My wife and I, whose ages each hover around the half century mark, brought the average age waaaaay down when numbered among the other members of the chartered trip. We were one of the few that did not come complete with our own tank of oxygen, our own aluminum, four-wheeled walker or several cartons of unfiltered cigarettes.
Just after midnight Pacific time, we landed at Bullhead City International Airport, a flat one-story building reminiscent of a bus terminal located at the end of a two-lane blacktop road that bisects a huge expanse of dirt. A set of steps was wheeled up to the plane and the travel-weary group was herded off to waiting buses, but not before several dozen rewarded themselves with a cigarette for sitting patiently through a five-hour flight. After a three-minute ride across the Colorado River (That's right, the airport isn't even in Nevada. It's in Arizona.), we were assigned rooms via the contents of sealed envelopes and we were on our own for the next four days.
During the week, despite our greatest efforts, we spotted some people we recognized from the flight. One couple, in particular, stood out. The man looked like Don Knotts, the scrawny, nervous actor most famous for portraying Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and, later Mr. Furley, the weasly landlord on later episodes of Three's Company. His female companion resembled 70s-era Cicely Tyson, the Academy Award-nominated actress famous for her ground-breaking role in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. We saw this couple everywhere. In the casino, in the restaurants and in the halls. At the end of the week, we saw Don and Cicely again as we boarded our airport shuttle bus for our journey home.
Our plane touched down an hour early in Philadelphia. We were forced to taxi around the airport in search of a open gate and access to the terminal. It was like driving around the tarmac looking for a parking space. Finally, United Airlines offered its heartfelt sympathy by opening a gate for us, which our adept pilot promptly overshot trying line up the plane door with the expanding corridor that was our exit. (I shit you not!) At last, we were permitted to leave. Heading toward the baggage claim, my wife commented that she hoped we would never ever encounter any of these people ever again...ever.
Our designated baggage carousel was currently winding down from its previous flight. A few straggling passengers were watching three lonely pieces of luggage travel around and around and around— sad and unclaimed. Soon the carousel's perimeter was lined with many familiar faces from our flight, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our checked belongings. Don and Cicely staked themselves a prime spot directly across from Mrs. Pincus and me. We would soon realize that we had great front-row seats for the entertainment portion of our luggage retrieval. Suddenly, Don's weary eyes widened as he spotted, what he believed to be, one of his suitcases. In reality, it was one of the leftovers from the flight before ours, already on its fifty-eighth lap around the conveyor. He excitedly reached towards the bag and, upon realizing his error, pulled back. The black tweed overnighter continued on its familiar route. A minute later, the bag returned to Don's field of vision. And once again, he made the reach and, again, disappointment swept across his face when his mistake became apparent. I swear to God — and I am not exaggerating — he did this ten more times. Ten! Ten more times! I remind you that, at this point, there were three bags on the conveyor belt. A small red bag with a metallic ribbon tied to the handle, a beat-up blue suit bag and Don's bag's doppelganger. Each time the black bag came into Don's peripheral vision, he swiveled his melon-like head around and lit up, knowing that this time the case was his!
A flashing light went off and our group's luggage appeared in a clump and was soon in the hands of its rightful owners. After identifying and grabbing my wife's suitcase and my wheeled duffel bag, we waited to see what Don and Cicely's bag really looked like. It turns out, it was a swirly paisley pattern and as different from Don's prey as could be.
Mrs. Pincus and I made our way to the airport parking lot, never turning back once.