My first business trip for the frozen food people involved my first ride on an airplane, my first stay in a hooker hotel, and my first dance with being kidnapped by strangers in the meat-cutting union.
As we landed at the Little Rock airport, my seat mate muttered “oh no.” Even as a first time flier, I knew this wasn’t good.
Apparently, there was an ice storm. I would soon discover that Arkansas had one snowplow and no road salt.
I was so foolishly optimistic that I went to collect my reserved car for a drive to the company plant an hour away. The lady at the counter gave me one of those Bless Your Heart looks reserved by Southerners for god damned stupid Yankees, and told me that driving was out of the question.
I raced to the phone to reserve a room for the night. It may have been the last available room in Little Rock, because it could be reserved by the hour, the lock on the door was broken, the faucets all dripped, and I had no confidence in the sheets. I propped a chair under the doorknob, turned on the tv, which announced the incredible news that all the hospitals were closed.
I spent a sleepless night listening to ladies plying their trade. In the morning, the phone rang, and a strange man said, “Hi, this is Benny Dollar with the Meat Cutter’s Union, and I understand you need a ride to Batesville”. With visions of a meat cleaver cutting my head in two, I slammed the receiver down.
I immediately called my boss to report that I was being stalked by a stranger with an obviously made-up name. He assured me that this was a real nice guy, who was offering a real ride, and that he would pick me up in a few minutes.
Feeling rather foolish, I waited for Benny to arrive. When he did, there was another man in the car. The knife of fear struck again, and then I thought”what the hell ” and crawled into the back seat.
There were no other cars on the road, which was covered with deeply rutted ice. As soon as we cleared the city limits, Benny stopped the car, got out, and opened the trunk. Okay, this was it. My meat-cleavered head was about to become a reality.
Instead, Benny returned with a case of beer.
And so the trip to Batesville, with two strangers on an ice-covered highway, was completed in a haze of beer- flavored camaraderie, and ever since, I have had a pathological fear of flying. The two things may only be tenuously connected, but you never know.