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Inspiring Peak Performance

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Heavier-than-air Torture

I have discovered an alternative to waterboarding. It is an unintended consequence of Orville and Wilbur's quest for sustained, heavier-than-air human flight. I am not referring to interminable delays at an airport, $7 bags of chips or waiting for people to cram their belongings into a crowded overhead bin because their bags were too lazy to get a second job and couldn't afford to fly in the hold with the more industrious luggage. My complaint will become clear.

Mary and I just returned from a wonderful trip to Monterey, California for a church convention. We chose this site because it is next door to Carmel where we spent a few days of our brief honeymoon 33 years ago. We revisited the Tickle Pink Inn that I had found all those years ago in the Poor College Student's Guide to Honeymoon's for Twelve Dollars a Day published by AAA. Back then it was an affordable motel room with a stunning view of the Pacific. Now it is a remodeled boutique inn with stunning views of the Pacific and a matching $469 per night rate—no vacancies. We took pictures.

The inn is just inland from Pacific Coast Highway 1, perched halfway up a hill, and looks back over the road and a variety of deep-green trees and variegated flowerbeds to the ocean. The boundless azure sea stretches before in a panorama, but what draws the eye is the constant onslaught: powerful waves crashing onto the jagged, black rocks; foam and spray spitting high into the air. It is the endless battle the tides will win, one grain at a time. These waves are not the ripples we see in the Gulf, but majestic, tall, forceful, rolling mounds of water that roar when they break and produce beautiful, jagged white splashes that run over the rocks and are spent only when they dash far up the sand. We loved seeing it again.

What I didn't love was getting there. Don't get me wrong, I am still mesmerized by the miracle of flight and love sitting by the window like a 10-year old boy gazing in wonder at the sights far below. This trip was preceded by a particularly nasty work schedule and we arrived at the beautiful, un-crowded (and highly efficient) Tyler airport exhausted. By the time we made our connection in Dallas and were winging toward LAX I couldn't keep awake. I am no stranger to planes and realize the regular seats were not designed for people who are 6'4", 235.

But I had to sleep. I am too tall to either lean back or to the side. I was dutifully wearing my airline pillow around my neck, but it was for decoration and of little practical value. So, in the upright, Frankenstein position, I rested my head against the hard plastic wall. Have you ever started to fall asleep in church, your head begins to droop and you catch yourself just in time with a jerk? Yes you have. That was me for 1,000 miles. I was asleep but could sense my head was creeping down a millimeter at a time until I would catch myself with a convulsive jolt, lift my head and repeat. One time I failed to arrest the slide and my head fell off and rolled under the seats. Fortunately the business traveler in 3C was nice enough to pass it back.

My legs were jammed under the seat in front and my left foot started to fall asleep so, in my haze, I started inching it over the metal rail that runs the length of the plane. All at once my foot cleared the rail and my whole body rejoiced at the relief. It was sense of relaxation and freedom unknown in my 53 years. Soon, however, my foot became stuck, I developed gangrene and the stewardess hacked off my lower leg with a plastic knife.

But the worst was to come. I try to be polite and, unless there is no one behind me or it is a diminutive child, my seatback stays in the upright position. All I ask is the person in front of me extends the same kindness, but no-o-o. At first chance the small woman in front of me cranked back her seat with exuberance and both of my kneecaps popped off and began to ricochet about the cabin. Fortunately one of them glanced off the attendant button on the bulkhead and the stewardesses retrieved my kneecaps and found space for them in an overhead bin.

Actually, it was a wonderful trip and I marvel at this amazing world we live in. The moral of the story is that I should have planned better and started the trip refreshed and ready for the rigors of modern travel.

Steve McNeely, CPA, M.B.A. is the partner in charge of HR Consulting at McNeely and McNeely, CPAs. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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