by Tom Wacaster
My first experience of flying commercially was in 1966. I was sworn into the United States Coast Guard in downtown Dallas, Texas and whisked away to Dallas Love Field for the fight to Oakland, California and nine weeks of boot camp. Four decades ago you could have someone drop you off at the curb, walk to the ticket counter, check in your luggage with no questions asked, and walk straight to your gate. There were no X-ray machines, drug-sniffing dogs, or someone asking you to “remove your shoes,” “hold out your hands,” “empty your pockets,” or “take your laptop out of your briefcase” (of course, there were no laptops back then either). Thirty minutes (or less) from the time you arrived at the airport till you were seated on the plane was the norm.
Since 9/11 passengers are advised to arrive at the airport two hours before departure for domestic flights, and three hours for international flights. The discovery of a plot to blow up American bound planes two weeks ago motivated airport authorities to recommend arrival at the airport three hours in advance of domestic flights, and four hours for international flights. So I followed their advice, and arrived at DFW airport three hours ahead of departure time. With the advent of electronic check in’s, I was through the line, past security, and at may gate within 20 minutes after walking through the door of terminal B at DFW. Surely that was a quirk! I must have caught a lull in passenger influx.
Five days later it was time to make my return trip out of Chicago O’Hare. I caught the 6:20 AM bus out of Michigan City that would get me to the airport a full three hours before departure time. Right on schedule, I climbed off the bus at 8:45 AM to fight the crowds at O’ Hare for a flight that was not scheduled to leave until 12:30 PM. In less than 20 minutes I had arrived at my gate, along with a small handful of “early bird” passengers who were determined to abide by the new FAA’s three-hour advance arrival notice.
With three hours to spare I strolled down the corridor to the various shops, and passed a book store of considerable size. It was packed with passengers seeking for something that might help them pass the time - and what better way to pass the time than to read! After all, notable men have always recognized the value of reading: “Reading maketh a full man” (Bacon). “If we encountered a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads” (Emerson). “If time is precious, no book that will not improve me by repeated readings deserves to be read at all” (Thomas Carlyle). Indeed, as one put it, “Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. As by the one, health is preserved, strengthened, and invigorated, by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed.”
Unfortunately, much of what is read falls into the category of non-essential and unprofitable reading. If what is sold in airport book stores is any representation of what modern day travelers are reading, there is much to be desired. Solomon manifested his God-given wisdom when he declared that “of making many books there is no end.” And, we might add, many of those books are not fit for human consumption. Some books should carry a warning label: “Reading of the material contained herein is hazardous to your soul.” There is a book, however, that stands head and shoulders above ALL books. Its message is heavenly, its contents significant, its Author all knowing and all powerful, and its benefit for you personally is beyond all description. We are speaking, of course, about the Bible. Here is a book that is inspired, provides nourishment for the soul, a compass for life, and hope for the hereafter. This is why we are instructed to “study” and “read” this Book of books. I don’t know how much time you may spend in reading, or what kinds of material you read. But if you are not reading the Bible on a daily basis, then you are either not reading enough, or you are reading the wrong kind of material.
Now, here is the truly disappointing thing about my three hours at O’ Hare. I did not see a single Bible on the shelves of that store, or any other store in that terminal. There were books on the occult, mystic magic, the new age movement, and even the Koran. But not one single copy of a Bible could be found. There were magazines to tempt the sensual pleasures, newspapers that will give you the “truth” on extraterrestrial beings in New Mexico, and “how to” books on desert survival or how to become a contestant on a game show, but no Bible.
After less than five minutes perusing the shelves, I decided that my time could be used more profitably by going to my gate and reading from my Bible. For the next two hours I feasted upon the word of God, reminded myself of His great love for me, and read of that heavenly home that awaits the faithful when this life is over. Truly, I can’t think of a better way to have spent three hours at O’Hare.