I was the lucky winner in the fall of 1984. Somehow, I won the squadron lottery to represent the outfit in Las Vegas at the Annual Convention of Naval Aviation—Tailhook.
In September, when it was time to go, I travelled to Norfolk, VA, then to Atlanta, and finally to Vegas. It was to be a great break from the routine of work and life in Guantanamo.
All that flying of jets Monday through Friday, combined with fishing, boating, scuba diving, sailing, and racquetball all weekend long really could tax normal individuals. Maybe even tap them out completely. I was really looking forward to escaping the island for a little bit. Maybe. Not. I would actually miss the jets and lobster diving.
Vegas, if you have not been there, is different. All kinds of people pass through the oasis for many different reasons. It truly is a complete psychological study of the human condition.
The skipper told me I would have to attend the seminars and take “copious” notes on the latest technologies, procedures, systems, tactics, and political mine fields facing Naval Air. He did wink and say I should enjoy the evenings.
So, in the parlance of all aviators…, “There I was…” walking though the lobby of the hotel with some of the bubbas from all over the world, taking time off from the business of war to drop a couple of bills on games of chance.
I never was much of a gambler, but being in Las Vegas is a wonderful excuse to watch people. The frequency of running into old friends from all over the world where or when you least expect is also a pleasant event.
With this in mind, I was not the least surprised when in the middle of the huge lobby, I saw a friendly, warm, and familiar face.
I could not quite remember her name, but I felt confident she was one of my teachers from junior high or high school. As we passed, she smiled and appeared to recognize me.
“Hello,” she said, again, with a familiar voice.
I said, “Hello.”
Afterward, we continued on our separate ways in the company of our respective partners. She, with someone who may have been her husband; me, with another of the fleet pilots.
As we walked, I mentioned to the other pilot about the lady who may have been one of my schoolteachers from Tampa. He stopped, turned around, and looked at her.
“Yeah, she looks familiar to me, too,” he stated. As I was trying to figure that out, she and her husband turned and were on their way. My friend was from Colorado so I knew he was not in our class in Tampa.
He allowed just the right amount of time to pass.
“You bozo!” my friend said. “That’s Geraldine Ferraro.”
Her face was familiar to me because she was at the start of her vice-presidential run for the White House. She and Walter Mondale were on TV quite a bit in those days of 1986.
When she returned my cursory hello, she didn’t know my wingman or me. She was just being a friendly politician, looking for more votes.
Geraldine Ferraro acquired a special place in history. And I was happy enough to have been one of millions to have passed by her in person.
Job well done; rest peacefully, Mrs. Ferraro.
© 2011 J. Clark