For the airlines ... When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

“I’m mad as Hades and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
 
Never saw the movie, but it’s a great line.
 
In a broad sense, this is not an observation about frustration resulting from a particular anecdote. It’s about how this anecdote reveals the changing nature of human nature in American society. It’s about seeing only trees rather than observing the forest.
 
People often have good reason to be mad as Hades, but they rarely channel frustration toward constructive corrective paths. Some write letters to editors, a therapeutic catharsis rarely achieving tangible results. Seeking justice in the voting booth, without combining knowledge and wisdom, usually perpetuates the cause for anger.
 
Amateur psychology students are prone to pontificate that it’s the quiet ones you have to watch. When a quiet personality erupts, it can be compared to Mount St. Helens. Those ignited by slow-burning fuses usually explode exponentially in regard to explosions set off by explosions.
 
I know a man who, typically, is the last person to demonstrably express anger in public. I’ve known him him for almost 3/4 of a century, and I recall only one other public outburst from him. His wife, who has known him since the 6th grade, had never seen him really angry in public, until Tuesday, May 16.
 
The argument can be made that rules are rules, but, bless his heart, this man grew up in more genteel times when businesses grew more by accommodating customers than by adhering to hard and fast rules learned in MBA school or from bureaucrats.
 
So what set him off?
 
For context, recall Albert Einstein’s observation that technology was unraveling humanity. Has technology created power trips for those with a little technical authority? Slaves of technology and bureaucracy often forget to employ common sense if they perceive their masters will frown on any common sense action on their part.
 
Ever observed those who work with the handicap of having been trained, but not educated. America cannot be great if they see life as a line negative, no mid tones, just pure black & white, accommodating the mole hill rather than the mountain.
 
Then there is the axiom of “Follow the money.”
 
As for following the money, air travel in North Carolina crashed decades ago when the board of directors of Piedmont Airlines decided they could make more money selling a good airline than operating one. Air travel in New Bern experienced a stall when the powers-that-be changed the name of Simmons-Nott Field to a name that sounds like a car dealership in Myrtle Beach.
 
Usually when companies change names not as the result of some mega-merger, they are either financially struggling or they erroneously think a slick name will yield big-time profits and status. Folks in Jacksonville are proud of Albert J. Ellis Airport; folks in Dallas love Love Field. Any company or airport that is comfortable and confident would see no need to throw away heritage for a slick name. A mentor to me when I opened a business in a small town told me that if I produced a good product, people would drive to my door. In some businesses, slick advertising has replaced focusing on a good product.
 
The man whose fused burned down at supersonic speed at New Bern’s airport is usually quite gregarious, even while subduing public anger. Despite all the warm advertising done by Coastal Carolina Regional Airport, he observed that an airport can be no better than the service provided by the airlines.
 
He took his wife to the airport for a flight departing at 5:51 PM for St. Louis. She is 70, moves slowly, not because of age, but is limited by rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Living 30 miles from the airport, not aware of 5 o’clock traffic in James City, they made it, thinking they were right at a half hour before flight time. Apparently, they missed it by only a minute, no more than 2; the American Airlines counter was closed, no one to check her 1 bag.
 
The husband searched for help. TSA agents at the security checkpoint said the counter closed 30 minutes before flight time and an airline agent would return when they had things wrapped up for this flight. Her husband found a sympathetic airport employee who agreed to go behind closed doors to find an airline employee to explain the situation.
 
Then came a revelation. Before going through the closed door, the person trying to help said, “I don’t know if they will talk to me.” Did that mean airline employees have a history of, “We are not going to be bothered by a customer’s problem.”
 
Okay, they were a minute, no more than 2 minutes late getting there, yet early enough that there was still a long line at the security checkpoint. American Airlines made no effort to accommodate a paying passenger, one who travels twice each year to St. Louis, always leaving New Bern for Charlotte for a connecting flight instead of going to Raleigh with more choices for a direct flight.
 
What are the consequences? Ground transportation in St.Louis became problematic. Family that could pick her up at 9 PM would be working Wednesday morning when she arrived. And, my normally calm friend had to reschedule Wednesday morning regional travel to several appointments to be able to take his wife back to the airport.
 
Finally, one American employee arrived at the counter with plenty of time to check one bag when there was still a long line at the security checkpoint. According to sources, my friend rationally protested when the American employee claimed he could do nothing to help. The employee called the supervisor. The line at the security checkpoint was shrinking; no supervisor showed. Perhaps my friend became uncorked when the supervisor showed as the plane backed away from the gate at 5:43, 8 minutes before departure time.
 
This husband obviously thought of the countless flights he and his wife sat waiting hours because of airline delays, had to switch gates at the last minute because of crew or engine troubles, and once had a flight canceled at the last minute. I am confident they never made a scene, just took the problems of the airline in stride.
 
But arriving at Coastal Carolina Regional Airport, 29, maybe 28 minutes before departure time, the supervisor, perhaps conveniently, finally arrived at the counter after the plane had backed away from the gate. When the husband complained, she curtly announced, “She missed this flight.” From his perspective, the flight missed her.
 
