As part of my Tour of Unimpressive Cities with Even Less Impressive Airports[i], I was flying from Buffalo to Kansas City today. It had all the makings of a boring flight until the pilot got on the mic and introduced himself as Captain Champion.
Captains are cool enough in their own right. I mean, who doesn’t love a good captain? In all their variations — good or bad, young or old, futuristic explorer of strange new worlds or briny olde sea dog, captains have an indefinable quality that almost never fails to capture the hearts of fair maidens and provoke the envy of men. Yes, dear reader, nearly all captains deserve our admiration: the Kirks, Picards, Sparrows, Albanos, Hornblowers, Stubings, and Kangaroos of history and literature. And let us not forget their close relatives, the cap’ns: “Hawkeye” Pierce, Crunch, et al.
Perhaps it need not be said that champions are cool. Everyone knows that. Whatever the task at hand, whatever the odds, whatever the risk, whatever the cost; when the crap hits the fan, we all want a champion on our side. Someone to come to our aid in the hour of our direst need. Someone who will not only tell us everything will be okay, but who will make everything okay. Someone who will not abandon us or our cause, come hell or high water. Champions turn our greatest defeats into even greater victories, and they imbue every situation they find themselves in with hope and promise.
So you can imagine my delight and my surprise to find out that the man holding the lives of 200 people in his hands this very morning was not just a captain, which is comfort enough, and not just a champion — but the Captain of Champions. When he walks into the room, all the other champions stand at attention. Lesser champions fight under his command and are willing to die at one word from his mouth. Captain Champion is the champion of champions, the chief among his kind. And this man was flying my plane this morning, reader. My plane!
Suddenly, this flight which seemed so tedious and dull moments ago became charged with excitement and adventure. Every report the pilot made was no routine announcement. It was a war report; a proclamation of victory. The weather is 78 degrees, you say, Captain Champion? Take that, bitter winter’s cold! You no longer hold sway in this land. We’re departing from the gate early? Eat hot efficiency, airport traffic! You cannot thwart our journey. We’ll touch down in Kansas City on time? You can’t stop Captain Champion, Chronos, you old Titan. He has vanquished you as Zeus did eons ago.
For the first time, flying under the leadership and protection of Captain Champion, flying didn’t feel like a mode of transit, but what it truly is meant to be: mankind conquering nature and defying the very laws of gravity.
When Captain Champion came on the loudspeaker to say, “We’ve arrived in Kansas City,” I was so excited and so proud to be part of his conquest of the heavens, I said out loud, “We did it, everyone! Yes! Thank you, Captain Champion! Thank you!” Surprisingly, my girlfriend wasn’t as embarrassed as she usually is by my antics. Captain Champion conquered even that.
I don’t know much about the hero who risked everything, taking to the heavens like Daedulus in his escape from Crete, in order to safely ferry 200 souls to Kansas City. I like to believe his full name is Victor Champion — Captain Victor Champion — but I don’t know. I do know he kept that plane in the air for over an hour in spite of the once-indomitable pull of gravity, thus saving my life from certain, fiery death. And, like all heroes, before I could thank him, he flew off into the sunset. Never to be seen or heard from again.
…or did he?
[i] You’re next, Sheboygan.