Everybody Has a Story: From canceled flight to party van, beer, snacks and a Cosmo girl named James




My April 2001 flight from Minneapolis, Minn., to Charlotte, N.C., was uneventful, and I had more than an hour to catch my next flight, to Asheville, N.C. But after a delay of over two hours, the gate attendant announced that our plane to Asheville would not be flying. I was in a very foul mood as I called my wife, Betty, to tell her that my flight had been canceled with absolutely no explanation.

The airline gave us a choice of staying overnight in a hotel and taking a 9 a.m. flight, or riding a van three hours to the Asheville airport, with a 1 a.m. anticipated arrival, depending on traffic.

I chose the van. I mumbled something to Betty about no one at the airport really caring about our plight and suggested she not wait up for me. She advised me to take it easy and wake her when I got home.

After the airline brought us our luggage, we were directed to the passenger departure area to wait. As a dozen of us sat there grumbling about our situation, a large, fancy van pulled up in front of us and a guy dressed in a black tuxedo and tails got out and started loading our luggage. “What is this all about?” I thought as he took my suitcase.

He explained that he had been booked as a party bus, but the couple involved had a fight and told him to forget the party, even though they had already paid for it. About that time, the airline called him to see if his van was available. Our van was a party bus!

The van was arranged with seats around the outside and a console in the middle with compartments for beer, wine, sodas and snacks galore. There was also a television with “The Tonight Show” playing. The driver told us we were welcome to have all the refreshments we wanted, along with an impressively decorated chocolate cake. I picked up a beer and some snacks and found a seat next to a guy I had gotten to know in the terminal. Things were definitely looking up.

A young woman in a sweatsuit and stocking cap sat next to me. As the bus finally headed to Asheville, we began visiting. Nearly every one of us lived near Asheville, but she said she was going to Asheville to be in a movie, “Happy Campers,” which was being filmed nearby. She explained that it was about a group of dysfunctional college-age students who are running a summer camp. (I later learned that the film was released only on DVD.)

She said her name was James King (aka Jaime King) and she had been a model for seven years and was the December 2000 cover girl for Cosmopolitan magazine. Dressed in that plain sweatsuit and stocking cap, she did not look like the Cosmo ladies staring at me at grocery checkout counters.

So, there I was, at first terribly upset that I would arrive in Asheville after 1 a.m., plus a 45-minute drive home on the hilly and crooked interstate. Then suddenly I am having a beer and snacks, watching Jay Leno and visiting with Cosmo girl James King like she’s known me forever! (She was later in a host of movies, including “Pearl Harbor,” and starred in the TV series “Hart of Dixie.”) Suddenly the blunder by the airline, which had caused our van ride, seemed very unimportant.

In the morning, Betty was suitably impressed, pointing out my change in attitude from when I had called last night: “Let’s see now, this is the guy who called last night in a furious mood, and he ends up in a van with TV, beer, snacks and a cover girl from Cosmopolitan?”

We went to a newsstand that kept old issues of magazines; they had the December 2000 issue featuring James King. There she was on the cover, looking nothing like the young woman who had sat next to me in a sweatsuit.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.