Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Groucho and Me

What with my Birthday coming up and all, and considering that my next post about the sorry state of mankind is weighing a little heavy, I think I'll post some true nonsense. (NOTE: this is at the suggestion of a Facebook friend, so take that, all you people who think Facebook is a waste of time. OR, don't blame me, it wasn't my idea anyway).

The story happened about 31 years ago, and is one of the funnier (haha variety) things that ever happened to me. Not at the time, but now....


In the late 1970's, I traveled around the country quite a bit. In fact, in 9 years in that job, I was in about 36 states, and 100 airports.

One of the trips I made was to Columbus, Ohio, for a three-day convention, followed by a one-day trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to meet with my Madison area representative. At the time, I was in charge of a nationwide insurance agency network .. some 250 agents .. and also responsible for client relations with our customers, the associations which sponsored our insurance programs. The trip to Ohio was to attend the convention of one such sponsor, the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association (i.e.: tavern owners).

The last night of the convention, the evening meeting was a “Monte Carlo Night”. Using play money, I played Blackjack for about 2 hours, and ran my $1000 stake up to about $50,000. Then, at the end of the evening, they auctioned off all the door prizes for the play money.

I'd spotted a soft-sided suede briefcase I liked, so I bought it. I didn't know it, but my chief competitor in the bidding was the wife of the Association's president, who came to me afterward and asked if we couldn't work a deal; she wanted it for her husband. Well, I thought magnanimity would be wise, so I said sure .. you buy that statue of Groucho up there, and we'll trade. It was a really neat caricature of Groucho Marx, about 30” tall, of plaster, just like the one in the photo above.

Sure enough, she bought it and we traded. They packed it up in a big box full of little white plastic cheese curls, and I took him with me on the plane to Madison, Wisconsin.

The rub: no machines in the Columbus Airport. So, when I went to the gate, they opened Groucho, sifted through all the cheese curls, and taped him back up inside the box. But when I got to the gate, there was no place to sit, and the flight was delayed. So I went back into the terminal.

When they called the flight, I went back to the gate to board the plane.

Unpack Groucho, Sift cheese curls. Re-tape package.

After a good meeting in Madison, I went to the airport. It was snowing. Bad. So I went to the gate to board the plane as early as I could (had to stash Groucho in the overhead).

No machines. Open Groucho. Sift cheese curls. Re-tape Groucho.

And hour later, we finally boarded the plane. We then flew 6 hours through blinding snow (it was 90 miles to Chicago) and were on final approach when they announced that lightning had nit the tower in Chicago and knocked out the GCA; since we'd been flying so long, we had to go back to Madison to refuel.

Yes, we flew 6 hours from Madison, Wisconsin, to Madison, Wisconsin.

When we landed, they said they were canceling that flight, and we need to go to the counter in the terminal to have our tickets “stuck” for the new flight. Which I did, and then went back to the gate to get on the new flight (same plane).

No machines. Open Groucho. Sift cheese curls. Re-tape Groucho.

We boarded the plane and sat there for an hour or so, at which point we were told there was a weather delay, so we should to back to the terminal and wait, which we did. An hour later, they called the flight, so we went back to the gate and boarded.

No machines. Open Groucho. Sift cheese curls. Re-tape Groucho.

We got to Chicago about 3am, and walked across the concourse to the next gate, and immediately got on the (previous day's) 7pm flight to Atlanta.

Got to Atlanta in time to catch the 7am flight to Birmingham (after one more episode of opening Groucho, sifting cheese curls, and re-taping Groucho).

I called Peg and she came to the airport to pick me up. When I'd gotten there, I'd ripped open that #%$@!$# box, and thrown it and all those !@#!**$& cheese curls into the trash can. So Peg rolled up to a mostly deserted airport to see me and Groucho sitting on the curb.

It took some explaining.

As a sidelight, the statue is now worth a WHOLE LOT more than the briefcase would even be, now, new. I kind of wish he hadn't fallen off the case where he was sitting, a few years ago, and turned himself into little grainy pieces of plaster.

5 Comments:

At 1:17 PM, May 11, 2010, Blogger foolery said...

But how much is the *plaster* worth now?

 
At 1:17 PM, May 11, 2010, Blogger foolery said...

I forgot to say, I really enjoyed this story, Thanks, boB.

 
At 2:10 PM, May 11, 2010, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks.

At the bottom of a landfill somewhere, probably not much...

 
At 12:42 PM, May 12, 2010, Blogger John Notestein said...

Great story. It's great to see how little air travel has come from that time til now!

 
At 8:16 PM, May 12, 2010, Blogger Christiane said...

Loved the story!
Thanks for the fun. I needed to laugh today. A true blessing.

 

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