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Boots, Korea And Broken Airplanes

July 23, 2018

I’m supposed to be going to Vicksberg today. Well, I am going to Vicksberg, but I’m supposed to be there already. Instead, I’m sitting in the Salt Lake City Airport waiting out a flight delay.

I used to travel a lot on the weekends. Then, I got a new boss and was expected to match his travel schedule. He never travels on weekends.

We devote enough of our nights and weekends to work, I figure we can travel during the week.

I can’t say I mind much. It lets me ride the train to the airport. Instead of $10 in gas and $50 in parking, I pay $5 for a Frontrunner ticket and someone else worries about parking. The train doesn’t run on Sundays. (Yeah, it’s probably a Utah thing.)

Anyway, today my flight was supposed to leave at 8:07 to Dallas Ft Worth and then on to Vicksberg. Instead the flight was delayed until 9:28. It gave me an extra hour at the airport. I chose to take part in one of my favorite indulgences. I got my shoes shined.

Not just my shoes, my boots too.

It might seem unusual to wear boots to travel. They are my preferred footware. Like everyone’s, my feet swell when flying. If I wear tennis shoes, or dress shoes, I have to loosen the laces to keep from making my feet uncomfortable. But, boots put most of the tension on your ankle. My feet can swell all they want, and my boots remain comfortable.

But, what about that whole “remove your shoes” thing with the TSA, you might ask?

TSA Pre-check. It’s the best $85 I ever spent. I get to wear my shoes/boots.

Anyway, I took my seat in JW’s chair at the Salt Lake International Airport. JW has one eye, plates in his head and he must be about 85 years old. The first two items I know because he told me. His age I guessed because he told me he fought in Korea. That’s where the injuries to his head came from.

It took JW about 40 minutes to shine my shoes and then my boots. I’m pretty sure he’s normally quicker than that. Although the well worn custom cane indicated that he’s no longer quick.

But, the 40 minutes was a chance to hear about another time and place. JW spent 23 years in the Army. He was in during the worst of Korea and Vietnam. A time when we as a country, treated our servicemen pretty bad. I explained that my dad had served around the same time as a “reluctant soldier.” Dad didn’t want to be in the service and the service didn’t really want him.

JW got a chuckle out of that.

Reluctant soldier? Ha, I like that. That’s pretty good.

JW noticed my ring.

We shared a word and a gesture that only members of one of the world’s oldest fraternities would recognize. JW talked about his great-nephew. Apparently he’s a world class swimmer.

What events does he swim?

All of them!

JW is very proud of his grand-nephew. I’m not sure he undestands competitive swimming. JW is doing a fundraiser to get him money to fly back east to the pre-olympic qualifiers.

Is your grand-nephew black too?

Yep. Yes, he is.

That’s unusual. Not a lot of black swimmers.

No, there’s not. But, you know what? His mother, his aunt and his grandmother were all swimmers. But, he’s the best of the lot.

I hope he makes it.

Finally, it was time to head for my gate. JW finished putting a polish on my boots that they’ve never had before. I got to my gate to discover that the flight had been delayed even more. I’m glad I didn’t cut short my visit with JW.

Like I said, it’s one of my favorite indulgences.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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