Something Good

The American Airlines compound was a conglomerate of buildings connected by underground tunnels. Headquarters, where I was summoned to get my work ID, was on the other side of the very busy Amon Carter Blvd. (I loved this name.) I decided to go through the tunnel. Once on the other side, I was faced with a hall to the left, the wrong direction, and a door sporting a DO NOT ENTER sign. I knew the lobby was just above me. I peeked in the door window and viewed a stairwell. I decided to take my chances. I gingerly opened the door; no alarm sounded so I stepped in and went up the stairs. On the ground level, my destination, I found the door out of the stairwell locked. Great. OK, I thought, let’s just go up another level. After four levels and four locked doors, the next door handle turned freely. I opened the door to a big gust of wind, a very loud “whop-whop-whop” noise, and a couple of guards with their backs to me. It was the roof. It had a helipad and something was landing. I slammed the door shut and ran back down to the basement level. Now what. I decided to listen carefully and knock when I heard footsteps. The first steps paused at my knock. I knocked again. The steps resumed very slowly. I knocked louder. The steps quickened and faded as someone made a fast retreat. This scenario repeated a few times until someone actually approached the door and paused. I knocked insistently. The door slowly began to open. I pushed it out the rest of the way, said “Thank you, sir” to the confused little man on the other side then quickly made my exit without looking back. It was a good story at lunch the next day.

My American Airlines work family was a composite of many different personalities, each of us one of the six contractors on the design team. The team members who were actual company employees believed that we all made six-figure salaries and were there to take their jobs therefore, did not have much to say to us. We, the shunned ones, bonded quickly. Every day we piled into the “Carla-mobile,” my big and wide 1985 Chevrolet Caprice, white with red interior, and headed to lunch. We were an unlikely combination but became fast friends. There was Dennis the comedian, small stature, talkative, and always up for prank such as when we traded shoes before going into a staff meeting. He actually did pretty well with the heels. Gary was a tall, athletic, African American with impeccable style and dress. He grew up very poor in Philadelphia, one of seven brothers. I was amazed at the obstacles he described between the ghetto and his success. A very quite, petite blonde, Donna was a devout Catholic married to Jewish man dealing with keeping the secret of the other’s religion from their prospective families. Gina, the beauty queen, had very little to say but seemed to be entertained by the rest of us. There was me, the storyteller and mother of the group, and then there was Jon, the nervous professor. Yes, it was much like that famous three-hour cruise.

I loved our little group and sometimes hosted weekend cookouts. The team teased me mercilessly, asking when I was going to go out with the professor, who was obviously smitten. I knew by now that Jon was 34; not 25, but still a little young. He had never married, had no children, was quite structured and linear in his approach to life and I could not see how he could ever survive in mine. His intelligence was intriguing to everyone. He was the department encyclopedia. Some made a game of coming up with a question that he could not answer, such as “Was the Gregorian calendar adjusted at any time and if so, when?” Without looking up he replied “In October of 1582, 10 days were removed from the calendar to adjust for the falling back as a result of erroneously calculating leap years.” This went on for weeks before he was stumped. Others got together and made a sign that said “If you can read this, you are a nerd” in binary code – that would be a series of zeros and ones, no other numbers or letters. They posted the sign on the wall near the restroom. When Jon encountered the sign, he stopped, read it out loud as easily as if it were a first-grade reader, and went on his way. It did not occur to him to wonder why the sign was there. But then, that is Jon.

I had much admiration for Jon’s intelligence but more for his blatant honesty and integrity and his solid Christian values. He was a little far to the right for me but I knew that he was a good man. He asked me out a couple of times but I made excuses. I knew that he was a good man but, he was not my type. I liked the cowboy type, such as the character Gus in the movie “Lonesome Dove.” I began to look at things differently after a coworker asked me to attend a lecture with her. The subject of the lecture was “How Not To Stay Single.” The lecture with the sentence “People stay single because they think they know who is not their type.” The speaker shared her story of loving only her “type,” basketball players, and suffering one heartbreak after another until she pondered a particular definition of insanity – repeating the same pattern again and again and expecting different results. She tried dating a suitor who was an accountant, definitely not her type, and lived happily ever-after. Her suggestion was to focus on quality rather than type. She advised that, when wooed by someone of quality, one should try at least three dates before dismissing them as a possible mate. As I listened to all of this, I thought of Jon Keatley.

Not long after, Jon asked me out again. I accepted. It was the first day of spring, 1993, and it was the nicest date I had ever experienced. At the end of the evening, I wondered if this could be the something good I felt would come from working for American Airlines.

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