A few weeks ago Leanne and I spent time in Nashville with our singer songwriter, pipe carving, Feechie loving, Bible authoring, and story reading friends. We were at Hutchmoot. Hutchmoot is a hard gathering to explain to the uninitiated.
We flew United to get there, which got me thinking. Years ago when I was a Bible college student in Chicago, I flew United quite a bit. My father had a consulting business and he flew a lot. By visiting home frequently and taking occasional trips, when at home in San Diego, up to San Francisco to help with the business, I earned the coveted Premier Executive status. A twenty-two-year-old wearing a backpack looked out of place in the Premier Executive lines of the mid-1990s. Whenever I flew, well-meaning United employees would approach me.
“Sir, this is the Premier Executive line,” they would say.
“Yes, I am aware of that,” I would reply.
No longer patronizingly, but now condescendingly, “You are a Premier Executive?”
“Yes, I am.” I would say. “Would you like to see my Premier Executive card?”
Often these well-meaning United employees did want to see my golden Premier Executive card. Furthermore, they wanted to inspect it. I do not ever recall an apology after the verification process. Usually just a begrudging assent to the facts and then the back of a United employee walking away. Over the few years that I flew ORD to SAN and SAN to SFO, many of my fellow Premier Executives questioned my status while we waited in line together. Let’s just say there was never much camaraderie between a young, casually dressed college student holding a Koine Greek text and the forty-something crowd who at that time were high on the fortunes of Enron.
So a few weeks ago I was both surprised and not surprised to see that United was still at it. They now have a Premier Access blue carpet at their gates. The blue carpet is cordoned off by bollards on three sides. It is possible to enter the bollards and stand upon the blue carpet, but only those with the proper status may go further. With no uncertain terms, well-meaning United employees announced that those with Premier status may pass through the bollards, walking upon the blue carpet. Whenever this happened, a United gate agent would confirm that the person on the blue carpet was indeed Premier and then open the bollards to let him or her pass.
Honestly, these were not the swankiest blue carpets. They did not appear vacuumed, perhaps ever. If your child’s pacifier fell on one of these blue carpets, you probably wouldn’t wipe it off on your jeans and stick it back into your kid’s mouth. Over the course of our flights and layovers, we witnessed late-arriving Premier status fliers enter the bollards and stand on the blue carpet, despite the free flowing lines all around the bollards, and wait to be released through the special entrance. We saw an innocent, if not so observant, non-Premier status flier enter the bollards and step onto the blue carpet only to be rejected during the verification process and have to do a one-eighty to walk off the blue carpet and around the bollards to get into the jetway.
Interestingly, no one ever paid any attention whatsoever to the blue carpet at their destination. No well-meaning United employee guarded the bollards to keep commoners away at arrival gates. And I never once noticed a Premier make an effort to walk across the blue carpet while leaving the jetway, hurrying off to important business. (I did once, defiantly.)
For the last few years, Leanne and I have traveled (usually flying Southwest) to Nashville in order to attend Hutchmoot. People ask us what Hutchmoot is and it is hard to answer them. It is kind of like an airplane journey to a fairytale land where you get to hangout with the Premier Executives of the Christian singer songwriter and book publishing world and everyone who flies to this land gets to walk through the bollards and across the blue carpet though in our excitement we all forget to and just hurry onto the plane, bumping into each other like a bunch of nerds. Then when we get off, it’s blue carpet everywhere. We greet each other and talk about music and story and art. And we cannot help but walk all over the blue carpet and get it even more dirty than before we arrived. Andrew Peterson wets it with his tears and we smudge the wetness with our shoes. Everyone spills Evie’s food all over it. It’s the beautiful kind of mess that foreshadows the heavenly feasting and fellowship that draws us all together here on earth with anticipation on our hearts. And all day Monday poor Father Thomas vacuums.