I travel a fair amount for my work, and sometimes I have interesting travel experiences. I recently went to Pittsburgh to conduct another training class, this time for a group of military veterans who want to get into the drilling industry.

The local airport here in Brunswick, Ga., is a small wonder. Because we have the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center here, a lot of wheels fly in and out from Washington, D.C. So a few years ago, they spent enough of your money to build us a fine airport. Thanks. Airport security is a breeze. No lines, and since I fly fairly often, the TSA people kinda know me, and actually treat me like a human – no groping or anything.

It’s only an hour flight to the main hub of confusion in Atlanta, so I don’t worry too much about seat selection, except I like to be on the left side of the plane. We fly out right over my house, and I can look and see if Lottie’s boyfriend has arrived yet.

Once I get to Atlanta and start looking for my next flight, it always is at least a 400-mile hike to the next gate. I debate just walking to Pittsburgh.

The next flight is longer, so I try to be a little pickier about my seat selection. I try to get an aisle seat, so I can stretch out a little more – and be able to more easily examine the flight attendants for any obvious physical defects.

Once on the ground in Pittsburgh, the fun begins. First, until I actually have it in my hands, I wonder if my suitcase will arrive. It did. Then on to the rent-a-car counter. I always reserve a car ahead, but that is no guarantee. Since I don’t have to impress anyone and don’t have much to haul, the cheapest, smallest car is what I reserve. They give you a choice of cars, and I check one off, but the fine print also says, “Or Equivalent.” This time, the equivalent to an actual automobile was the smallest Chevy I’ve ever seen, I don’t remember the model; I think it was a Chevrolet “Weenie” or something. Since it was fairly new, it was built after the government had so generously bailed out GM and showed them how to build cars for the unwashed masses, so it didn’t have cruise control, inside adjustable mirrors, electric door locks or comfortable seats. But on the bright side, it seemed that both cylinders ran to the best of their abilities. When I got on the road, I found out that cruise control wasn’t really important; I wasn’t going to get a speeding ticket with this powerhouse anyway.

On my last trip, my GPS unit expired suddenly, and I had to fall back on actual paper maps and road signs. Thank God for the Boy Scout training I had many years ago. Navigating in Pennsylvania at night is an experience unto itself. I’m convinced that the engineer who designed the highway system had been on a three-day bender, dropped a plate of spaghetti on a topo map, and called it good.

Hours later, I arrived at my motel, a small business-class motel with a closed office. I rang the bell and waited. Eventually, the old widow lady who ran the place came out, looked at me suspiciously, and asked me what I wanted at this time of night. I told her I had a reservation, and she told me that she’d never heard of me. Eventually, I got a room, but during my attempt at pleasant conversation, I began to suspect why she was a widow.

My classes went very well. We were hosted at the Indiana, Pa., VFW, and they were very nice to us. My class – all veterans – was eager to learn, so teaching was fun.

One thing that happened during the second week was I locked my keys in the car one night and didn’t notice until morning. Also locked in the car was my man-bag with all my MacGyver tools, so I had to improvise. With two coat hangers and a stick, I went to work. This is when I found the one redeeming

quality of my Chevy “Weenie.” The doors were so cheaply made that I had no trouble springing one back enough to insert my crudely made fishing tools. It took all of five minutes – with no tools – to open the door.

After graduation and some nice cards and gifts from my class, it was time to head back to the airport. The flight was at 7 a.m., so, allowing for driving time, car rental return,

check-in and going through security, I had to leave the room by 2 a.m.; I realize that a day has two 2-o’clocks, but I sure like the other, later one better.

Check-in went well until they weighed my bag. I was a couple pounds over, due to the gifts from my class, and the “nice” lady would not make an exception – more money out of my pocket. TSA moved at the speed of a glacier, so I almost missed my flight.

I was the last one on the plane, and as I moved to my seat, I found that the airline had seated me next to a bull walrus. What was left of my seat was just big enough to hold a 1-by-4, if stood up on edge. I told the flight attendant, “Whoa! This dog won’t hunt. I ain’t even gonna try to fit in that seat unless you can get that walrus to retract some of that blubber to the seat he bought!” I stood in the aisle while they tried to figure out what to do. I told them I’d sell him my seat since he was spread out on it anyway, but that didn’t work either. I asked why they didn’t sell him two seats, and they told me that the Americans with Disabilities Act forbade discriminating against people with disabilities. I told them that lard was not a disability, but it fell on deaf ears. The plane couldn’t leave until I had a seat, and people were starting to look around to see who the troublemaker was. I was content to stand there until they found me a seat. I told them I’d trade with a midget or a pygmy or something. I won’t mention the airline, I’ll just call it D/A, which is not the company’s initials, but does sum up its procedures pretty well. They finally found me a seat next to a normal human, so all I had to do was fold up like a Barlow knife and endure the flight.

I sure was glad to get home so Lottie could make me a sammich.