Flying JetBlue to discover butterfly effect at class reunion
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The butterfly effect is a term used in Chaos Theory to describe how tiny variations can affect giant ... and complex systems, like weather patterns ... suggest that the wing movements of a butterfly might have significant repercussions on wind strength and movements throughout the weather systems of the world.

Mitt Romney was right.

Five or six years ago, he told me I should fly JetBlue, which he had encouraged to locate at a terminal at Boston's Logan Airport.

Before that, when I mentioned having grandchildren in Nevada, he'd recommended Delta to Salt Lake City, then a hop over the mountains to Reno. Until then, I'd been flying American to get the extra legroom, but took his advice and found Delta the easier route. I really like the SLC airport so didn't take his further advice to try JetBlue through Denver instead.

Last month, when I decided to go to my 50-year class reunion in western Pennsylvania, I remembered his recommendation and went online to see if JetBlue could get me somewhere near my hometown without first flying me to Newark, where I didn't want to go even now that Chris Christie is New Jersey's governor. Found many direct flights, Boston to Buffalo, for under $200 round-trip.

I really didn't want to fly out of Logan at all, because I'd heard about the invasive security there, though I hadn't experienced it. Since 2008, I've been taking the train to Reno.

But it's a long drive to St. Marys, Pa., and passenger trains don't go there anymore. So with friends offering to pick me up and drive the final lap, I decided to put up with the airline hassle and fly JetBlue.

What a delightful surprise! The online booking was easy, the terminals were new, the personnel in their bright blue uniforms friendly. When both my going and returning flights were delayed an hour, passengers were given regular updates regarding their status and reassurance about connecting flights. I thought we'd gone back in time to when flying was a good experience!

The planes seemed new with lovely gray leather seats, which were comfortable, with legroom! You could pay for even more if you wanted it. I didn't rent headphones for the short flight; didn't need sound to watch a soccer game on my personal cable TV screen. Our snack was blue potato chips, made with blue potatoes! And the populist in me loved having only one class of seating.



Barbara's emerging monarch butterfly, its translucent chrysalis above it. The second chrysalis, yet to open, is visible bottom-center left.
Click photo to enlarge.

Best of all, security wasn't traumatic. Aside from the shoe removal, it was similar to the security measures I'd experienced in most of the years I've been flying. They do use the more intrusive screening, but not all the time for everyone.

I was a little concerned about the butterflies I was bringing back in my knapsack. I thought if they were confiscated and destroyed, I would be responsible for a reverse "butterfly effect": Their fragile wings would never flap, never cause a tiny breeze that could help move clouds to relieve a drought somewhere.

So it was nice when, after taking a very close look, the screener let the two chrysalises go through; they are now hanging like jade and gold jewels on their little branches on my windowsill, waiting to become monarch butterflies and move outside to my butterfly bush to flap a series of breezes during their brief lives.

If I can find some milkweed here in manicured Marblehead (monarch caterpillars can eat only milkweed), they may even produce babies for the autumn-born generation that flies to Mexico for the winter, fluttering breezes across North America!

In case you are wondering: The chrysalises were a gift from my childhood friend, Sara, who brought them from her upstate New York home to where I was staying with other childhood friends, Anne and Jerry. She gave them five caterpillars; we thought she was crazy until we were all gathered, with family members, around the table delightedly watching them wriggle from their skins into their chrysalises.

It's funny, one notes at a 50-year reunion, how people don't really change much. We sometimes needed the high school yearbook photos attached to our nametags to recognize faces, but the essence of our classmates was familiar even those we hadn't seen since graduation.

From first grade, Sara was the sensitive artist; in high school, the science student who first told me about DNA. Now she is a potter with a certified backyard ecosystem, bearing butterflies to friends.

Lindy still laughs her way through every sentence; Joe is still the exuberant, argumentative farmer/logger whose politics resemble mine; Nancy, the only girl who could beat me at tennis, is now an impressive golfer. No one was too surprised when Jim's jokes were the dinnertime entertainment.

Our class valedictorian, a Salem-area former selectman whom I won't "out" as my classmate, still exudes intellectuality, as Patty exudes earthy common sense. My best friend, Anne, still calmly dispenses wise advice, focused on family, as I focused on travel and political activism.

Eighteen classmates were listed in the reunion booklet as deceased. The rest of us celebrated still being alive, flapping our wings, making our small difference as the world turns.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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