Hammer Time: Flying Is The Devil's Work

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time flying is the devil s work

4 a.m.

The alarms clocks ring. Both of them. Just in case I get any funny ideas.

I go through the semi-conscious motions. Clothes… suitcase… glasses… coffee… breakfast. By 4:15 a.m, I’m out the door and driving to the airport in a 21-year-old Geo Prizm. I figured that a 5-speed and a stark lack of noise insulation will keep me alert. Thanks to Atlanta’s penchant for using steel plates to cover up every possible pothole on the road, I am not disappointed.

Everything seemed fine at first. I was going to take an early trip to San Antonio, Texas — home of the San Antonio Spurs, Shawn Michaels, and Ozzy Osbourne’s urine intensive markings. The plan was to arrive early and ‘see the city’.

In middle-aged life, seeing the city really means eating fancy foods and walking aimlessly under the pathetic guise that burning 40 calories by walking can make up for your recent 1400 calorie meal. I had a French bakery, a barbecue place, and a nice little park all scoped out for what I thought would be a day of short-term bliss before the big morning event.

The next morning I would be speaking in front of a few dozen of my peers at the Texas Independent Automobile Dealers Association. How many times have I done this public speaking deal in front of dealers? Ummm… never… except when I worked the Atlanta auction circuit back in the Y2K era. Back then I could just slur my speech and no one would give a damn so long as I got the numbers right.

This time would be different.

They were interested in having me speak about the Long-Term Quality Index. The organizer went through about 17 different ideas before I was finally able to convince him that the LTQI could offer some highly surprising findings. Mainly that not all Suzukis and Range Rovers suck.

It was a match made in…. Texas… while I was drinking coffee at a Waffle House.

So I signed off on the papers earlier that week and arrived at the airport about 5:30 a.m. for a 6:40 a.m. flight. I slid my wore out Discover card in the circa 2008 Southwest kiosk, and one painful word instantly greeted me in neon red.


Was my card cancelled? The tickets? Did I already piss these people off?

Nope. It was just my flight. So I waited in line with about 150 other hopeless Sunday morning zombies and eventually I heard a voice.

“Next in line please!”

The lady who called me already had another person there along with their kid. That apparently didn’t matter because she was going to destroy their day too.

Within 45 seconds I had what can only be described as an “Oh fuck!” moment. I figured out that the only thing she could achieve without the help of the other employees that morning was her three layers of makeup. Her face reminded me of rainbow cake.

Twenty-five minutes later, I get a new itinerary – Atlanta to Philadelphia, and then what I thought would be a siesta before a direct flight to San Antonio.

Instead I got some eyeball popping sweet chin music.

My flight would be from Atlanta, to Philly, then to Phoenix, and then, when I’m ready to go face first into the thinly carpeted floor after sitting like a human sardine all that time, I would get the very last flight from Phoenix to San Antonio.


Now, Atlanta to San Antonio is a good 800 miles or so. A quick thought popped into my dreamy little head that maybe I could drive the Geo at 100 miles per hour, since no one ever pays attention to these old Corollas in drag. After throwing a few piss bottles out the window, I could find myself in front of the JW Marriott hotel in San Antonio bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Instead I got an aisle seat and shared my misery on Facebook.

About a few minutes before everyone got settled, something truly unusual took place — something nice. A lady with a two month old was with her husband. They were among the last folks on the plane. So the stewardess asked everyone, “Can anyone switch seats so this young couple could sit together?”

“I’ll do it.” The three words that pretty much embodied my easy going gullible nature when I was a kid.

Cleaning up the dining room table? I’ll do it! Mommy always gives me the first five scoops of ice cream, so why not?

Holding a sparkler during the 4th of July that scared my four-year-old soul to death? Ummm… I’ll do it too! Is this thing going to make me go boom like Wile E Coyote?

Splashing a big cup of Kool-Aid down my brother’s boom box so my Mom could finally have some peace and quiet? I’ll do it… but, hey, mom? Can I have that steak knife just in case? You better bring one too!

So when these folks in Texas called me up and said, “We want you to figure out something unique to say.” My only response was, “I’ll do it… for the right price.”

Apparently that price is roughly equal to what I just paid for a 23-year-old Volvo 740 turbo wagon. That car works. As for my life decisions, that’s a subject for another day.

Steve’s Note: Mark always asks me to write about used cars and damn it, I really tried this time! So with that in mind go ahead and kick through some of the findings you can find here at the Long-Term Quality Index and leave a comment or two below. I’ll answer every question about cars and travel with the exception of the migration rates of African or European swallows.

Also, good news! The study just passed the 800,000 vehicle mark after nearly three years of compiling all the data (it also took close to a year to set it up), and I’m DESPERATELY trying to find someone who can help turn the data into a worakble app. So if you can help guide me to a solid soul, you’ll have my gratitude. Email me at carselect@gmail.com

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2 of 20 comments
  • VolandoBajo VolandoBajo on Aug 29, 2015

    @Dave M. I hope you meant that they canceled the flight because they couldn't find a pilot, and not that they could find a pilot, but the one that they could find was still so hung over that he would never have gotten clearance from the tower to take off. Typos happen, but sometimes they are funny, especially if you have a warped sense of humor.

  • "scarey" "scarey" on Aug 31, 2015

    Take my word for it- flying is for the birds.

  • Doc423 Well said, Jeff.
  • Urlik My online research seems to indicate it’s an issue with the retaining clips failing and allowing the valve spring retainers to come out. This results in the valve dropping into the cylinder.
  • EBFlex Typical Ford. For those keeping track, Ford is up to 44 recalls for the year. Number one recalled manufacturer (yet again) by a wide margin.
  • Lorie Did they completely forget the damn 2.0 ecoboosts that have the class action lawsuit? Guess those of us that had to pay out of pocket for an engine replacement for a fail at 76k miles are out of luck? I will never buy a Ford again.
  • Mncarguy I remember when the Golf came out and all the car magazines raved about it. I bought an early one in the mid level trim, brown with a beige vinyl interior and a stick. I must have blocked out a lot about that car, because the only thing I remember is one day with my wife and infant in the car, the brakes went out! I could use the parking brake and made it home. There must have been other issues (beside an awful dealer who felt like they were doing you a favor even letting you come in for service) because I swore I'd never buy a VW again. I did get a new Beetle and later a Passat. That's another story!