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Column: Valentine's Day massacre averted

My wife is a good woman. I may have mentioned that before, but it’s true and I have proof.

Recently I made an overnight trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for a meeting at the USDA-ARS facility and a tour of grain and peanut research.

Ordinarily, I would have driven to Stillwater. It’s not that far and I enjoy the scenery of Central Oklahoma. On any one of the many knolls along I-35 you can’t see forever; a ridge or two block the view. But looking west you can see into next week and looking east you can see last Thursday.

But the meeting took place on Valentine's Day and I had promised to take Pat to dinner that evening, a longstanding tradition. So I found a cheap flight to Oklahoma City that got me to within 45 minutes of the Oklahoma State University Campus and worked out a schedule that would get me back to the airport in time to make a flight to Dallas and a short drive home would allow me to enjoy a leisurely dinner with my wife.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The meeting and tour went well. I met some nice folks, got some good interviews and shot some usable photos. I even had time for lunch before heading back to the airport around 2 p.m. I drove to the Oklahoma City Airport without getting lost, an achievement in itself and something that does not happen all that often in a city where I rarely fly.

I sat in the concourse, pleased with how well the plan was working and in no time was boarding the plane. We taxied out to the tarmac, poised to race down the runway and take off for Dallas.

Didn’t happen.

The pilot came on the speaker. I hate it when they do that before the wheels leave the ground. He mumbled something about hydraulic problems and needing mechanics check it out. When we docked, they told us to take our belongings with us. Not a good sign.

At that moment a horribly frightening thought entered my head. “My wife is going to kill me!”

Most of the 472 passengers aboard the flight hurried into a line at the check-in desk to arrange for another flight. I was near the back.

“I need to call Pat,” I thought. “Maybe I’d better wait,” I re-thought. “If I’d driven I’d be within an hour of home by now. Stupid!”

Meantime, I stood next to a couple with troubles worse than mine. They had to get to Dallas and make a connection to Tucson, Arizona. But I was the one crabbing.

“Ordinarily, I would drive,” I complained. “But this schedule just seemed the best way to get back to Dallas in time to take my wife to dinner on Valentines Day.”

They were impressed by my desire to do something nice for my wife. They were not privy to my inner thoughts: “She’s going to kill me!”

The line was slow, so the female half of the couple I was complaining to grabbed a pay phone and called the airline reservations number and was soon confirmed on the next plane out. She handed the phone to me after telling the reservations agent that “a (I’m not making this up.) nice gentleman also would like to make reservations so he can get home in time to take his wife to dinner.”

The reservations agent booked me on the next flight, wished me a Happy Valentine's Day and went on about her business. I thanked the couple profusely and spent the next 90 minutes chatting with them about books, bicycles and natural grains. You meet the nicest people.

I called my wife.

“The flight will be delayed,” I said.

She laughed. Yeah, that’s right, she laughed. “The best laid plans,” she said. “We can go to dinner tomorrow night.”

She never once mentioned the possibility that I might die in my sleep. Told you she’s a good woman.

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