How I Got It Home

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to Paul Coats after I returned to Canada from my bass sax purchase in New Orleans. He thought it was so funny, he suggested I include it somewhere on my web site.


Well, I really had no problems with the travelling aspect of my trip.

The hotel arranged for a minivan taxi to pick me up at 11:15, so I didn’t have to worry about the horn not fitting in a regular car. The cab driver was great.

Check-in with the sky cab was great. I got a wheelchair, laid the horn on the armrests and went through the airport. The case had no problems going through the X-ray machine at security (some good info for you to know for future reference).

airline tickets, Delta airlines, Only one Delta employee told me that I had to check my “baggage”. Once I explained to her that the beast was a paying passenger, she nodded and walked away. I believe she might have thought me a bit insane, since she shook her head while walking away.

I asked for pre-boarding on my flight to Cincinnati, so the 2 of us got to board with the first class passengers.

One of the flight attendants and I (one of us on each end) carried the horn down the narrow aisle of the 737. That’s when the fun began–trying to get the horn into the window seat. The plane had rows of seats so close together that the bottom of the case could not sit on the floor. We had to wedge it against the back of the seat in front and lean it back against its own seat. We then belted it in. During the wrestling match my watch strap broke–the only casualty of the day.

The horn is a bit of a seat hog, however. It encroached on half of my seating area as well. Luckily, the man sitting on the aisle seat (yes, there were 3 seats per side) was really good and was more amused than anything else since, although I tried hard not to be, I’m sure I must have been in his personal space.

The flight was uneventful. The flight attendants were great and when we landed in Cincinnati, I asked which one of them wanted to put their back out helping me. Two of us then wrestled with the horn to get it “unwedged”. The wheelchair was waiting for me, and the employee and I pushed the horn up the ramp to the terminal. This is where life got really interesting. The horn is, of course, too wide to fit through most openings when laying flat, so whenever I had to go through an opening (such as elevator doors, boarding gates, plane doors, etc.) I had to lift the horn off the wheelchair arms and carry it through and then put it down, move the chair through, and put the horn back on the arms again. I believe I did that about 20 times during the course of my trip on Wednesday. The Delta employees were not overly willing to be of assistance. They usually scurried away as soon as possible.

In Cincinnati, I had a 2-hour layover. I had to (of course) get to another terminal building via shuttle bus. In and out of an elevator, in and out of a bus (had to leave the wheelchair behind in the first terminal building and pick up different one in the other terminal). You get the idea. I came to the conclusion that:

a) I needed a wide load sign.

b) People in airports are completely oblivious to what’s happening around them.

c) Delta employees were not going to help me unless I wrestled one of them to ground and asked them, “You will help me. Right?”

airline tickets, Delta airlines,At the departure lounge, I talked to the agent and told her that I would need pre-boarding and assistance. No problem. When we boarded, I had help with the horn. One employee actually carried the instrument down the aisle of the small Canadair Regional Jet. It turns out that this small 50-passenger jet has more leg room than the 737. The horn fit perfectly. Since there were only 2 seats per side, I could hang into the aisle.

Again, no problems during the flight. I asked the flight attendant to call ahead for me to Bangor to ensure that I had a big burly man to help. She did, and when we landed, a big, strong man met me on-board, and carried the horn out of the plane and into the terminal for me. He offered to stay with me while I got my luggage, but by this time I saw my partner, so I could let him off the hook.

Because my flight landed at 10 pm, we didn’t want to drive the 4 hours from Bangor that night. We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel, which is actually connected to the airport via a walkway.

The next morning, we packed the horn in the car—definitely a two-person job! With the front passenger seat fully reclined, the horn took up most of the space between the dash and the back seat. We belted and tied it in. During the drive through the Maine countryside, the horn did not move an inch and its trip was smoother than ours, because it was laying on 2 inches of foam.

There are 2 border crossings into New Brunswick when you come from Bangor. One is off I95, the other off a country road which winds through sleepy little towns and forests. We took the later, because we thought that customs would be a bit more relaxed. We had no idea exactly how relaxed they would be! (Any more relaxed, and they would have been dead.)

bass saxophone, Buescher, vintage, silver plated

I pulled up to the window. The customs officer could see my partner sitting in the back seat behind me and the horn case on the other side. He laughed. Then he asked the usual questions, “How long have you been out of the country? What did you buy? What is the value of the goods coming back?” He asked me to come in when I told him the value of the goods. It turns out that the border crossing had only one officer on at that time. By the time I got into the office, he had already done up a customs slip for me. I paid my taxes on the amount, and he said, “Have a nice day”. The horn was not looked at. The luggage was not gone through. Nothing.

As we drove away, my partner and I let out a joint sigh of relief. Our adventure was almost over. We pulled into the driveway at 3 pm, exactly 4 hours after we left Bangor.

And that is it. It was certainly an experience, one that I do not wish to relive in the foreseeable future. But it certainly gave me a chance to bond with my new horn in a way that I haven’t with any of my others.

So, I hope you’ve found my little adventure entertaining and amusing. I know I did. The people on the planes that asked me questions (about 10 in total) had a number of creative guesses about what type of instrument it was. One thought it was a tenor sax. Not! Another thought it was a harp. Again: not. And another thought it was a cello. A man in his seventies, in Cincinnati, was looking at the case as I was pushing it through the terminal. He seemed very interested. I didn’t stop and talk to him, but I did say, “It’s a bass saxophone”. He looked at me and said, “Yes, I know”. Too bad that I didn’t have time to stop and talk with him. I suspect that he was a musician, and would have had some interesting stories to tell.