• U.S.

Modern Living: Let’s Just Land

2 minute read

It was not the Salvation Army but Pan American World Airways that came to the rescue of two bewildered Britons last week.

Charles Wood had, until three years ago, worked as a janitor at the British Ford plant in Dagenham, Essex. Since his retirement, he and his wife Marie had been hoarding every shilling against the day that they could take off for a visit to Marie’s sister, who lived in Corpus Christi, Texas. Last week they sailed into New York harbor on the Queen Elizabeth. As careful budgeters, they had already purchased their tickets for every step of the way: round-trip from New York to Texas and back on American Airlines, one-way back to Britain on Pan American. After spending the night in a Manhattan hotel, they proceeded to Idlewild Airport for the Texas leg. Once airborne, the Woods settled back to enjoy their flight.

After an hour or so, Charlie leaned across the aisle and asked a fellow traveler companionably: “And where in Texas are you flying to?” Said the other passenger: “Texas? I’m going to London.”

“By way of Dallas?” asked Charlie in astonishment. “No, this is a direct flight,” replied the passenger.

“He means some little London in Texas—some little spot we haven’t heard of yet,” suggested Marie.

But doubt assailed Charlie. He fished in his pocket for their tickets, and then the awful truth dawned. He had given the airline clerk the wrong ones. “Crikey, Mother,” he said to his wife, “we’re going the wrong way.”

When the Woods landed in London 6½ hours later, Pan Am gallantly put them up overnight, next day jetted them back to New York, all with its compliments and with the comforting news that their return tickets to England on June 20 would still be good. Once again in the U.S., the Woods were escorted aboard an American Airlines flight for Texas. Deplaning in Corpus Christi at last, Charlie Wood paused to reflect on his 12,000-mile junket, murmured: “Worse than Columbus, by far.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com