When Things Go Wrong

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Come on, now. Things could be worse.

You could be working in public relations at Southwest Airlines. For decades the envy of other U.S. airlines, SWA might understandably change its corporate colors to black and blue, what with the pummeling it endured during the “Christmas crush” of 2022. That’s when more than a million flyers–and would-be flyers–were marooned in airport terminals, hotels and other places NOT of their choosing.

SWA leaders offered a litany of excuses, value of which depends greatly on whether one is caught in aviation snowbanks far bigger than the one in which the one-horse open sleigh “got upsot,” or if one is following news accounts in the comfort of home.

Dr. Don Newbury

Weather took major blame, but soon it occurred to disgruntled passengers that other airlines were dealing with the same elements with comparatively minor difficulties.

Following have been fractured attempts at humor, many of which deserve Molly’s responses to hubby Fibber’s joke-telling attempts on each weekly network radio show: “Tain’t funny, McGee.”

At one ticket counter, an attendant was asked about a specific flight.

“You want the time or the odds?” the bedraggled airline employee said.

One passenger who’s experienced all manner of delays over decades of flying claims to have minimal requirements for successful flights. “I just want take-offs and landings to come out even.”

One SWA founding father, the late Herb Kelleher, probably never dreamed there’d ever be such chaos facing a company that began with airline service limited to Dallas, San Antonio and Houston a half-century ago.

It began with three planes, all of which sat idle on Saturdays.

Surely his beloved airline’s name would never appear in the same paragraph with words like “debacle” or “beleaguered.” Whatever, he’d roll up his sleeves to make things right, and I’m guessing his successors will, too.

Texas Monthly–a mag which always provides both great writing and back stories–uncovers dozens of delectable nuggets each month. I read it with delight, particularly the annual “Bum Steer” issue that kicks off each new year.

Intriguing in 2023’s initial offering is a tribute to the late-great entertainer Betty White, who died in 2021 a couple of weeks before her 100th birthday. 

She’d have loved it!

The San Angelo-based Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue–the country’s largest sanctuary for abused and neglected donkeys–has named its newest foal “Betty” in memory of Betty White. Turns out that she contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the organization during her final 15 years. It seems likely she would prefer such distinction from the San Angelo bunch than from “uppities” at the Kentucky Derby or other tracks where the fast horses run.

Now, this: I pray that fans–starting with parents and other relatives of Little Leaguers who sometimes act too much like donkeys–tone down treatment of game officials. Way too many refs have turned in their whistles, and understandably so.

Maybe both fans and coaches should make the first moves. Far too many scream straight into faces of arbiters without penalty and seemingly, without shame.

Few coaches can walk football sidelines as graciously as Kansas State’s Bill Snyder did during two stints as head coach there, but they can try. (For basketball fans, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes is a great model.)

End note: Tradition holds that winning coaches should expect being washed down by Gatorade, or whatever is in those liquid-holding coolers that require two players to lift. There’s a new one at Duke’s Mayo Bowl, which provides a “dressing down” of mayonnaise for the winning coach, or his designate. AND, the bowl people provide a check of $10,000 to the coach’s favorite charity. Never could find out if “honorees” have the option of light mayonnaise.

Finally, there are new definitions of family reunions–when Southwest Airlines finds all its personnel and airplanes, and/or when passengers most maligned are united with their luggage.

Dr. Newbury was a long-time university president who continues to write weekly and speak regularly throughout Texas. Contact: Phone, 817-447-3872. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com Facebook: Don Newbury

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