One of the more bazaar self-induced challenges I experienced in my life came during the summer of 1970. I had just completed my sophomore year. I was home from the University of Massachusetts, jobless and growing more restless by the minute. That’s when I decided to test my survival instincts by grabbing a crisp $100 bill and began heading west in my pale blue Chevy Malibu sedan.
At the last minute, I decided to “swing by” the Boston area and talk my college football teammate into joining me. He gave a 24-hour notice to his job at 7-11 and grabbed a C-note of his own. I have since looked unfavorably at such expeditious job notices. (That was the exact moment his mother began to dislike me and the influence I had on her son.)
My Malibu 287 4-speed had plenty of rubber at the time and enough power to get us to where we wanted to go. Unfortunately, we did not know where we wanted to go. All we knew was that when our $200 was spent, we would be in deep trouble unless we could prove otherwise. That was the challenge. Survival.
We made it all the way to Boulder, Colorado where we crashed at our fraternity house (Theta Chi) and began living on a daily diet of Swanson TV dinners and a quart of Black Label beer. We secured day labor jobs at a local construction site. For the time being life was good, and we were not about to die. In fact, as the weeks passed, we were actually “saving some money.”
This is where this story begins to unfold. We decided to treat ourselves to a long weekend in California. On our way to Denver’s Stapleton Airport, I spotted a small airfield with lots of single-engine planes alongside a few larger private jets. I had an idea. Why not save a few bucks and hitch-hike our way to the west coast… on airplanes?
We pulled into what looked like the long-term parking lot and begin approaching “pilots” as they walked toward their flying machines. “Excuse me, sir. My fraternity brother and I are trying to get to California. Do you have any room for us?” (Here comes the first big lesson.)
Prior to leaving Boulder, we had allowed our hair to grow a bit to save money on grooming. For self-serving reasons, we cut our hair the previous evening in preparation for us meeting some California coeds along our journey. When I asked that pilot if we could stow away on his airplane, these were his exact words: “I guess you guys are all right. You have short hair.”
You can’t make this stuff up. We could have been Charles Manson groupies with a recent buzz cut. The lesson here should be obvious. Appearance does make a difference when it comes to first impressions.
At the risk of sounding two-faced and insincere, I want you to take this advice to the bank. Depending on your personal objectives, it is smart to remember, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” We made this intelligent move (trimming our hair) by accident back in 1970, but here is another piece of “smart.” Don’t be surprised when you find that “lucky” outshines being good.
Note: There are more lessons to be learned from our airplane hitchhiking days. Come back next week for some more “head-scratching” stunts. Oftentimes, fact is stranger than fiction. The good news is that we both survived this stunt, and here I am writing about those memories.
Mike Marchev is always looking for a few more proactive travel professionals to join his Sales and Marketing Club. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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