The Dallas Upgrade
It was 8 p.m. on a Saturday night in Dallas-Fort Worth airport when I arrived from Las Vegas to catch a connecting flight back to Toronto. The airport was pretty empty, and all but a few of the shops and restaurants had shut down for the day.
I was on the inter-terminal train system with a couple of my fellow passengers from the flight that left Las Vegas when I overheard a couple talking about something they’d missed on their trip.
“Would’ve loved to have seen the Nine Inch Nails show at the Hard Rock,” the guy said.
It turned out to be the show in which Trent Reznor took a moment onstage to FaceTime terminally ill Nine Inch Nails superfan and rock photographer Andrew Youssef, who was too sick to attend the concert. He stopped the show to place the call, got the audience to say hello to him, and then dedicated In This Twilight to him. Andrew died two weeks later.
“Well, honey, we didn’t know it would happen ’round the time we were there,” replied the girl.
It seemed appropriate, so I piped in. “Are you talking about the Nine Inch Nails show in Vegas tonight?”
“Yeah,” said the guy. “We didn’t know about it, so we booked a flight back on Saturday so we could have Sunday to unwind before getting back to work.”
“Hey, I didn’t know about it either, until my girlfriend’s cousin, who works at the Hard Rock, told us about it,” I said. “By the time we heard, the show was sold out.”
“Oh well,” the girl said, leaning up against the guy and taking his hand.
“I can give you the next best thing,” I said, taking the accordion off my back, after which I played Head Like a Hole. They sang along until the end of the train ride.
There were four employees at the desk when I walked up to the gate for my Toronto flight. The departure lounge couches were mostly empty, and there was little for them to do. They looked bored.
I checked with them to see if the flight was on time, and as I turned around to get a seat to eat my fast-food dinner, one of them said “Is that an accordion?”
“Not just any accordion, but a rock and roll accordion. Would you like to hear something?”
One of them said “AC/DC”, and that’s all I needed. I had them singing along to You Shook Me All Night Long.
“That,” one of them said, “was exactly what we needed tonight. How would you like an exit row all to yourself?”
“I would love one,” I replied.
Moments later, I’d exchanged my boarding pass for one granting me my own exit row. To make things even better, the plane turned out to be one of American Airlines’ new A319s with the leather seats and the entertainment units. Not bad.
The Kansas City Upgrade (October 2013)
The First Delay: Buffalo
I was flying to Kansas City early one Saturday afternoon. There, I would play accordion at my friend Matt’s party, where all save a handful of guests thought was just a Halloween bash. The secret was that he and his fiancee Lori were going to have their wedding ceremony in the middle, and I would play the Wedding March and other appropriate tunes, presumably including Billy Idol’s White Wedding. My schedule gave me a couple of hours’ leeway, so I felt pretty confident that I’d be at the party with time to spare.
And that’s when they wheeled my flight’s pilot away on a gurney.
Shortly after that, they announcement was made that the flight was cancelled since they couldn’t find a replacement pilot. I made a beeline for the ticket counter, where they changed my flight from Buffalo – Chicago – Kansas City to Buffalo – Cleveland – Kansas City. I’d be a little late, but still in time to catch most of the party and possibly even play at the ceremony. I texted Matt with the news.
The Second Delay: Cleveland
I’d just gotten comfortable in my seat on the Cleveland – Kansas City flight when the lights went out on the plane. The plane had been connected to the airport’s power supply, but the power supply hadn’t been turned on, so the plane’s batteries ended up being drained. There wasn’t enough juice to start the plane’s generator, and we all had to disembark and wait for someone to either recharge our aircraft or the pilots to locate a new one. At that point, I knew I was going to miss not just the wedding ceremony, but most of the party as well.
It took them only a half hour to find another aircraft that the pilots were qualified to fly, and we boarded. I was in a row near where the flight attendants were stationed, and I’d been telling them about all my delays. They offered me a free drink once we’d gotten airborne, which I accepted.
One of them saw the accordion and said “Can you play that thing?”
I said “Of course. Would you like to hear something?”
She said “You might as well do it right now. The pilots are going to need some time getting set up.”
“Well, let me do a couple of numbers for the plane.” I stood up in the aisle, and a number of people shot video of the performance, including one Ann Wesley Hardin. In the video she shot, you can hear her say “It’s gonna be on YouTube tomorrow!”:
After my numbers, I took my seat and the flight attendant handed me a pre-flight can of Corona in a paper bag, presumably so it wasn’t that obvious, and I had another free and more openly-enjoyed beer when the drinks cart came around:
I do love travelling with the accordion!