Archive for July, 2017

A Weekend in the Sea Breeze

We took the kids to the coast last spring. Seven of us packed into my Toyota Land Cruiser. Despite its 200,000th mile being just around the corner, we took it over the minivan. We thought its more rugged nature would play better in the great outdoors.

I loaded the cruiser with enough beach inflatables to fill both the luggage rack up top and the luggage shelf that plugs into the back trailer hitch.

Ever seen an inflatable kayak? The seasonal inventory buyer at Costco has. He put about 30 “Sea Eagles” in his San Antonio stores five Christmases ago. One of them now sat on top of my SUV.

We rented a house in the middle of Old Rockport. It was a VRBVPO (Vacation Rental By Very Proud Owner).

It was a mile from the man-made Rockport beach, but by the decor inside, you’d think it was on its own island in the Caribbean. Our weekend was basically brought to us by the color turquoise.

Don’t get me wrong, “Sea Breeze Cottage” was worth the money. It just wasn’t always worth the wait.

Our kids are bigger now than when we took our last trip to the coast, but they are also more mature. We thought the two factors would cancel each other out. For the most part, they did.

Silence is golden on road trips with five kids, but it’s also frequently broken by “I’m hungry” or “Stop it!” or “How much farther?”

We played a game called “Catch Phrase” to pass the time. You’re supposed to get your teammates to guess a common phrase without using the words in the phrase itself. One of our younger children didn’t get the message.

“This is a house that’s at the beach. It’s a blank house.” (Beach house)

“This is a day we celebrate mothers.” (Mother’s Day)

“This is a pie that’s made in a pot. It has chicken in it.” (Chicken pot pie)

We got some great laughs, and his team got a nice win.

Once we arrived, coastal fishing was high on the agenda. Unfortunately, I’m not much help. Having grown up in a landlocked state, I’m basically a fish out of water.

Thankfully, the Good Lord sent an angel in the form of a retired Texas A&M marine biology professor. He had also doubled as a bay fishing guide for three decades until retiring a few years ago.

He pointed us to a green-lit pier and showed us how to bait live shrimp. We nabbed a few speckled trout.

On the way home, we took the ferry over to North Padre Island.

“Why do they call it an island when it’s part of Texas?” asked an 8-year-old on the third row. Great question. And why is that island sitting in the “Gulf of Mexico?”

“Gulf of Texas” makes better sense. I agree. Somebody call our state rep…it’s time for a referendum!

Speaking of referenda, our 6-year-old daughter decided one was in order. She polled her brothers, “Who wants a new dad? Raise your hand.” I couldn’t bear to see the results in the rearview mirror.

But then her sweet, angelic voice cast what may have been the deciding vote: “I don’t.”

With that, I found the strength to drive another mile.


Kevin Thompson can be reached at

The Miracle That Is Southwest

A summertime nod to family not residing in Texas put me on a Southwest Airlines flight recently. The Dallas-based company still gives a breath of fresh air to the otherwise tedious process of air travel.

Business schools study Southwest for its human resources, corporate efficiency and customer service feats. “Hire for attitude and train from there” is their mantra as I remember it – and experience it.

Even as Southwest has acquired other airlines and added longer haul domestic and international flights, the company still seems to find enough “people people” to service its growth.

Permitting employees to be themselves while doing their jobs is risky business, but Southwest has reaped the rewards.

Rather than squeezing employees into proverbial corporate overhead bins, Southwest allows painting outside the lines – in a regulated industry trying to keep things inside the lines.

This paradox captures the brilliance of Southwest.

While post 9-11 rules and restrictions became more inane, mundane and insane, Southwest flight attendants turned them into fodder (while still getting required messages across, of course.) They simply followed in the footsteps of their irreverent founder, Herb Kelleher.

Southwest’s people people made flying tolerable. The worse the Transportation Safety Administration treated you (“Don’t touch my junk!”), the more you wanted to fall softly in the outspread wings of Southwest.

“If you’ll listen to these pre-flight instructions like it was your first time to hear them,” a flight attendant said on my recent flight, “I’ll pretend like it’s my first time to say them.”

“It’s time to stow all electronic devices,” she continued, “such as laptops, blenders and weed whackers.” The mental image cracked me up.

She wasn’t finished: “Please fasten your seatbelt like Beyonce wears her pants: tight and low on the hips.”

Even the pilot got in on the fun.

“The flight deck would like to welcome you to Flight 5602 with service to San Antonio and continuing service to New Orleans and Sydney, Australia.”

Sydney? Southwest does fly to Mexico and the Caribbean nowadays but not quite the South Pacific.

When we landed, the pilot accidentally welcomed us to our city of departure.

“I’m sorry, folks,” he said with a laugh. “It’s my second day on the job.” The line got plenty of laughs, mainly because we had already landed.

With booking and boarding systems so smooth, personnel so competent and prices so competitive, flyers tolerate Southwest’s general admission seating and crowded cabins relatively void of creature comforts.

Southwest’s mindset seems to be: The pompous class can pay up elsewhere for its assigned first class seat complete with personal flip down TV screen. They won’t get our jokes anyway.

A college friend has worked for Southwest since we graduated. She recalls the time the airline offered $29 fares to select regional cities. The promotion was advertised on Monday Night Football. First-time flyers came out of the woodwork. Their most popular form of luggage? Brown paper grocery sacks.

While Southwest is more than a common man’s airline – plenty of businesspeople refer to the airline as their “corporate jet” – you can bet the people people treated the football fans like kings.

Follow Kevin Thompson at

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 209 other followers


%d bloggers like this: