Peril and Prestige at 35,000 Feet


All this hype about the new X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie made me acutely aware of a post I've had in draft stage for nearly a year.  I hinted about it in a couple of posts and I am finally publishing it.

[See also Double Hats post]

It's a story of how I lost (and found) my two special clown hats, and how the movie, The Prestige played into it.

The Prestige features Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman and Christian "Batman" Bale as Magicians.

Sage (of the Petting Zoo players) recommended it, so I netflixed it.  Then I couldn't wait for Trish to get around to having time for it, so I copied it (cloned, actually).  Then it was time to fly to Michigan, so I brought it.  Then I couldn't find time when Orion was asleep when I wasn't working on my business plan for E4E, so I was bringing it home again.

We went to bed on the fold out couch at aunt Mary Catherine's and got up around 3:30, so we could enjoy a continental breakfast and short jaunt to the airport.

When they call for passengers requiring extra assistance boarding we charge down the ramp.

We had a short flight to Indianapolis and a short layover. It was long enough to spend down the last of our gold coin vacation money on a scone and an Americano.

The issue of World Traveler had the following cover:

It also has a spotlight on Minneapolis/ St. Paul, site of the GOP convention.

Then we boarded our next plane. I stowed our carry-ons in the overhead bin.  I used a smaller one for the hats. It was the last time I'd see them for a week.

{ the hats post~}

About an hour into the flight Orion and I made our way to the restroom.  Just then the captain's voice came over the intercom.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain, and I'm afraid I have some bad news. We have a 36 inch crack in our windshield and we've been advised to lower altitude to 20,000 feet. Unfortunately we can't make it to Seattle at that altitude, so the manual advises us to bring her down for a landing."

What the_! this guy is checking the manual !?

Well, if the MANUAL says to land.. by all means... LAND... NOW! Did he just say a THIRTY-SIX INCH CRACK IN THE WINDSHIELD?!

He goes on to add, "Nothing like this has happened to us before. We don't know why it's happened, and we'll be arriving in Minneapolis/ St. Paul shortly."

Oh, great. He's unfamiliar with the situation. I'll let you know what could happen. The captain could get sucked out of the cockpit. The co-pilot would join him. The cockpit could become UNUSABLE... like a convertible in Washington weather! OMG.  Must not panic.  Must not spread fear to Orion.  Must use comedy consulting techniques and positive Wright Angle Spin.

Well, the magazine had a big article on Minneapolis/ St. Paul. The Republican National Convention will be taking place there soon.  Soon I'm raving aloud to keep Orion and myself calm.

"They're gonna hook us up. We're having an adventure. We're gonna see Minneapolis. They're gonna put us up in a hotel and give us a refund..."

Then I'm texting Trish. "pln going down min st paul capt said 36 crak in windshield" (or words to that effect)... However, it never reaches her.  It gets lost in the ether.

I start re-familiarizing myself with the Safety Information sheet.


produced by www.aerosafetygraphics.

Then, as we descend, Orion starts crying in pain from the pressure change.  I give him gum to chew for the ears hurting.  And lots of hugs.  And me starting to cry.

The captain comes on again to say, "You'll see some emergency trucks waiting for us on the runway, that's just a standard procedure in a case like this."

"Oh, look, Orion, fi-i-ier tru-ru-ucks (sniff), and they've got their lights on and everything. How cool is that? Hold my hand!"

Of course, we land without further incident. Oh, happy to be alive, and let's get off this infernal flying merchine!

After disembarking in Minneapolis we get a look at the windshield.

Here's a close-up look.  Relieved, we start playing on the moving sidewalks until I realize I'd left the hats aboard.   [two hat post] I rushed to the gate and looked out the window. The plane was gone!  I rushed to the counter and told the woman that I left my hats.  She said, "Just check and see if it's still there.  I don't want to call for no reason."  WTF!  I rushed back over. Yep. Still gone.  "It must be in the hanger already," she said, "Okay, you need to fill out a claim when you reach your destination."

"Uh. No. I've done that before.  (Lost a CD player that way!)  My hats are in THIS city in the broken down plane! I know exactly where they are." Then I pulled out my secret weapon. "I'm a clown. Here's my card. I need them for my act. One's a top hat and one's a bowler. Or should I say, 'One's a bowler, and one plays poker'?"

She reluctantly called over to the maintenance crew, but we got no satisfaction there.  As luck we have it, we were not delayed very long.  I figured there was no way there would be a spare plane laying around, and we'd have to stay for some free meals and possibly a free stay in a hotel.  So it was lucky for the airlines that another plane, of the exact same model (a clone or doppelganger plane) was ready for us to board minutes later.  Orion got upset for me about the hats.  "Oh, no," he exclaimed, "Now we'll never get our hats back!"

"Yeah, I guess we'll just have to sit right here until they find them!" I said loudly.  As if in reply, they announced, "Last call to board flight whatever to Seattle."

Or not.  "Let's get on the plane.  It'll be alright.  We'll go home and see mommy."

So we lifted off without seeing any of Minneapolis.  We wound up sharing three seats, and Orion got to sprawl out across two of them and fell into a deeply restful nap.  I pulled out the portable DVD player and put in The Prestige.  Remember how this story would be about the Prestige?  Here's a screen shot of the opening scene.

The first few frames of the Prestige: HATS!  Piles and piles of cloned hats!  Made me laugh and pay close attention.  made me think that there were definitely more hats where those two had come from, in spite of any sentimental value.

The lesson of the movie was that an illusion needs three parts.  It needs The Pledge, when the magician claims he has a completely ordinary object.  It needs The Turn, when the magician does something extraordinary.  And it needs The Prestige, which is the secret part that allows the disappeared object, for instance, to reappear.  Getting those hats back would require that I learn the Prestige.

After we safely reappeared in Washington, Orion gave mom a hug, squeeze, pat, smooch after two weeks with dad.

Then I went to the lost baggage area and immediately told the man I had left my hats behind.  He asked, "What kind of hats were they?  We have baseball caps, cowboy hats, and a panama."

I said, "One was a bowler and the other... didn't care for sports.  I'm a clown.  I use them in my act.  Here's my card."  He called long distance back to Minneapolis and confirmed the location of the hats.  I would have to return to the airport when they arrived in a day or so.


I went back up there with my old college roommate, Paul Jurgens.  I told him the story as we got closer.  I got to the part just before departing Minneapolis as we pulled up.  I finished the story with the hats back in my possession.  Then I tried to take him to Lakewood Clown and Costume, but they're closed on Mondays, so we went to Jack in the Box instead, and I had a sirloin burger with chipotle mayo!


Jusby buys an even bigger hat for Halloween.


Dad wore this bowler one X-mas and showed me how to play with giant Tinker Toys (which I only washed just two weeks ago for the first time in 35 years!).