Flying the Friendly Skies
It hasn't always been that way. I remember the first time I stepped on a commercial airliner, and we didn't even leave the ground.
My First Time
In 1973, when I was 11, we went to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with my aunt Arlene (Dad's sister) and Uncle Cliff. My Dad was very busy trying to harvest our corn crop and he wanted to finish before we left for Chicago. In order to make that happen, he slept about four hours over three days. But he did finish. Then he drove the five hour trip to Chicago.
His harvest complete and his family safely in Chicago, he promptly slept for twelve hours, awoke for Thanksgiving dinner and went back to bed. After Rip Van Eikenberry woke up on Friday, we went to O'Hare Field to "watch the planes."
This may seem like a strange way to pass time to you. But remember this was thirty years ago - flying wasn't as common or as prevalent as it is today. Since there wasn't a major airport around the corner, the airport itself was somewhat novel. Especially O'Hare - one of the biggest, busiest airports in the world. Remember too that this was 1973 - you didn't have to go through security at all, let alone have a ticket to be in the gate area. So the four in our family looked, wandered, gawked, and I would guess, imagined getting on one of those giant birds.
Before too long we became fixated on a huge 747 at the gate beside us. Someone (probably me) said it would be great to see inside of one of those. Dad quickly began asking people for a tour! Before long, we were being toured by a stewardess (they weren't flight attendants yet) and a pilot. I don't remember much about the tour, except the spiral staircase to the second floor lounge - this was before they filled that level with business class seats.
Eleven to Forty One
I have remembered this story fondly throughout my life. But recently, as my Father and I reminisced about it, I learned something I hadn't remembered. He said, "The other thing I remember about the tour was that as we walked off the plane, you said, 'If I ever fly, I'm going to fly United!'"
Then he asked me, "That's who you fly the most, isn't it?" I said yes, but quickly assured him that experience had very little to do with my travel choices.
"I fly United because they have a major presence at the Indy airport, and they have convenient service to many of the places I go," I told him. I went on to say that I fly United because I have had, overall, very good experiences with them.
I am enrolled in the frequent flyer club of every major domestic airline, and over the course of the year typically fly all of them. However, for nine of the last ten years I have flown United the most. Surely all of my logical reasons for choosing United are the reasons I fly them, right?
On Second Thought
On further reflection, I'm not so sure that is true. United is often my best option, but there are always other choices. Yes, United takes good care of me, and if they didn't I probably would make a change. But deep down, I think I've always had a soft spot in my heart for United, all because of a tour given long ago to family who obviously wasn't flying that day.
The lessons in this story are many. You could focus on my Dad's work ethic and goal oriented approach to his corn harvest. You could think about how unusual family events can leave positive lasting memories, or you could focus on the value of asking for something you want, even if you aren't sure you will get it (I'm sure I was thinking that there would be no way we would be getting on that plane without a ticket). You could even take this as a customer care and customer service object lesson - how small acts by employees can have a huge impact on revenue - even many years later. All of those are valuable lessons to consider.
But my biggest lesson didn't come until nearly thirty years later, when I heard "the rest of the story" from Dad.
Do experiences, even seemingly insignificant ones, as children, shape our perceptions, ideas, and choices as adults?
Yes they do, and I'm sure you agree. This story reminds me of this fact. The story also helps me realize just how pervasive those experiences can be in terms of our current day decisions.
The next time you make a choice about something, without giving it a second thought - do give it that second thought (even if it's later.) While you are thinking, ask yourself: