When I left Italy in 2000, one of the popular songs was “Tutto depende” (Everything depends), from the chorus that “Everything depends on the point of view from which you see the world.” OK, not highly profound, but a catchy tune and I thought of the song on the Knoxville to Charlotte (NC) leg of my annual trip to Ancona, Italy to visit Maurizio’s family.
Wen I got on the plane and was about to take my window seat, the flight attendant asked me if window or aisle “mattered this time.” From the eager-camper look of the 50-ish man in the aisle seat and the solicitous manner of the attendant, I determined that the right answer was “No, not really.” Both smiled broadly. “Looks like you got the window!” she declared and the man happily scooted over. “It’s his first flight,” she whispered. The man had a heavy country accent and with a few “excuse me’s” I got that he built Wal-Marts, usually driving between sites, but the urgent need of a new store in Wal-Mart-starved Arkansas had necessitated this flight to Little Rock from Tennessee (via North Carolina). I asked if he was nervous about flying. “Not really,” he said gamely.
Then with a little camera, he began taking pictures, dozens of them, primarily of asphalt. I saw through his viewfinder: asphalt runway with and without grass, with and without yellow lines, white lines or combinations of lines. Asphalt without lines at all. When it was time to “turn off all electronic devices” he turned a despairing, pleading look to the attendant, who made a cute “Go ahead, I’m wearing blinders” gesture and he kept snapping. More asphalt racing by. Blissfully satisfied, he leaned back in his seat. “You know,” he told me. “I built those runways. Twenty years ago. Laid every one of them. Really hard, making runways. They’re very picky about loose gravel.” He took a few more pictures as we climbed. Ribbons of runways amid fields. Tutto depende.