Hiccups: A hodgepodge of air and near-air snafus

Snafu: Situation normal all fouled up, what the acronym snafu stands for. They are probably more common than we think.

Shiver me timbers, it’s showering cinders!

I gotta tell you: I’ve been on many a tourist train ride. But, there were none like the one in the mid-1980s I was on.

These tourist pikes are all the rage offering scenery, history, excitement and fun beyond compare; there is literally something for everyone.

Steam locomotive boiler superheater

So, on one of these, seated in an open-air converted freight car situated between the locomotive tender ahead and the covered passenger conveyances behind, was yours truly who was in the company of others.

Meanwhile, from the locomotive doing the honors up front, discharged from the stack was this billowing, black exhaust replete with cinders of coal some of which, of course, rained on our collective parades.

The obvious next move was a run for cover. For all others doing likewise, at least they had the presence of mind to sit inside the enclosed passenger cars.

As for me, well, never one to pass up an opportunity (of a lifetime or otherwise) and since I was invited to ride along in the cab with the head-end crew, you know, in that very steam engine that produced the exhaust that contained the coal bits that filled the sky that came raining down, needless to say, I didn’t go kicking and screaming. Nobody had to twist my arm, in other words.

Bus blowback

It was like an aberration. No. Scratch that. I wasn’t like one. It was one!

I’m talking about the time I was in my motorcar stopped directly behind or next in line in the left-turn lane and at one of Fresno’s busiest roadway intersections of all things, when this burst of black smoke emerged from the school bus in front’s tailpipe and headed my way and fast. It was all I could do to keep myself from being enveloped in this airborne morass and all to no avail.

Now imagine my reaction when the pall of ugliness blew past the vents both on the dashboard and underneath. It’s the kind of scene one expects on the theater big-screen.

As such, I did my level best to fan the smoke away.

But, even better yet was the relief I got driving 40 mph, windows down and in an altogether different lane.

I say aberration because around here, fortunately, I don’t see these types of releases any more.

‘What was I thinking?!’

What I can’t tell you is if smoking is still allowed on commercial flights because I haven’t flown for a while.

Remember that busy Fresno intersection I alluded to earlier, in this case, Blackstone and Shaw avenues? Well, I was employed at a business located on the southeast corner. I was the company’s head and only technician.

So, being that I did repair work on car audio equipment among other types of electronic gear, I was dispatched to a seminar in the Los Angeles area, in Anaheim, I think (it was back in the early ’80s), and the method of travel, flying.

Unbeknownst to me of what would be coming shortly after takeoff, in the smoking section where I happened to be sitting, I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. And when I say everyone I mean everyone in that section, lit up, and all at once, or so it seemed.

Not being a smoker myself, what was I thinking?!

It’s a good thing that there were empty seats throughout. So I got up and moved.

What I remember from the seminar as if it had happened yesterday was that the person leading the discussion before the session’s beginning made one request: that all questions that were of a specific nature – meaning dealing with a particular problem – be held to the very end.

That was the first and last such seminar of its kind I attended.

At any rate, at that seminar I learned a good deal. Oh, and something else I learned that day, on the return flight back, I made it a point to not sit in the designated section for smoking as if you hadn’t already guessed. Duh!

Yup, hiccups all!

Image (bottom): Häggström, Mikael (2014)

– Alan Kandel