Moments later, a third airline employee appeared at the counter, politely, he spewed a spin on the company rules. He was attempting to be kind while adhering to the company line that it would have been impossible for this man’s wife to board the plane.
 
American Airlines, like many other carriers, has had some bad press lately due to an inability to act with even a modicum of common sense. Some would view this incident as, “Tough, not there a full 30 minutes before departure time, and you can’t complain.” But, what if a plane was past the time for departure by a minute and all the passengers demanded a refund and/or the door open for them to deplane so they could fly on a competing carrier.
 
In this situation, airline employees, and TSA agents also, hid behind technological and bureaucratic excuses for not accommodating the paying customer, an accommodation that would not have caused the sky to fall. Her husband proclaimed, “I can fly Delta and change in Atlanta if this is the way we will be treated.”
 
Ready for this. The supervisor graciously informed his wife that she would not be charged the $200 fee for having to re-book her flight for Wednesday morning. How is it she could make that commonsense decision, but couldn’t show any common sense on allowing someone with a paid ticket get on the plane almost a full half hour before departure time.
 
This man already has a ticket on a flight to St. Louis on May 23, but he wishes he had another way to get there. When the quiet ones erupt, the lava flows for a long time, no matter what it may cost in the short run.
 
This incident is a reality check for the common man, bless Aaron Copeland’s heart. Corporations accommodate clients only if it is financially advantageous for them to do so … in the short run. Perhaps they do not see the long term financial benefits of accommodating customers, just as society does not see the long term financial benefits associated with environmentally sound practices. The only way a common man can expect better treatment from the corporate world is by exercising choices that create financial consequences for corporate board members.
 
The next morning, this guy took his wife to the airport, arriving 50 minutes before flight time. When his wife passed through security, he waited and watched. The American Airlines counter closed 27 minutes before the scheduled departure. Imagine that! Someone arriving 3 minutes late could have boarded.
 
Now get ready for a bigger twist to this story. His wife called him during her short lay-over in Charlotte. She told him that once onboard the flight to Charlotte from New Bern the next morning, the captain advised the passengers they would have to sit on the tarmac at least 20 minutes for the RJ to build up hydraulic pressure. Either she misunderstood the pilot, or the late Senator Sam Irvin would be tempted to call that an untruth. Typically, hydraulic pressure is instantaneous. Whatever the reason, Airlines subjected the passengers to a 20 minute wait.
 
You can’t make this stuff up.
 
American Airlines should take a lesson from NC ferries. Those who ride frequently probably have seen a ferry moving away from the dock, stop, back up, and allow a late arrival to board. That costs the ferry a tiny amount of fuel, but can save a passenger significantly while endearing ferry crew members to the passengers.
 
To American Airlines, Mama Always Said, what goes around, comes around.

Nearing completion, Frances Mae needs a little more help

Rack-of-the-eye boat building, described below in detail, is one of the two main industries that set Harkers Island apart from the rest of the world. But it has almost disappeared as a full time career for Down East natives.
 
The Florence Mae, built by Harkers Island native Heber Guthrie for for the NC Coastal Heritage Association, is almost finished. It will travel to schools and functions all across the state as a tangible example of rack-of-the-eye boatbuilding. She will travel the ICW annually from the Dismal Swamp to Southport with pre-scheduled stops at towns and villages along the way. Residents can board her and examine photo documentation of how she was constructed using methods passed down through centuries.
 

But, she needs help before she can be launched. About half of the funds have been raised to purchase an engine. Please donate to NCCHA, a 501C-3 nonprofit, by visiting the donate page of this website or mailing a donation to NCCHA
3325 Hwy. 306
South Grantsboro, NC
28529
 
Donors will be recognized on a plaque mounted in the cabin.

Frances Mae construction has a red day marker to starboard

The virtual collapse of the commercial fishing industry around Core Sound and the advent of all-fiberglass boats is projected to virtually end the centuries old rack-of-the-eye Down East boat building tradition in 10 – 20 years. Steve Gaskill gave it 25 years, Eddie Willis said 10 years. A tradition that has defined the area around Harkers Island is disappearing.


 
The Frances Mae, a project of the NC Cultural Heritage Association, NCCHA, will be an educational tool to demonstrate the old boatbuilding methods and techniques employed Down East, and, perhaps more importantly, help the public understand this part of Down East heritage. NCCHA is a 501C-3 non-profit association.
 
Heber Guthrie has constructed the Frances Mae using rack-of-the-eye techniques he has acquired from generations of boat builders in his family. That translates into building a boat with no formal plans or blueprints. Give a rack-of-the-eye boatbuilder a picture of a boat like you want, or simply tell him/her how big you want it, what you plan to do with it, and he takes it from there. During construction, the builder might make sketches on a piece of scrap wood, or a brown paper grocery bag.
 
These boat builders use the same process Ansel Adams employed in creating dynamic photographs, visualization. Adams would look at a scene and visualize how he wanted it to look when printed in a darkroom, then expose the film, develop the negatives, and make the print to achieve what he had visualized out in the field.
 
