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A Rumination on Airport Food

Folk wisdom among travelers holds that pilots know all the good places to eat on a trip.  The underlying theory, I suppose, is that they have tried everything and know what is good and bad.  If airline pilots were flying chefs, I'm sure that would be great advice.  But airline captains have a tough ladder of training and lowly jobs to get to the top of their profession. They survive it by having a cast iron stomach and hermetically sealed taste buds.  When a pilot says "That airport has pretty good food" he means "I don't know anyone whose cause of death has been attributed to that food."

Airports can be lonely places for hungry people.  As I worked on my private pilot's license, I looked forward to the long three-legged cross-country flight that is one of the basic requirements.  I scheduled the trip for Labor Day, which turned out to be a beautiful day to fly.  I flew from Princeton to Harrisburg for my first leg.  I told myself that I should wait for lunch for my next stop, Cape May, right next to the shore.  I'd heard about a great burger place there that seemed like the perfect way to start the home stretch.  I flew to Cape May on an empty stomach.  I landed and parked the plane only to find a nearly deserted airport.  That cute little restauant was closed for the holiday.  Well, I thought to myself, at least I can get something from the vending machines. Wrong---by mid-afternoon all the other hungry pilots had emptied them.  I finally managed to find a candy bar and limped my way home.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my Dad at Jefferson County Airport in Colorado.  The Mooney dealer had a vending machine that fascinated me.  It supplied little cans of dinner: Dinty Moore beef stew, Spaghetti-Os.  Even more amazing, they came out of the machine HOT.  What could be more amazing?  My admiration turned to horror when we finally bought a can.  This poor can had been sitting in the machine for lord knows how long, being tortured by that little heating element.  The food was burned to the bottom of the can.  I drove by Jeffco a few years ago on a visit and noticed that the Mooney dealer is still there.  I wonder if that vending machine is still there, sitting in a forlorn corner of the pilot's lounge, its little cans still hoping for salvation from their private Hades...


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