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Silver Threads: Aviation for the elderly

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

If you took a look on Sunday at that other newspaper chronicling the activities of Orleanians, you saw that some of them are doing very well financially.

Those who were written up are mostly sports figures — Saints owner Tom Benson is racking up with an income in the billions — but TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres’ relatively paltry take of about $65 million a year was also featured. There was one localite on the page — and I can’t remember who and can’t remember where I put the paper so I can check it — who earned only $1.5 million last year, but I’d settle for that.

The Andings’ only hope of amassing wealth is to win the lottery, and my husband loves to sit on our back porch and talk about what he’d do if that happened. Which brings me to a joke you’ve probably heard, but I need to get it off my chest before I can go on with this column:

Boudreaux is in financial trouble; his wife wants a divorce and some alimony, his truck has completely broken down, his grandson needs tuition money for LSU, and the shrimp aren’t running.

“Oh, Lord,” he prays every night for a month, “please, please let me win the lottery.”

Finally comes a voice from above: “Boudreaux, you’ve got to help ME; you’ve got to buy a ticket!”

My husband does buy tickets; one night when he was talking about it I asked him what he wants that he doesn’t already have. And he was stumped. You see, when you get older your wants get fewer, and when you’ve never been needy you’re pretty much satisfied with what you’ve got.

But I surprised myself by coming up with something very expensive that I’d really like to have at my disposal. I’d like a nice-sized airplane — I’m scared to fly in those little bitty ones — and two pilots and perhaps a cabin attendant standing by. This would probably cost a lot to maintain, but just think how nice it would be never to have to go inside an airport again and line up by the ticket counter and take your shoes off and go through security. Or, suffer through a six- or eight-hour road trip when there’s no direct flight to your desired destination and your back’s hurting.

Having my own airplane would mean we’d see a lot more of my brother-in-law and his wife and their son in California and my sister and her family in Washington state, and the plane would also be used for short hops to friends and relatives in Tennessee, Alabama and east Texas.

What a dream! The foreign travel — declining in my case because of those literally painful layovers for connecting flights — would be wonderful, too, with overnight stops at all the places you’d really like to see and have only flown over.

I’d call my airline “Eastern Elderly,” and put plenty of reclining chairs in the main cabin so that all my friends could put their feet up and snooze. There’d be a kitchen stocked with smoked salmon and caviar and champagne, a small room for those who wanted to talk on their cell phones, and big TV screens programmed with hit Broadway musicals. (I’d be the boss of what we watched.)

Tom Benson and Ellen DeGeneres probably never fly on plain old commercial airlines; I know I haven’t seen them in economy class. That’s the only thing that really makes me envious.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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