Stagecoach to Somewhere

Stagecoach To Somewhere – Horror – The Man In My Seat

I stood at the back of a small queue.  I do not have a patient nature but I was relaxed.  I am convinced that I was not in a nervous state.

The two people, who waited ahead of me, said nothing.  They wore business clothes and were overweight.  I imagined them as reliable employees, which is how I think of myself.  Although I knew the time, I looked at my watch.  I have a routine.  I always wait until the journey is halfway complete.   By then the aeroplane stewards have left the front of the aeroplane and are at the back beginning to clear the free coffee they have supplied to their passengers.    Although I rarely discuss the subject, I realise that some passengers organise their visits according to whether there is a queue or not.  I rely on the time.  Some will visit merely when they think it is appropriate.  Me, I prefer a routine.

A queue was unusual for such a short trip.  I was flying to London for a business meeting.  I could have taken the train but my business meeting was taking place in a plush hotel near Heathrow.  The extra expense of the flight had been approved by Finance Section.

Ahead of me the small queue disappeared.  Nobody else joined me at the front of the aeroplane.  The standing area at the front of the aeroplane was still free of people when I exited and returned to my seat.

A man was sitting in my seat.  He wore a business suit similar to mine.  He read the Economist.

‘That’s my magazine,’ I said.

‘I beg your pardon,’ said the man in my seat.

‘You’re reading my magazine.’

‘I hardly think so.’

The man spoke with a polite Scottish accent as I also do which made sense because this was the Edinburgh to London flight.  He was probably about the same age.  I wondered if he worked in insurance like me.   The man looked affluent and rewarded.

‘You’re sitting in my seat,’ I said.

‘I hardly think so.’

I looked up at the numbers by the luggage compartments.

‘Row 8, seat C,’ I said.

I always think it should be the other way around, Row H seat 3.  This is a thought that I have never shared with anyone.

‘I know the number of the seat,’ said the man in my seat.

At the far end of the cabin aisle the two stewards put rubbish in a bag.  The female steward stopped to talk to a passenger.  I was unable to make her see me.  The male steward stopped working and looked out of a window. At least I think he was looking.  He did not notice me.

‘Where were you sitting before?’ I said.

‘Before what?’ said the man in my seat.

‘Before I went the loo.’ I said.

I did not want to say toilet to a stranger.

‘I was sitting here,’ said the man in my seat.

‘What, from the beginning?’ I said.

‘The whole time.’

He pointed at the passengers across the aisle.  I could have looked but I did not because I was unwilling to involve others.   The situation between him and me was embarrassing, and I felt that it had to be contained.  My coyness is more than easily induced discomfort.  I feel a responsibility to maintain polite order.

‘I think you should leave,’ said the man in my seat.  ‘Find yourself somewhere else like a good chap.’

The cheek, I thought.

‘You must have a ticket with the seat number,’ he said.

‘I certainly do have,’ I said.

‘Well, then, find the seat where you are supposed to be sitting and sit there.’

‘You are reading my magazine, and my briefcase is in the luggage compartment.’

‘You can leave the briefcase there.  I don’t mind.  Anything to make progress.’

The cheek, I thought.

The stewards at the back of the aeroplane had made some progress down the aisle but to attract their attention I would have either had to shout or done something silly like wave my arms.

‘I take it you have a ticket,’ said the man in my seat.

‘Certainly I have a ticket, and it has the number Row 8 seat C,’ I said.  ‘I also have a magazine which you happen to be reading.’

‘Perhaps you would do me the favour of showing me your ticket,’ he said.

I said nothing.  I thought the man was impudent.

‘Most of us keep our tickets in our wallets,’ said the man in my seat.

The two of us waited for the other to do something.  This was a very awkward moment, much more uncomfortable than standing in a queue with a stranger. Neither of us wanted to make the first move.

‘I think you should show me your ticket,’ I said.

‘I am the one in the seat,’ he said.

‘No, you’re the one in my seat.’

The man in my seat said nothing.

‘You’re also reading my magazine,’ I said.

‘You’re being ridiculous,’ he said.  ‘If there has been a misunderstanding, the easiest is for you to go sit somewhere else and not make a scene.’

‘I am not making a scene.  The plane is also full.  Every seat is occupied.’

The man stayed in my seat but he stretched his neck so he could see the other passengers.

‘So it is,’ he said.

The phrase, I am not making a scene, made me wary of what might happen next.  So far the man had spoken in measured tones.  We shared the same polite Scottish accents and, no doubt, backgrounds.

‘I will take out my ticket if you do the same,’ I said.

‘This is childish,’ he said.

‘You refuse?’

‘Of course not.’

The man in my seat folded the Economist, sorry, my Economist.  He had a superior grin.

I took my wallet out of my jacket pocket and showed him my ticket.  We each kept hold of our tickets but we rested them on the tray on the back of the seat in front.   We stared at the two tickets together.

‘I don’t believe it,’ I said.

Like me, the man in my seat was genuinely shocked at what he had seen.

‘We shouldn’t have the same numbers,’ I said.

‘Just look,’ said the man in my seat.

‘Row 8 seat C,’ I said.

‘No, look at the names.’

My ticket had the name Donald Ross, which, of course, is my name.   His ticket, though, also bore the name Donald Ross.  I looked up the aisle.  The stewards clearing half emptied coffee cups would have to be told.

‘They’ve made an obvious mistake,’ I said.  ‘They have issued my ticket twice and given you the duplicate.’

‘You don’t understand,’ said the man sitting in my seat.  ‘My name is also Donald Ross.’

I suspected that this other Donald and me were objects of curiosity.  I stood back from the seat to look at the other passengers and to possibly placate them.  What I saw shocked me.   They were not the same people that I had passed on the way to the toilet.  These passengers all looked the same.  Every seat was occupied by a man that looked like this other Donald Ross.  The sight of so many identical faces made me feel a terror, which I could not explain.  I wanted the plane to land quickly.

The Donald Ross sitting in my seat looked at the other passengers with the same astonishment that I had.  In fact, now we no longer were opposed or in conflict, I was surprised how we resembled each other, which meant that we, too, looked like everybody else on the plane.

This is terrible, I thought.  Fortunately, the female steward who was aware that there was something amiss walked towards me.

‘What is happening?’ I said.

‘We all look the same,’ said the Donald Ross in my seat.

‘Is that all?’ said the female steward.  ‘There’s no need to panic, sir.  You all look and sound the same to us anyway.’


If you want to read more horror click here.



Stagecoach To Somewhere – Patti Page

We move on.  Many rock and roll fans regard Patti Page as a sickness that had to be cured.  For them, the rock and roll revolution was the just in time prescription.  It consigned to a shameful past trite calculating sentimentality.  And, according to rock and roll historians, there was no better example of what had to be swept away than her single, How Much Is That Doggie In The Window.  This million seller not only had the excruciating lyric, ‘How much is that doggie in the window, the one with the waggly tail’, but also a contrived chorus from a too interested canine.   But, like the equally awful Wooden Heart by Elvis Presley, it sold millions.  Doggie even inspired a cover by Lita Roza in the UK, a record that the Scouse warbler later disowned.

Patti Page was born in Oklahoma in 1928 just ahead of the rock and roll revolutionaries that took doggies outPatti Page of the window and threw them in the dustbin.  There is confusion about her birthplace.  Some sources say that she was born in Claremore but others claim that she was a native of Muskogee.  The latter suggestion may be untrue but Muskogee is a tempting notion because, of course, the great Merle Haggard identified the town as his heart-warming example of American conservatism.  As Merle said, ‘We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.’  Well, perhaps not then.  So Muskogee sounds like the kind of place that should have spawned Patti Page, a woman who was established in the fifties as a TV star and a regular feature in American living rooms including the very best.

Her TV career reveals the best and worst of Patti Page.  Too often she is clearly being manipulated and presented for uncritical mass consumption.  As with the Elvis Comeback Special, the weakest moments are invariably the dance routines.  Normally, Southern musicians handled compromises quite well.  They managed to be compliant but remote. From the Sons of The Pioneers onwards there is a tradition of performers from the South who gave the public what they wanted but also insisted on reminding the same audience that they had other listening responsibilities. The TV shows of Page can often be mechanical.  There are, though, memorable moments.  Patti Page had pedigree.  Before the pop music there were stints in a Western Swing Band in Oklahoma and she also worked for the talented and jazz orientated Benny Goodman.   Patti Page is rooted in music and is more than the bland warbler identified by narrow minded rock and rollers.  Her TV two-hander with Nat ‘King’ Cole is a fine example of what can be achieved in the medium and it presents two talented musicians being allowed to share their mutual respect and express their talent and taste.

Patti Page was born Claire Ann Fowler and was of the people she was always willing to entertain and please.  The father was a railroad worker who had a large family to support.  Their home had no electricity.   Page can be forgiven if she saw her career as opportunity rather than compromise.   Her success was rooted in pop but her career also remembered the country music of her childhood.  Her memories ensured that country influences could be heard on some of her pop hits.  She also created a handful of listenable country albums.

Patti Page The country music of Patti Page lacks the bite of the music of someone like Patsy Cline but it is not because Page did not understand the experience of the American working class.  Put simply, she had a different kind of talent.  Page is capable of singing about sadness.  Indeed, she performs torch songs very well.  The sadness in the music of Page might indicate a broken heart but the effect on the spirit is disappointment rather than defeat.  Cline captures despair and bitterness.   The two singers might remind us of a review of Wild 90, a rare film by the writer, Norman Mailer.  The critic complained that Wild 90 took us to where we live and that this was a mistake because the cinema existed to help us live.  This is the difference between singers like Cline and Page.  Patsy Cline takes us to a sad spot in our existence while Patti Page helps us to stay alive.

A beautiful voice lifts the spirits or for many people there was a time when it did.  Now, folk want Madonna and Lady Gaga.  Today, we stay alive in different ways.  Our natures, though, are constant, and this should be remembered by those who are quick to condemn Patti Page for How Much Is That Doggie In The Window.

Despite her country roots, there are more similarities between Patti Page and Doris Day than with Cline.

Doris Day

Doris Day

Both were blonde and pretty and were groomed to look polite and be like the woman Don Draper in Mad Men thinks we should all want to marry.  Although her music was sweeter, Day had a more forceful delivery.  This provides an interesting paradox.  Page, because of her roots, could handle country material beyond Doris Day, yet on Secret Love Day shows a lack of inhibition that is not in the repertory of the more guarded PageBoth women are complicated and had careers beyond the stereotypes created by the unthinking.  Although Peggy Lee often runs it close, Move Over Darling by Doris Day is the sexiest American record ever, and those who are quick to dismiss the talent of Day should listen to her recorded version of The Black Hills Of Dakota which has truly beautiful moments.

If Page was willing to remember her country roots, those who look for the jazz influence of Benny Goodman in her subsequent recordings may be disappointed.  Jazz does not feature much in her catalogue.  We have to remember, though, that the singers in the swing bands were often an interlude in the jazz entertainment.  Their job was to provide the lighter stuff and stop the audience becoming bored.  Gospel music is also important to the people Page knew in her childhood. Page copes well with the odd gospel tune, probably because piety suited her unpretentious conformity.  Her version of The Lord’s Prayer may not be the equal of the classic by Mahalia Jackson but Page delivers a fine interpretation of What A Friend We Have In Jesus.

Patti Page was nicknamed the Singing Rage because the rhyme made senseThe name Patti Page she took from the sponsor of the radio show where she made her debut.  It is a chilling echo of the power of men like Don Draper and the dangers of too easy compliance with our masters, as can be the plastic smile of Page.  Few people, though, talk badly about Page.  Her disposition like her music had warm appeal.   The country music has lasted better than the rest and contains genuine classics like her versions of Go On Home, Dark Moon and the ubiquitous Tennessee Waltz which is so good it inspired numerous covers.   Elvis thought about doing covers of Dark Moon and Tennessee Waltz but the Hillbilly Cat was no slouch in knowing the polished tonsils of rivals.  Sensibly, he withdrew and he kept his distance.

Patti Page is not sexy like Peggy Lee but neither are her best musical moments confined to the unaffected girl next door of country music.  She was especially gifted at harmonising with her own voice, and, when she double tracks, you can hear, as an echo, an alternative and perhaps suppressed masculine ego.  Whatever the cause, it is wonderful.  Old Cape Cod is dreamy and seductive and benefits greatly from her harmonies.  She also is great on the bluesy You Don’t Know What Love Is so maybe I should rethink what I said about her contribution to the music of Benny Goodman.  More listening is required and, of course, recommended.

If you want to read more about American culture click here

If you want to see and hear Patti Page and Patsy Cline and compare, have a look at these 2 clips: