It doesn’t take long in any industry, I suppose, to notice certain trends and oddities. My wife is a teacher, and the stories she has of parents and students are enough to make you shake your head. Put together, they are somewhere between a riotous TV sitcom and pure Shakespearean tragedy. My father was an attorney, and the tales of idiocy that he would bring home would make you question the entire human condition.
Being a pilot isn’t any different. I was recently reminded of this when it comes to tourists, especially those from other countries. As a little background, I am huge baseball fan, but not just of the modern game. I love the history, of reading about the great players of years gone by that I never got to see. Of particular interest to me several years ago was the period of integration and the “Wait til next year” era of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Bums, as you may know, had an era of remarkable success on the field, but like Cinderella going to the dance, they just couldn’t beat the clock. Instead, they were beaten consistently in the World Series by the Yankees…until 1955, when they won their only title before moving to LA.
As a fan of the history of the game, I own two Brooklyn Dodgers hats with the distinctive “B” on the front.
On a bus ride recently from the hotel to the airport in Detroit, I saw a young lady from Japan. Delta has a large presence in the Asian country, and a large number of Japanese folks travel through DTW. Many are business travelers (especially for Toyota), and others are tourists. The Japanese tourists are as easy to pick out as it gets: They take pictures of everything! The airport, the airplane, the pilots (me included), sites that catch their attention, food, and anything with Mickey Mouse. Further, they keep detailed logs about everything they’ve seen, and they do so with the seriousness of a student studying for finals. Sometimes, I think we both need to take a lesson from each other…
As for the young gal on the bus, she was wearing a pink and black baseball cap. As many Americans do—and I don’t know why they do this, so if you can explain it to me, please do—the bill of the cap was still flat, and it still had the various this-is-a-new-hat stickers on it. And it had the unmistakable and distinctive “B” of the Dodgers. I didn’t get a chance to speak with her, so I don’t know if she thought it was a Red Sox cap, or if she just got it because she liked it. But it was yet another indicator of just how much the rest of the world looks to Americans for inspiration, style (they do this at their own risk), social norms (ditto), and the ability to make of yourself what you can. This young lady may have been an avid baseball fan herself—the Japanese love the game and have produced a number of exceptional major leaguers, including some signed by the (LA) Dodgers.
I’ve flown with so many foreign-born pilots that I’ve lost count, but the common message that they have is that no other country affords the aviation freedom and opportunity that the United States does, and we do it cheaper than they do. I was struck too by the realization that, in this country, we need to do everything we can to keep that dream alive not just for other nationals, but for ourselves and our kids. She, after all, was counting on a pilot most likely born in the United States to take her home. And we are counting on being able to do that in the future, as well as bringing her back to spend her money in the U.S.—be it at Disney World, a baseball game, or a hat store.
But I still don’t know why she was wearing those stickers…so keep flying, so we can get her back here and ask her.–By Chip Wright