Brad's Blurb

Planes, Trains and Automobiles Thanksgiving

I am going to use this edition to write about a family tradition that I am looking forward to during the Thanksgiving break-watching the film classic from director John Hughes, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1988).  The movie stars John Candy and Steve Martin.  Although, not necessarily “one for the kids” based on some very colorful language (one particular scene between Steve Martin and a car rental agent), the movie has a memorable ending that might just leave you feeling a little contemplative about Thanksgiving.  Some other notables you might recognize with bit parts in the movie include: Kevin Bacon, Dylan Baker, Ben Stein, Edie McClurg, Michael McKean, and Ruth De Sosa. 

So what’s the movie about?  En route to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family, easily annoyed businessman Neal Page (Steve Martin) finds his first-class plane ticket has been demoted to coach, and he must share his flight with obnoxious shower ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy).  A sudden snowstorm in Chicago, IL forces the plane to land in Wichita, KS.  Unable to find a room in any of the four-star hotels, Neal is compelled to accept Del's invitation to share his accommodations in a cheapo-run down motel.  Driven to distraction by Del's annoying personal habits, the ungrateful Neal eventually lets forth with a stream of verbal abuse.  After realizing his mistake, the shamefaced Neal tries to make up to Del, but there's a bumpy time ahead as the mismatched pair make their way back to Chicago, first in a balky train, then by way of a refrigerator truck.  We know from the outset that the oil-and-water Neal and Del will be buddies by the end, but it's still a fun ride.  One of my favorite clips from the movie is a two minute scene where a highway patrolman pulls them over on the road for speeding:

After two days experiencing a variety of travelling calamities, Neal and Del finally arrive in Chicago.  After saying goodbye, Neal boards the L train for his home…but one thing is bothering him…the odd way Del spoke about his wife and his home (supposedly in Chicago).  So Neal goes back to the train station to find Del sitting outside the train station, alone and dejected.  Del admits to Neal that he doesn’t really have a home, his wife has been dead for years, and that he doesn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving.  Moments later we see Neal and Del walking up to Neal’s home.  So what are my takeaways from the movie? 

1.       Vacation travel plans don’t always go as planned.  Be prepared for chaos and be flexible.  When plans don’t go as expected, screaming obscenities at a car rental agent won’t get you that free upgrade, or even any car for that matter.  If someone says to you, “Come on now, don’t pull a Neal”– you now know what it means…take a deep breath and chill. 

2.       Don’t use travelers’ checks.  Wait, does anybody actually use them anymore? 

3.       Use bus travel only as an absolute last resort, and hope for a seat alone.  Better yet, buy two seats for yourself and block if off with yellow crime scene tape. 

4.       If you find yourself dealing with an unexpected travel companion lugging a big trunk, be wary, but it can still turn out good in the end. 

5.       And finally, enjoying a few “bar-minis” from a cheap hotel room can be an enjoyable distraction. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  

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