Vol. 5, Issue 3, April 24, 2007
A Modern Flight of Fancy
The Watleys have always been a Sea-faring clan; travel is second Nature to a Watley, his steamer-trunk ever at the Ready for some trans-continental Adventure. I am also well acquainted with the Railways of our fair nation, and have not been averse to the occasional Balloon-cruise as well. But the world has Changed some in recent years, and there are times when, for a variety of Reasons, such stately modes of Transport are simply not Fast enough. At such times, one must resort to the Aero-Plane, alas.
Aero-Planes are odd Anomalies from the Hephaestean workshops of Man. Once exclusively the province of Madmen and Bicycle-makers with an excess of Time and Zeal, they have Lurched into the skies with an ever-increasing Roar, blundering through the Heavens with a characteristic lack of Grace. Since the ill-fated venture of the Spruce Goose, they have eschewed even the rudimentary charms of traveling on a Whaler in the North Sea. I admire these machines, but do not Enjoy them. Still: even the Fastest express train or speediest Zeppelin cannot get me from California to our nation's Capital overnight, and so I must endure the metallic confines of this Behemoth in the name of Friendship.
Now, it has been quite a while since last I traveled in this manner, so I had to make sure I packed Appropriately. The cherry-wood Pipe, of course, rather than the Amber-stemmed one, because it gives a sweeter Smoke (most important in a confined Area!); sturdy tweed Spats, rather than the more delicate Silk ones I normally don; and a folding Walking-Stick, as I have heard that the seating arrangements are rather Inadequate now-a-days.
I arrived at the Aero-drome a full Forty Minutes ahead of my scheduled Flight: I had no desire to be late through difficulties in finding the correct Hangar! However, I wasted a good nine Minutes in trying to find a Porter for my Steamer-trunk. This surprised me, for I was sure that its battered and well-stickered oaken Sides (bespeaking its many Voyages over the years) would quickly find a home in the hands of an experienced Porter in search of a suitable tip - a seasoned traveler Always tips better. But I observed that few today travel so well Prepared; how can one Possibly fits one's effects into the canvas bags that pass for Suit-cases these days? And let me assure you, these soft-sided "ballistic Nylon" cases will offer little protection against Rats, should there be any aboard.
That nuisance dealt with, I was asked to proceed through a peculiar Door-frame adorned with Electric Lights of various sorts. The purpose Eluded me, but as the several armed Security-Guards seemed devoid of humor I thought it best to Comply. They did not even crack a Smile when I lofted my best Teddy Roosevelt joke at them: stern guardians Indeed! I stepped through the Door-frame and was greeted with a surprising shrill Noise, much like a Bird caught in the gears of our Printing-presses.
"Sir, could you please remove any metal articles that you may be Carrying?" said one of the Guards. Aha: the door-frame is a form of Alexander Graham Bell's metal detector. Very well; let us Proceed, as my Flight is due to depart in a mere Thirteen Minutes.
Let us see; there are the Brass Buttons upon my Waistcoat. The pocket-watch, certainly, with its Fob and Chain. Thirteen Buffalo-nickels in my pocket. A signet ring with the seal of the Taurus Society. My pocket Astrolabe (always a fixture on every Journey!) Will that suffice, one hopes?
The door-frame Shrills again! It appears that I have forgotten the silver Pen-knife; perhaps this tin of Moustache-wax should be set aside as Well. And there is my extra flask of Islay tucked into my side-pocket as well. That ought to be the Lot.
Peep! The Graham-Bell doorframe sounds Defiantly: thou shalt not Pass, Watley! The guards assume a more Martial stance, unsure whether I represent a Threat. Heavens, young folks, have you never seen a Publisher before?
Ah, then, it must be the silver Band used to repair my Cherry-wood Pipe. And perhaps the buckles on my Shoes... The ha'penny Whistle I carry as a good Luck charm? The gold Sovereign from my first Case? My travel Backgammon set with the silver Inlay? One doesn't pause to think about how many metal Implements one carries. An ever-larger Pile of items grows on the shelf as I make pass after Pass through the noisome device; until at last - disaster! - I miss my Flight! (By forty-five Minutes no less!)
Regrettably, it appears that my partner shall have to argue this case before the Supreme Court without me. As I gather my items back about my Person, I contemplate the vagaries of Fate, and wonder that such a rapid mode of Transport should have become so bogged down in Minutiae. Perhaps I ought to have taken a Zeppelin flight after all.