I was with my sponsor and grand-sponsor the first time I flew on a plane as an adult. We flew from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, a Northwest flight and we were seated in the same row. It was May of 1996 and we were going for the one year AA birthday of my first sponsor, Terry.
Many years before the events of 9/11 it was easy, worry free and a pleasant experience. I was still a smoker at the time and my biggest concern was making it far without a smoke – I think the ban on smoking on flights had just started and I was none to pleased. They offered us pillows, blankets and showed a movie. I had the window seat and was much more interested in the sky outside than the entertainment inside. I may have slept for a bit I really don’t recall.
Mid-flight they came to offer us a meal, I think it was a sandwich of which I had no interest. I was, if you can believe it, even pickier about what I ate back then. My grand-sponsor glared at me and said next time I was to give him my lunch if I didn’t want it – he wentertainment inside. I may have slept for a bit I really don’t recall.
We landed without much ado, my ears didn’t have a hard time adjusting to the altitude change like they do now. I think we were going to be there for about a week so we all checked luggage. When I thought of LAX I’d imagine scenes from Airplane with the “the white zone is for loading and unloading only – shut up Jane” and such… and it wasn’t really that, but there were so many people and it was rather loud. Everyone seemed to know where they were going and were in a hurry to get there, my Grand-sponsor led the way to baggage, but I think he was a bit unsure of himself.
The traffic was insane, even once we departed the freeway I kept imagining we’d soon be crashing into other vehicles. The trip to Santa Monica was short enough and the weather was very nice, I recall us having the windows open and feeling the sun shine warm us.
The whole week we were there was mostly about going to meetings. Being the good AA’s that we were we showed up early to every meeting, helped set up (sometimes this can be an issue, people are very serious about their commitments) and then waited sometimes almost an hour for a meeting to start. At the Big Meeting we were chastised by the people in front of us for clapping and “woo woo” ing to loudly. I remember seeing a famous person and telling Terry “wow, look there’s so and so” and Terry said it was just a look-a-like… but I’m still not sure.
We met Terry’s roommate Oscar who showed us around one day, we were at Venice Beach, climbing some rocks, driving faster than folks should drive. He was a nice guy. I learned about couch commitments – where people let new folks sleep on their couch while they first get sober to get established, seemed crazy to me at the time but now I can see where it would be helpful to folks. I remember being in their apartment and hearing the news reports constantly talking about people getting shot, that was most of the news and it was a bit of a culture shock to go from “the weather and farm report are next” to “breaking news as shots fired in local mall”.
We visited the Midnight Mission and chatted with Clancy. It was way above my pay scale to meet all these old timers. I recall I had my hands in my pockets and one of the old-timers said: “Get your hands out of your pockets, He’ll (pointing to Clancy) provide the entertainment.” I was mortified (I was very sensitive back then).
We were soon off to lunch with Clancy, some little Mexican place and we were all seated promptly, Clancy ordered for everyone and before I knew it there was this strange meal and a diet coke in front of me that I wasn’t sure of… WTH is a Fajita and Diet Coke is nasty. I had to watch others and I tried to copy them making a fajita for the first time, I didn’t want to make a fuss – I was the new guy here with 2 years hardly worth noticing 😉 You know what? I loved Fajitas, you can add the ingredients you like, it was spicy, it was flavorful… if nothing else I gained that from the trip to LA.
Saturday we were to go to the yard, I put on a Country Jam tshirt that I packed and found my Grand-sponsor was wearing one also – he made me change shirts so we didn’t look too bumpkin I imagine. Then we went to the yard (Clancy’s house) and did all the fun things they do there. Softball across the road was next and I had no interest in playing softball, but before I knew it I was up to bat – I saw the ball coming I swung it and actually hit the ball – for a moment I was standing there shocked that I actually hit the ball with the bat… then I looked to see who was going to catch it… but I didn’t realize it had gone straight up and it promptly landed on my head (this explains a lot about the following years of my life) and I was on the ground. I was ok, and thankfully they let me stop playing softball.
On our way to the airport to go home there was a news report of a plane crashing in Florida, I was really suddenly worried about the safety of the plane we were going to be on, but all the other LAX people were just rushing from here to there.
I came back motivated to do more in AA and to have bigger groups and more fun social activities with peers. I also vowed to go again, and I did the following year without my sponsor and grand-sponsor. This became a ritual for me, every year for my AA birthday I’d take a trip somewhere – I found out many years later that my best friend wished I’d take trips to spend it with her, so I’ve done that a few times as well.