Sometimes It Gets Too Weird

What happened en route.

It’s probably a truism that you never know what you’re going to run into when traveling for business. It’s probably also a truism that you may completely miss something really interesting because you’re focused on the now and on the reasons you’re out and about. I’ve certainly run into the unexpected on occasion, but, because I’m a congenital and inveterate noticer, I also don’t miss as much really neat stuff as another might.

Three events on a single trip to Boston stand out.

While working for the Department of the Navy at Patuxent Naval Air Station, I was involved in the transfer of responsibilty for all computer support from one group on the Station to another. As part of that effort, my supervisor wanted as much certainty about the reliablility of data transfer over a considerable distance as he could get. So, he sent me up to Boston to conduct a test transfer of live data over a land line from a facility comparably equipped with a Burroughs mainframe.

The data took up five reels of 12 inch tape – the mass storage medium of the time – which I carried in a run-of-the-mill, grey, 10″ X 13″ X 13″ case and which, since it contained priviliged government data, I could not put in checked luggage. It had to be in my possession the whole time. No big deal, right?

Well, yes and no.

Strange stuff started happening while in the airline waiting area at Dulles airport when I noticed a group of four other passengers behaving more than a little oddly and they noticed me.

They came into the lobby together but separated as each did a walk-around as though looking for a good place to sit. But, they seemed at first not to be able find a suitable place and just stood around for a while. After a few minutes, one of them took a seat in the same row I was in, but closer to the gate than I. At the same time, one took a seat several rows behind me and the other two stood up against the lobby wall off to the right opposite me.

After a few more minutes, along came Sen. Ted Kennedy, who took his place between the two men who were standing. Shortly thereafter, Sen. Kennedy, flanked by those two, boarded first class as I awaited coach boarding. The other two didn’t move until we lesser folk were called.

As we were lining up and boarding, the guy who had been sitting nearer to the gate got up, approached the gate and stood off to the right side of the line. When I was about fifth in line, he abruptly cut in and had a very quick hushed conversation with the boarding agent, who glanced at me and nodded in the affirmative, after which he stepped just inside the gangway. All was made clear when, while clearly in sight of the guy and to his satisfaction, the agent asked me to please show her what was in the case.

So much for event number one.

Event number two involved two female attendants who were taking care of normal boarding business in coach. One of them said to the other, “You-know-who’s here.”, to which the other, without asking or looking, replied, “Oh, no!. If that son-of-bitch tries to put his hands on me again, he’ll wish he hadn’t! Secret Service or not!”

Oh my, says I to myself.

But, it was the third event that REALLY got my attention, along with that of everyone else on board.

As we we’re coming into Logan International, the plane very suddenly banked left and went into a climb for a few seconds before leveling out.

Having completed the move, the pilot got on the intercom and apologized for the sudden course change saying, “It was just a little delaying vector Air Traffic Control wanted us to take.”

And I’m sitting there with knuckles the color of the antarctic ice sheet thinking, “Delaying vector? Delaying vector? Waddya mean DELAYING vector? Is that what we’re calling COLLISION-AVOIDANCE maneuvers these days?”

There’s just so much to be noticed…