As 78 year old Jamie Lewis from Harkers Island said, “A fellow tells me what he wants, and I just picture it in my head, get the wood, and start measuring, cutting, and putting it together.”
 
Pointing to a stack of lumber stacked in his yard, the late James Allen Rose once asked his son, Rodney, what he saw there. Rodney replied, “I see a stack of wood.” James Allen replied to him, “I already see that man’s boat we are going to build.”
 
Frances Mae is 21 feet long, made from juniper, outside hull is glassed over. This boat, properly cared for, can serve the NCCHA for centuries, that’s right, centuries. Over the coming years, thousands upon thousands of North Carolinians will have the opportunity to board this vessel, learn about old techniques of building boats by the rack-of-the-eye, and more importantly, learn how this industry and fishing shaped the culture of Down East. I am doing a power point of the entire construction process and a video is also in the works. It will be featured in parades, at festivals, special appearances at schools, or for civic clubs, with Heber present to explain the process and show photographs of particular stages of the construction.
 
On a trailer, it can travel across the state to highlight a part of coastal heritage that is destined for extinction, except maybe as a backyard craft, not as an industry. These appearances will be sponsored by the NCCHA Speakers Bureau. I will initially help facilitate the boat’s travels to educational events.
 
Currently, the NCCHA is working diligently to raise funds necessary to finish construction so Frances Mae will be ready for spring boat shows, festivals, and school appearances. It is estimated that up to $3,500 might be needed to have her ready to launch, and that is using a borrowed trailer to get her to launch site. Fundraising for a trailer will come later.
 
Membership dues for NCCHA are only $25 per year for a single, $35 for a couple or family. One hundred new memberships will go such a long way to help preserve a lasting legacy of North Carolina’s coastal communities. Click here to visit the NCCHA website, nccoastalheritage.org, join, donate. Consider a significant donation for naming rights for the wheel house.
 
The boat is named for the late Frances Mae Carawan from Goose Creek Island in Pamlico County. She became a music educator, working primarily in the Charlotte area. Her estate made gifts to groups that promoted education, especially education projects related to the coast.

NC Down East Boat Building Heritage Shared with Fifth Graders

Fifth Graders from Atlantic Elementary School make field trip to Little Skiff Boat Boatworks in Marshallburg.
 
One part of the class assembled parts of a Core Sound workboat as others shaped and formed a traditional oar used on workboats. Heber Guthrie, veteran boatbuilder from Gloucester, had pre-cut the boat parts for the students to assemble. He provided hands on instruction for the two hour session. Guthrie, a member of the NC Coastal Heritage Association, will be conducting a series of summer camps for both and young and old to learn boat building skills presented within a framework of lessons on coastal heritage.

Editorially speaking, having been involved in photojournalism since 1967, a half century of experience, like Farmer’s Insurance, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.
 
Over the last 50 years, I have either photographed events like today or actually been the person facilitating such an event. I have never seen better behaved 5th graders in my entire career, no noise, no rambling around, and this workshop provided more opportunity for rambling than one could imagine. Students remained together in a group and stayed focused on the instruction offered about the task at hand. Questions were sensible, no wisecracks.
 
I have concluded this is in part to be the consequence of Heber’s charisma, knowledge about the subject matter, and wisdom in his use of effective ways to communicate with the students, not just on the objective parts of the field trip, but also on the subjective references to heritage and Down East history. Credit has to also be given to the teacher and parents of these children.








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Elvis, no, Sandburg, yes.

Sightings of Elvis are rare in Pamlico County, but the feelings of Carl Sandburg abound.
 

The fog comes
on little seagull feet.
 
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

You've come a long way, Baby.



 
Not an ad for Virginia Slims, but you have come a long way Baby, in just 4 months. A definite long way for progress by just one man, Heber Guthrie.

Natural history in support of cultural history.



 
Slab boards of red cedar with striking patterns of the red heart, sanded, finished with several coats of polyurethane or tung oil, stand alone sculpture in a foyer, fitted with coat hooks for a functional use, 3-dimensional art to hang on a wall, or even as the headboard of a bed that has no headboard. Longest piece shown is 5 feet tall. Two pieces of all red heart are just over 4 feet long. Prices range from $30 to$125. Proceeds support projects of the non-profit NC Coastal Heritage Association, nccoastalheritage.org.
 
Contact ben@towndock.net. An excellent way to support a non-profit’s efforts to preserve and document the cultural history of the coast and also serve as a distinctive and meaningful New Year’s gift for someone. Remaining 4 unfinished boards in stock could be custom tailored as a table top or some other function.

Pamlico Fall Colors

A boyhood hero of mine was the late Wesley Cahoon. Wesley lived in what the folks in town, that is Arapahoe, called the Sand Hills community, a mile and half north of Arapahoe on NC intrastate 306. Wesley’s son and daughter, Johnny and Carol live near the home where they grew up. Carol is the trustee for what I have labeled the Cahoon Maple.
 
Please enjoy … with gratitude to Carol who regularly updated the status of the transformation of the leaves this fall.