I jinxed them even writing this? Or have I jinxed them by even thinking this.”

And look what has happened so far this year, the Indians have the best record in baseball at 19 – 8, are leading the American League Central by 4 1/2 games, they have a thirteen game home winning streak and they just won their last three games in come from behind fashion over the Detroit Tigers.

So Bob the answer to your question is no, you haven’t jinxed them writing or thinking about them, but my question to you is can you go an entire summer without watching a single Tribe game ?