Despite price, annual hajj is still a no-fly zone

Posted Dec. 25, 2009, at 4:10 p.m.

Of course, Mark is right.

He said the deal is to fly out of Bangor, nonstop, to Tampa at a cost of about $90 for my annual pilgrimage to Fort Myers and my beloved Red Sox. “It will take three hours. You can’t get to Connecticut in three hours, and driving there will take you more than $90 in gas for that monster.”

Of course, he is right.

But the key word here is “fly.” Don’t like to, never have. I once flew, innocently, from New York to Boston as a mere youth of 26. It was my first flight and something like 35 minutes airtime. I discovered as the New York skyline disappeared out my window that I did not like flying one little bit.

Passengers kept pointing out the sights along the way, but I never even looked out the window. I barely took a breath. When we landed at Logan, I decided that was enough of that.

Somehow, I made two trips to Ireland because, you know, it was Ireland.

But when I tried to fly to Florida about 10 years ago (Red Sox again) I panicked and pushed my way off the plane, elbowing a pregnant stewardess and abandoning the lovely Blue Eyes who had to follow me off the plane or fly alone. She is still ashamed.

But you know what Tony Soprano would say. “Whatayagonnado?”

That was all before Sept. 11. Imagine rushing off a plane today, leaving your luggage behind. I would have been face-down on the tarmac, with a few AR-17s pointed at my head.

But I digress.

Let’s see. It would be $90 each way for a grand total of $180, according to my Roslindale High School math. For reasons unknown to me, I drive about 4,000 miles on my annual hajj. The calculator says that would mean about 235 gallons of gas in my 17 mpg Toyota Tundra. Back to the calculator. At an estimated $2.75 per gallon, that means $647 in gas costs.

Flying, then would be cheaper, by about $467.

Of course, Mark is right.

But there are other factors.

Flying would mean that I would have to forgo my annual trip to see Elinor, my favorite sister, in Norton, Mass. She still complains that I owe her a bike from the 1950s, but she actually went to church and prayed for me when I ran away from home in a sparkly new (stolen) dump truck.

Flying would mean that I could not stop in Washington, D.C. for my annual trip to the Smithsonian and the Air and Space Museum, plus the Newseum. It would also mean no “high freakin’ tea” with the very lovely Susannah, an actual Charleston, S.C., debutante.

Flying would mean no stop in Charleston and my annual visit to former South Thomaston Selectman (and congressional candidate, he likes to add) John Purcell. If John decides not to sic his killer dogs on you, he is the consummate host, supplying (free) cigars and whiskey at his downtown Charleston cigar bar (talk about a friend). It is warm in Charleston, and there are endless bike paths to die for.

Yes, John watches Fox news all day, mutters at our president and anything sensible, but more than atones with his warm hospitality — when he doesn’t sic his killer dogs on you.

Plus, there is the possibility of lunch on Sullivan’s Island (could be heaven) with the lovely Judith Ranger. I believe I owe her one.

Flying would mean no trips to Leesburg and John Hammer, once the best barroom athlete in the midcoast area when he was not piecing together the Rockland Courier Gazette. Hammer, who still maintains a Cobb Road estate, almost rivals Purcell for hospitality, hauling out his grill and his beloved dog, The Mighty Charlie, for his tricks around the swimming pool.

I said swimming pool.

Flying is safer than driving in addition to being a hell of a lot cheaper. I know, I know. But even if I total the Mighty Tundra, I have about 6 feet to fall. I can get out and walk.

It’s hard to walk from 30,000 feet.

Of course, Mark is right. He even offered a car when I get to Tampa.

But driving wins. Again.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.

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