Would You Like a Coke with That? by Ray Fuentez

In 1973 Patti and I flew from San Juan to Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands with a couple of our friends on what at that time was PRINAIR. One of our friends was of considerable size (If he had not been the best man at our wedding 49 years ago, I might say he was obese. But I’d rather say John is “stout to the max.”)

I knew it was going to be a fun flight when the young man working on the Coke machine put down his pliers and screwdriver to come to the counter to issue our tickets and boarding passes. The same man took our luggage to the plane and climbed into the cockpit. After he adjusted John’s position in the center of the plane by looking at him from various angles of the mirror, the young man started testing the radios. All seemed right so he took epaulets out of his pockets and put them on his shoulders and started the engine.

Corine asked him how long was the flight to Saint Thomas and he nonchalantly replied, “Forty minutes if we land on the first pass.” As we approached Harry S. Truman International Airport I could appreciate his answer. First, we made a pass over the rooftops of the village low enough for me to read the Fruit of the Loom labels on a pair of mens’ underwear hanging on a clothes line. (And I’m near-sighted.) Then we circled back and approached the real runway which is more like a flat mixing bowl missing one side.

But all is well that ends. When we got back to PRINAIR San Juan, I needed a soft drink to help combat the pina coladas and planters punches I had been drinking for three days. I approached the Coke machine. “Just a minute” said our versatile young man, as he took out his screwdriver and popped the door open. “What would you like? It’s on the house.”

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