Sunday, October 27, 2019

"With Beer, the Sky's the Limit"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Every time I hear that somebody is on cloud nine, I wonder what happened to the first eight clouds. But the ninth altocumulus, not to be confused with the second alto sax, was where I found myself after the airplane on which I was a passenger had to turn back, possibly after hitting the fourth altostratus, causing so much inconvenience that I got a free beer out of the deal.

My anxious airplane adventure began en route to Washington, D.C., where I was winging it to visit my older daughter, her husband and their three children.

About 10 minutes into the 10 a.m. flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, where it takes longer to find a parking space than it does to fly to Washington, something felt wrong. It was as if the engine was wired on caffeine and couldn’t stop humming a really bad song that plays over and over in your head.

My head, which had been empty, filled with dread as I saw Shaqwanna, one of the two flight attendants, on the phone. As soon as she hung up, I heard this announcement:

“Due to a mechanical issue, we are returning to LaGuardia. Please fasten your seatbelts.”

There was, we were informed, a problem with the bleed line.

“Sounds like the plane needs a transfusion,” I told Toni, the very nice woman sitting next to me.

“Are you a doctor?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, my heart racing, “but I could use one.”

The bleed line, we were further informed, provides air that pressurizes the cabin. It would take about 15 minutes to fix once we were back at LaGuardia. If that didn’t work, we’d have to change planes.

“To make up for this,” I asked Paige, the other flight attendant, “will you be serving beer?”

“It’s always an option,” replied Paige, who had been on the job for only two months. “I’ve had some delays,” she told me, “but this is the first time we’ve had to turn around.”

After we landed, I spoke with the pilot, a pleasant young man named Joe, who looked barely old enough to drive a car, let alone fly a plane.

“Do I qualify for infrequent flier miles?” I inquired.

“Considering we didn’t go too far, you should,” said Joe, who has been flying for six years.

“Paige told me I could get a free beer,” I said.

“She’s the boss,” Joe stated.

It turned out that the problem had no quick fix, so we had to change planes. We got off and were directed to a terminal gate where our new plane would be.

On a table, there were snacks, which served as the lunch we would not be served once we were again airborne.

I walked up to the desk and spoke with a friendly “customer experience representative” named Yvette.

“I was told by the crew that I could get a free beer,” I said.

“You deserve one,” Yvette said with a smile. Then she handed me a voucher for a complimentary cocktail.

About half an hour later, we boarded the new plane. I took my seat and, after taking off, waited for Paige to come by with the refreshment cart.

“Hello!” she chirped. “Welcome back!”

“I have a voucher for that free beer,” I said.

“Here you go,” said Paige, handing me a cold one.

Later, I handed her my drained can.

“This really hit the spot,” I said.

“I’m glad,” said Paige.

I was glad the new plane didn’t have to turn around.

After we landed in D.C., I congratulated Joe on a good flight.

“The second time’s the charm,” he noted.

“I was on cloud nine,” I said. “And I got here on a wing and a beer.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"The Kindest Cut of All"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
In this age of rampant egotism and false pride, it’s nice to know that there is still a genuine star who hasn’t let fame go to his head, even after his head has just had a haircut.

I refer, of course, to my grandson Xavier. I also refer to Diego D’Ambrosio, who owns the barbershop where Xavier goes for a haircut but not, as yet, a shave, since he’s only 2 and a half.

Still, Xavier and Diego stand head and shoulders above all the other notables in Washington, D.C., where I recently saw both stars.

I was visiting Xavier; my older daughter, Katie, his mommy; my son-in-law Dave, his daddy; and my twin grandchildren, Zoe and Quinn, his sister and brother, who may be infants but are not as infantile as their grandfather.

I spent a week helping Katie and Dave with the twins, who needed to be fed, burped, changed and brought to the doctor’s office. I also helped with Xavier, who needed to be brought to school, played with afterward, read to before bed and, on the last full day of my visit, taken for a haircut.

I found out when Katie and I walked into the doctor’s office with Zoe and Quinn that Xavier isn’t the only Xavier in the nation’s capital.

“Xavier!” shouted a nurse.

“Xavier was here yesterday,” Katie told me, looking confused. “He had a shot.”

Just then, a young man with a child in his arms walked toward the back to see the doctor.

“There’s another Xavier,” I said. “But of course, he’s not the main one. Our Xavier is.”

“That’s right,” Katie said as she held Zoe, who promptly threw up all over the front of her mother’s striped dress.

In the examination room, the doctor looked at the glistening streak and said, “It’s like modern art.”

Zoe and Quinn each had two shots and an oral vaccine. Afterward, Katie and I took them to a bar. We each had a beer. The twins, making their first visit to such an establishment, had already consumed their bottles (of milk) and were passed out in their two-seat stroller.

“It’s good to get out of the house,” Katie said.

“Cheers!” I replied, clinking glasses with her.

At the end of the week, Katie and I took Xavier to Diego’s Hair Salon, which is on Diego D’Ambrosio Way.

“Diego must be the only barber in America who has a street named after him,” I told Katie.

“He’s famous,” she said.

That was evident when we walked in and saw that the walls were lined with autographed photos of D.C. notables, among them Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

We had to wait for Xavier’s turn, so we went back outside and encountered yet another Xavier, also 2 and a half and also waiting for a haircut.

“He’s the second other Xavier we’ve met this week,” I said to the second other Xavier’s parents.

Back inside, Diego couldn’t give Xavier a haircut because he had broken his hip and was using a walker, so Tania had the honor of cutting Xavier’s hair. She did a wonderful job.

On the way out, I spoke with Diego, who’s 83 and has owned his shop for more than half a century.

“You’re famous,” I told him.

Diego smiled modestly.

“My grandson is famous, too,” I said. “He’s been the star of many of my columns. I think you should have a photo of him on the wall. He’ll even autograph it. In crayon.”

“I’ll put it up,” Diego promised.

“And don’t worry,” I said. “Like you, Xavier won’t let fame go to his handsome head.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima