Everyone has an airline story -- delayed and canceled flights, lost luggage, etc., etc. But Meyerhoff's beats them all.

He told me, "I flew from Chicago to Washington yesterday, and my plane took off and landed on time."

I said, "You made that up. Nobody's plane takes off and arrives when the airline says it will."

Meyerhoff said, "Well, it happened to me. I arrived at the airport 45 minutes before flight time, breezed through security and went straight to my gate."

"Did they ask you to take off your shoes?"

"Yes, but I don't mind if it means keeping the country safe from terrorists."

"What happened when you got to the gate?"

"First I looked at the departure screen. It said Flight 12 to Washington was on time at Gate 23.

"Then I went to the gate and checked in with the attendant. I said, 'Are you sure my flight is on time? You people tend to lie a lot.'

"She replied, 'The computer says it is on time. I know as much as you do. I had a flight last week to Dallas and it was also on time. It is rare to see this. I have a lot of stories to tell passengers when a plane is late, but I have no idea what to tell them when the flight is on time.'

"I asked her what kind of stories she told them," Meyerhoff went on. "She said, 'The plane is late taking off from Portland' or 'It should be landing any minute' or 'We're waiting for a thingamajig for the engine from Atlanta, and if it doesn't arrive in three hours we'll change planes.'

"I asked her, 'Do passengers usually buy it?' She said, 'They usually do, but there is always one person in the crowd who says, "I don't believe you." We call him the passenger who never believed in the tooth fairy.' "

Meyerhoff said, "So my plane was sitting there and they announced over the PA system that it was ready for boarding. I was in business class so they let me on first. I had time to put my bags in the overhead rack. They gave all of us a chance to get comfortable. Now this is the part you are not going to believe. The doors closed exactly on time."

"Wait a minute," I said. "How long did you have sit on the runway?"

"No time at all. We were second in line for takeoff."


"The pilot got on the loudspeaker and talked as if his airline was always on time."

"I guess that's what they're supposed to say," I replied. "So your flight was smooth, and you landed just like you were scheduled to?"

"To the minute. And the airplane's doors opened as soon as we got to the gate. I usually have had to stand in the aisle until they find ground personnel to open the door."

I said, "I believe everything you told me, but aren't you spoiled for future flights?"

"I suppose I will be. But I'm still basking in the glow of this one. There was only one hitch to all this. My wife was to pick me up at the airport, and she was 45 minutes late."

(c) 2005, Tribune Media Services