I get a newsletter from the author Louise Penny on the first of each month. They are as interesting and fun to read as her outstanding books – all of which, I am sorry to say, I have read.

She begins the March letter with a quote from Al Gore – “Air travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo”. She goes on to say, “Always makes me a little upset when the customs person looks at me, then at the maniacal passport photo, and never says, ‘This can’t be you.’ ”

Anyway, I thought I’d share that with you. I had just written an old friend down in the Old Country – SE Texas – saying how good it would be to see them again and how difficult air travel was for me. Of course I took the opportunity to add my 2ยข about the industry by saying “I sometimes think the airline industry is run by aliens. Surely no human would treat other humans that way!”

After sending that note off, I thought back to when I first lived in Texas and there was an airline called Trans Texas Airlines. TTA. Somebody started calling it Tree Top Air. It seemed to fit. It had flights to most cities with sufficient airports. I flew quite a few times on those old and comfortable airplanes. My favorite was the Supper Convair. Cruising speed 360 mph. About half of today’s jets.

I can remember walking from most terminals out onto the tarmac, usually past a small fence. I remember carrying my bag and sometimes an attendant at the airplane would take it and put it into a compartment in the belly of the plane. When you walked up the stairway into the front of the cabin you faced a huge closet – yes, I said closet. You hung your hanging stuff there and there was space enough for a small suitcase as well. Now you found your seat which was roomy enough to cross your legs with a little to spare.

Well, it’s time for something like, “Ah, those were the days!” I remember thinking that those airplanes were designed with people in mind. This is probably revisionist thinking at best.

I did love flying in those days. I even learned to do it myself. A thrill a minute!

Not many things rise to the dubious honor of equaling those hours immediately before taking a day long trip on some airliner for disorientation and a good measure of well deserved anxiety. I know people who see this period as one big party and who look forward to the preparation phase of pre-trip activity. Maybe you’re one of those people. If so then you can go clean out the garage.

Actually, I’m not going anywhere, but CA is. For days now she has been trying on clothes and estimating temperatures in warmer climes. As I said, I’m not going, but there’s no way that I am not involved in this get ready phase of our imminent separation. “What does this look like?” “It looks great”. I say. “Do you think these jeans are a little big?” I say, “You’re going into a system where they eat three squares a day. Pack ’em.” She says, “I need to go pick out some earrings.” That’ll take care of he next hour and a half. It goes on like that all day.

On departure day, the car is packed and we leave early enough that she will have at least an hour and a half to sit and read before boarding her airplane. But you never know just how crowded things will be so you go early and wait. It’s what you do.

Maybe you remember those days when taking someone to the airport meant you walked right into the terminal with them and sat and watched the big jets come and go. OK, they weren’t big jets in those days, but you get my drift. You walked with them to a gate on the tarmac and, in sight of the air-stairs leading up to the cabin on the Super Convair or the D-C 6 or whatever, and watched them walk out and climb into the silver tube to turn and waive from the door like a departing dignitary. Then they were swallowed up in that waiting machine shivering with untold potential energy that would soon lift it into the clouds. We always stood there to watch the departure. The engines would roll over and as the airplane turned away we would be buffeted by the dusty prop wash and feel involved in the event. We would say stuff like, “We saw them off at the airport”. That meant we watched them get on the airplane and take off and disappear into the sky.

This morning I drove into the departure lane at our slick new terminal in Portland which, like most airports now, seem to be designed to disguise the fact that you are about to get into a sealed container and rocket off to 30,000 feet at 500 miles per hour without a parachute.

At the curb I hauled out her bag and set it up and extended the handle for her. We embraced and held each other for a moment. We mumbled the required phrases, “Have fun, be careful”. “Stay in touch”. “Let’s talk.” “Call when you get settled down there.” She trundled off into the terminal. I closed the hatch and got in the car and drove off. I always feel that there is something missing here.

For all I know she could still be there waiting for her ride to have a flat tire fixed or something. She’s probably nodding off while reading her book. I’m sure she’ll call if she needs me. I mean, where’s the romance in that? A little dusty prop wash would have made me feel much better about thiings.