ATL->JNB in Three Acts


One of the best parts of traveling is meeting other travelers, people on the move either for business, fun, or both.  On the tram in ATL I met a Delta pilot who was on his way home to celebrate the New Year with his family.  He had family that had traveled from all over to meet up at his house and he was headed home after a Seattle->Detroit->Atlanta flight. I told him that I was headed to South Africa and what I teach. Then he told me about reading his children Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.  The book is about the power of words and the power of forgiveness.  He said that his little ones are fascinated by the idea that what they say can change the world.  I tossed out the idea that we have to be careful because the power can go both ways, for good and for ill, referencing the article The Rhetoric of Power that my students read. Then he mentioned King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and how he was completely blown away the first time he read it in college.  I completely agreed with him that its an absolutely brilliant piece of writing.  Then he told me that the “fix sheet” pilots have for Atlanta has been written in such a way to include “I have a dream” within their “fixes”.  He said that the one for Orlando includes Disney references.  The technical communicator in me perked up because I’m not sure if this is only a Delta thing or if these sheets are created by the FAA?  I’m guessing that these sheets change a bit for each city to keep the pilots focused because even though much of what they do is routine and they still need to be focused as to not skip parts of their routine. But I couldn’t find anymore information with the cursory search I did online.

I read an article stating that people cry more on planes and couple this with the phenomena of people confessing their secrets to strangers and I always have interesting travel experiences.  I met two people on the flight from ATL to JNB because I usually have a hard time sleeping and so I’m up and about for parts of the flight. Cause, its a serious haul. Both of the people I met were traveling back home to South Africa after visiting new grandchildren in the US. The gentleman told me about moving to South Africa from England 13 years ago after retiring from “the motor trade” (he’d owned a Land Rover Dealership). He said he left because computerized pricing had taken the human skill out of the job, which was what he’d enjoyed most.  When he and his family moved to SA they got their permanent residency through a “broker” which he fully believes now probably wasn’t really legal. He bought a property north of Pretoria and it sounded like he has what we may call a “hobby farm” in the states.  He spent these past 13 years developing the property and he’s loved his experience. He’s not sure what the next few years are going to bring because his one daughter and family are in the US, he and his wife are getting older, and the property takes constant maintenance. Also, he said that he’s concerned about South Africa because the institutions are not functioning as they should, police and politicians are seen as equally corrupt and inept. But what country is living up to is promise right now? He comes from England and me from America-I’m not willing to pick up the first stone, that’s for sure!

The other passenger I met was coming back home after being in the U.S. to help her daughter with her second baby (nine years younger than her first grandchild). She said she had a marvelous time, but doesn’t know how often she’ll be able to come back because her other daughter in South Africa is severely disabled and can’t travel internationally.  She wasn’t able to make the trip to America for several years because of her own health. She’d had a great trip but was anxious to get back to her daughter in South Africa.  She’s in a home where she can receive the care she needs 24/7. However, while she was in America she’d received word that one of the aides had been abusively rough with her daughter and she wanted to get home and take care of things.

Each conversation ended like an act from a small play…we encountered some small turbulence, the seat belt sign was turned on, and we had to return to our seats.


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