Stories & Life
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The Dog Days of Summer

A few days ago, I headed out for my daily walk along the McCarthy Creek Trail, and  I heard someone whistle for their dog. I instantly turned toward the whistler, then realized that I had turned before it had registered in my brain.

“I’m a good dog,” I thought to myself, with a measure of pride. “I come when I’m called.”

McCarthy is a town quite devoted to its dogs, and it’s rare to find a dog who isn’t happy, but as I continued my walk it occurred to me that comparing one’s self with a dog is typically an insult, and then I recalled my recent red-eye flight to Anchorage, a flight where the flight attendants and passengers alike were a bit cranky and out of sorts.

A male flight attendant was passing out blankets, at the beginning of the flight, moving slowly down the aisle.

I initially declined the blanket, then as the flight attendant moved down the aisle, farther and farther away from me, I second guessed my choice. Maybe I’d regret not getting that blanket. So I took stock of my situation — jacket, warm flannel, a sweatshirt. I’d be fine.

Across the aisle from me, there was an older couple and apparently they were doing the same kind of second-guessing, only they decided that the did need that blanket. So the man held his arm up in the air, index finger erect, the universal sign that you wish the assistance of a guest service professional. Only the flight attendant didn’t see him.

As the flight attendant moved farther away, the man resorted to a whistle.

I cringed, as did a few others.

The flight attendant continued on, as though he hadn’t heard, and worked his way down another aisle. So, the man whistled a second time. There was a bit of rustling among the passengers, a few heads turned, but the flight attendant continued on, working his way down another aisle. I looked at him, squinting my eyes for signs that he had heard the whistle. Surely he had, I thought. How could he not? Maybe he was hard of hearing? I thought I detected reddened cheeks, but I couldn’t be certain.

Whether the flight attendant heard the first two whistles or not, I’ll never know, but after the third whistle, a whistle much louder than the first two, the flight attendant finally looked up.

The flight attendant worked his way back to the couple, walking as though it pained him, blanket in hand.

“Oh you’ve broken the cardinal rule,” he said, sounding half-joking, but he was clearly pissed off because he continued by saying, “I am not a dog, sir, I do not come when you whistle.”

I didn’t hear the response from the whistler, but the event seemed to set the tone for the rest of the flight, because later when I asked a different flight attendant if I could move to an empty window seat, I received a curt reply, “Yeah, well, everyone wants to have that seat so that they can have the whole aisle to themselves.”

“But I don’t want the whole aisle,” I replied. “I just want to sleep with my head against the window.”

The flight attendant just turned away in a huff, which sort of pissed me off. I considered raising my hand and whistling, but I thought that this might be taking things a little too far. Better let it drop, I thought.

Even so, I was more than a little dismayed when later in the flight, I turned back to look, longingly, at the open window seat. The grumpy flight attendant who had denied me the seat was sitting in the middle of the aisle, knitting, taking the whole aisle for herself.

She looked up and our eyes met. She must have seen it in my eyes, because she just glared at me.

So it’s good to be in McCarthy, where I can enjoy the open spaces with all the happy dogs.

Note: Photo courtesy of Luke McKinney, a local McCarthy/Kennicott artist: http://mckinneymakesmedia.com/

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Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy; I pass the winters in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. I'm working on a memoir-based nonfiction book on the American Dream. I blog, quite frequently, and I also have a novel in process, set in Alaska.

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