Our flight leaves Manchester at 5:15. My daughter has been in Colorado since September. Her flight’s tomorrow, she would like to see the ocean. We drive to Hampton Beach, then head north along Route 1A. A spectacular drive along the seventeen mile stretch of New Hampshire’s slice of the Atlantic Ocean. There are large homes along this route, but they are on the west side of Route 1A. The rocky coastline prohibits building houses on the beach, except for our favorite, Jenness State Beach. There is a small parking lot with meters. Most people park for free along the street in front of beachfront homes. No one minds. Beach access is easy. Sandy paths lead to the shore. The people who own these homes are not territorial, they know what’s out their front window. The beaches are for everyone to enjoy.
When the girls were little we used to call this beach, Bocce Beach. Our old house wasn’t air-conditioned. On hot, steamy evenings, when the house was reaching it’s boiling point, we’d pack a picnic dinner and dine by the shore, where groups of people played bocce on the hard packed sand. We referred to these dinners as The Six O’Clock Beach Club. We eventually bought our own bocce set and joined in the fun. It’s also a great walking beach. No sinking into the sand or walking on an angle, one hip higher than the other, reminding you of the arthritis that is settling in. You can keep up a pretty mean pace for over a mile before the beach runs into rocky cliffs at either end.
I have walked this beach countless times, in all kinds of weather. Sun, rain, cold winds, occasionally even snow. One of my favorite walks, other than a picture perfect sunny day, is in the fog. Everything is gray. It is like walking in a cloud. Only a handful of hardcore walkers share the beach with you on a foggy day. They suddenly materialize from out of nowhere. You almost bump into each other. A dog may come running towards you, almost knocking you over before you see him. Other than that, you’re alone, enveloped in your cloud, mist curling your hair and soaking your face. Silence surrounds you.
Today is a picture perfect summer day. A top ten day. Actually a top three day. The water is warm, a rare occurrence this far north. Even in August, the water is usually frigid. It feels like your feet are encased in blocks of ice. I rarely get past my ankles, limping back to my beach chair on frozen feet.
We watch a group of young guys set up for a day of fun in the sun. They have not one, but two volleyball nets. Reggae music is pumping from a Bose Wave. A few of them are playing frisbee. Coolers and colorful towels are scattered across the beach real estate they have claimed for themselves. The only thing missing are the bikini clad girls. They’re a good looking bunch of guys. The girls must be coming later.
Unfortunately, we can’t spend the day. We have a flight to catch, a thirty minute drive to Manchester. We say our goodbyes back at my friend’s house. We will all be together again in Denver over Labor Day weekend.
We always fly Southwest when we can. We’re used to the lettered seating situation. No matter how early I print the boarding passes, we never seem to get an A. We most often find ourselves above the wing. That’s where we were sitting flying up here. The stewardess announced, “Once you find your favorite seat, we will be taking off.” I’ve never gotten my favorite seat. I’m always stuck in the middle. As we work our way down the aisle, an older woman asks if I’d like to sit in her middle seat. Her husband is seated at the window, she’s in the aisle seat. He had pointed at me as I made way down the aisle. They were apparently hand picking their seat mate. I shook my head, continuing towards the back of the plane.
On the flight back to Fort Lauderdale, we made a connection in Baltimore. We were flying Air Tran on the last leg of our journey. Southwest has bought Air Tran. Someday, probably in the not too distant future, it will all just be one thing. The Airline. The Bank. The Super Store aka Amazon.
We step on the plane and see first class seating. There is no first class on Southwest planes, but this doesn’t really register. There are open seats here, large plush seats like my husband’s precious recliner at home. We look at each other, smile and hop in. We are so used to taking the first available seat. After a few minutes go by, it dawns on my husband. He asks, “Didn’t we have assigned seats on this flight?” “Oh, that’s right.” I get ready to move. He puts his hand on my arm. “Just wait.” Back in the terminal, they had announced this flight was not full. Only sixty three passengers. Another rare occurrence. We anxiously watch as other passengers walk by on their way to their assigned seats. First class is mostly empty, only three of the six rows are taken.
They close the hatch, the plane begins to taxi. The stewardess asks the six of us sitting in first class if we would like a drink. We order a complimentary cocktail. We will have another one mid-flight. We have crashed first class.