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Confessions of a Carry-On Abuser
by Thomas Schueneman


Confessions of a Carry-on abuser“Ladies and Gentleman, flight 365 with service to Salt Lake City and Boston will be boarding in just a few moments. At this time, I’d like to invite parents with small children and anyone needing special assistance to please make their way to the gate now.”

I hesitated in my seat. “He isn’t really going to do this, is he”, I thought. A few minutes before the gate announcement, as Jesse and I waited for our flight from San Francisco to Boston, he had told me that he would limp up to the gate when the pre-board announcement was made, making it appear as if he needed “special assistance”. I was to follow behind with “The Beast” slung over my shoulder. Once we were on the plane before everyone else, I’d be able to manhandle The Beast into an overhead bin, without arousing too much suspicion. Jesse noticed my hesitation and said, with a hint of exasperation, “Let’s go! We’ve got to get in the plane!” I hated this part.

I’d like to think that I had a good excuse. I was just following orders. But the truth of the matter is, I was just another carry-on abuser.

Here is my story:

I was hired as a tour manager and sound engineer for Jesse Colin Young. He is best known for his sixties anthem, “Get Together”, with the Youngbloods. Others may remember his solo hits from the seventies like “Ridgetop” (a personal favorite). He still records and performs, and an evening spent listening to his music is always an enjoyable one for his audience. And many times for the manager/engineer - though not always. But that’s another story.

My involvement in his career was much later than all that, in the mid 90's. Jessie was now a solo act - literally. Unless you counted me. The two of us traveled in the Northeast and the Southwest - New England, New York, and Maryland; Southern California and Arizona. These trips, three of them in all, lasted from 5 to 11 days on the road.

Any musical show requires some equipment, unless you’re singing a cappella and "unplugged". We carried three guitars, one very large metal suitcase full of equipment, cords, and supplies, a couple of smaller road cases, our own personal luggage... and “The Beast”. We checked all of it, except The Beast.

The Beast was a rack of electronics essential to Jesse’s sound. Stuff that we didn’t rely on the local sound companies to provide. It fit in the overhead bin - barely. The Beast weighed in at around forty or fifty pounds. It was my job to sling it over my shoulder, smile, act like it weighed ten pounds, and then force it into the overhead. The Beast wouldn’t make it through today’s scrutiny. And a good thing too. Flights are already too crowded with people and their stuff.

But a few years ago we managed to do it, most of the time. Despite the looks we’d get from the flight attendants...

The steely eyed glare of “What do you think your doing bringing The Beast in here?”

I’d look the steely glare in the eye, “What? This lil’ ol’ thing?”

It didn’t always go like that.

We were probably getting a little too cocky when we tried it on a little puddle jumper from Boston to New York. There was no jetway for this smaller plane. As I approached the bottom of the stairway into the plane, the flight attendant standing guard on the tarmac took one look at The Beast and said, “you’re not taking that thing up there, you’re going to check it.”

“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” I thought. It was so nice not to have to lug The Beast up those stairs and try to make it fit yet again. (It never would have anyway, on this small plane.)

I climbed the stairs with the very real feeling of a weight being lifted from my shoulders.

Shortly after I settled happily into my seat near the back of the plane, an attendant approached asking if I would mind moving to a jumper seat in the front of the plane. Apparently there was a concern with the planes’ weight and balance.

"I can relate", I thought,“I guess I should loose a few pounds".

I certainly didn’t want the plane to flip over backwards during takeoff on my account.

As the plane droned through the gray overcast on its short hop to New York, I watched the thirty or so faces looking back in my general direction. People seemed to avoid my gaze. Even Jesse wouldn’t look at me.

I started to doze...

“Ladies and Gentlemen. In front of you right now is Tom. He just attempted to bring The Beast into your cabin. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, Tom is a Carry-On Abuser”

My eyes opened with jerk.

Passive faces reading magazines, looking out the window...

I was dreaming, wasn’t I?

Tom lives in San Francisco and works as a sound engineer, freelance writer, and entrepreneur. He enjoys traveling, nature, reading, photography, and music.


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