Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: Airplanes are built for elves

If you happen to see either of my loyal readers, would you be so kind as to inform them that we’ve once again begun our weekly migration to Lake Tschida. Then if you really don’t have much of a life, head over to Cappuccino on Collins and see if my coffee klatch will excuse my attendance until November… thanks.

It’s Friday evening and I’m presently sitting on our west deck at Lake Tschida with my friend Sam Adams. The grandkids and their two guests for the weekend have taken off on the golf cart. The calming silence out here is thus broken by the occasional shrieks of three 12-year-old’s and a 3-year-old’s laughter off in the distance… their joy tickles my heart because the lake really is wonderful place for kids like them and me.

It’s cool and cloudy and likely to rain and after a week in America’s puddle of insanity surrounded by reality (D.C.) my brain is sorting thru the chaff. The dust from a week of trying to figure out what’s going on in our nation’s Capital is beginning to clear as the relief of being home begins to settle in. Those of you who envy those of us who have to travel for a living should rest easy because such travel really wears on a guy.

Over the years I’ve discovered that there’s really nothing exciting about a lonely hotel room, and air travel has become an incredibly weary experience.  This is especially true for those of us over 6 feet tall because from what I can tell, all the designers of today’s jets are most likely elves under 5 feet tall. I just don’t fit in those damn jetliner seats.

Since they now use those smaller jets out of Bismarck I can barely get to my seat, much less in the door, without bumping my balding head on something because I can’t stand up in the dang things. The seats seem to be designed for someone without a rear end and my knees always seem to protrude into the back of the passenger in front of me. Once I’m seated I’m scrunched from about every angle there is and I usually don’t get to move until they land the dang thing, and then I usually bang my head or some other appendage while de-boarding the plane.

Normally I switch planes in Minneapolis, where they put us on a grown up jet. At least I can stand up in one of those, but the seats aren’t much better for us tall guys. I used to try to get an aisle seat until I realized that folks seemed to be constantly tripping over my feet that protruded into the aisle. So now I shoot for a window seat, but lately I’ve discovered that it’s the seat itself that busts me up. The lumbar portion of the seat hits me in the upper butt instead of the lower back, and the head rest hits just below my shoulder blades, and when you sit in that position for three hours it’s really rather excruciating to extract one’s self from this hunched over contortion.

So getting there ain’t near the fun it’s cracked up to be because it usually takes me a couple days of moaning to get my back realigned. Once I check into my hotel, do my ironing and, if I’m lucky, I get to go for a walk where I check out whatever neighborhood I’m in. Then the meetings start and I sit in a chair for the next couple of days before getting back on the plane and assuming that previously described contortion thing that I suffer from.

The only upside of all these trips is so far I’ve made it home from each of them. I can’t adequately describe the relief I get when I deplane in Bismarck, but I can tell that every time I get off the plane I do end up thinking, “Boy, am I glad I don’t have to do that again for a while.”

Years ago my dad told me that he felt his retirement would be successful if he never had to get on a plane again. At the time I thought he was nuts, but today I get it and today I am looking forward to the day when I never have to get on a plane again.

So I’m done complaining about that as the contentment of just being home and out here at Tschida with the family has far overshadowed what it took to get here.

Here’s hoping that you can always get to wherever you need to be…