It was the spring of 2006, and we were heading out to Royals spring training in Surprise, Arizona, as a family, my wife Kim, my 11-year-old son Kohl, my 5-year-old daughter Katie, and I.
This was not an everyday occurrence for us. In fact, it was our first commercial airline trip as a family of four.
Considering that in my life, I have traveled more by motorcycle than by jet airliner, I was not without a certain amount of anxiety that everything would go smoothly, particularly with our 5-year-old daughter, and a mountain of luggage, in tow. However, as good luck and clean living would have it, getting the wife and kids and all of our luggage to the airport, getting it hauled in and checked in, and getting through airline security, went as well as you might hope.
As I usually insist, we got to KCI well in advance of our U.S. Airways flight to Phoenix, and so we had plenty of time to hang around and look out the giant windows as jets took off and landed before we boarded our flight.
A U.S. Airways airline pilot in uniform stopped by to chat as we watched and waited.
A delightful gentleman, he told us he was going to be flying an airplane to Hawaii a little later in the day. He answered our many questions about airplanes, airlines, and the life of a commercial airline pilot. He also told us all about the airplane we would soon be boarding for our trip.
We found it reassuring to know that the pilot of a big aircraft like that could also be as warm and nice and down to earth as he, and his kindness truly put us all at ease.
In a way, going to Court can be a lot like taking a commercial flight.
Both environments have a lot of security, with long lines, metal detectors, and uniformed law enforcement personnel all around.
And, just like at a major airport, at the courthouse, one tends to be concerned if they are where they are suppose to be, when they’re suppose to be there.
Just like the affable U.S. Airways captain at KCI, I believe that lawyers at the Courthouse are representatives of the legal system, and our profession, and how we conduct ourselves is important to the public’s perception of us as a profession, and the legal system in general.
On a regular basis, I see people at or around the Jackson County Courthouse who appear uncertain, anxious, and a bit lost.
Some are standing in the hallway, looking at their court papers, obviously unsure as to where they are suppose to be.
And, like most lawyers, I am happy to assist. Invariably, they are appreciative when someone familiar with the system can look at their paperwork and tell them: “You’re in Division 30, on the third floor. It’s the first courtroom after you get off the elevator.”
On occasion, as I walk from my parking space to the courthouse, the driver of a vehicle will pull up alongside and ask, sometimes with a bit of panic in their voice: “Excuse me sir, can you tell me where the Jackson County Courthouse is?”
“That’s it right there, sir,” I tell them pointing to the building on the adjacent corner. Their sense of relief is invariably obvious and immediate.
Sometimes, it’s: “This is the wrong place. You’re supposed to be in the Independence Municipal Court in the lower level of Independence City Hall, across the street from the police station. Don’t worry, it’s not far. You’ve got time.” And off they run, all the better from the advice.
Just like with our friendly pilot at KCI, a little goodwill at the courthouse can go a long way.
A few years after our trip to Royals Spring training in 2006, the world was focused on a major, breaking news story – the miracle of U.S. Airways flight 1549, which its hero captain safely landed on the Hudson River in New York City after its engines became disabled upon takeoff.
As our family watched the news account of that enthralling event, including video of the airplane floating in the water with passengers huddled on the wing awaiting the boats that would rescue them, a portrait sized picture of the hero captain was splashed upon the TV screen.
“Daddy, that’s Sully,” my daughter Katie noted.
Indeed it was, Sully Sullenberger, the U.S. Airways pilot who had been so friendly and nice to us that day at KCI.
I guess Sully had made quite an impression on Katie. She even remembered his name. But she didn’t look at him as a national hero, just that friendly pilot who had been so nice to us at the airport.
-- Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org