Our plane touched down in Birmingham at about 7 p.m. The captain said, “Welcome to the Magic City, we hope you’ve enjoyed your flight.”

My wife turned to me. I was jammed between a sweaty tire salesman from Sheboygan and a snoring 78-year-old Presbyterian named Marge.

My wife leaned across the aisle and said to me, “Yes. We ‘enjoyed’ our flight immensely.”

The passengers all came barreling out of the plane, cattle-like, onto the gangway, travel weary. Dutifully schlepping our carry-on luggage.

It never fails to amaze me. No matter how many times the airport informs passengers on the acceptable sizes of carry-on items, there are always people shoving carry-on bags roughly the size of 1962 Buick Roadsters into the overhead compartments above my seat.

We deboarded the plane in a hurry, whereupon we all stood around waiting in the restroom line, hoping to pee some time before the next papal installation.

Afterward, we shuttled downstairs to collect our baggage.

According to American tradition, your bags will always be last on the luggage merry-go-round. This is a universal law. My wife and I stood saggy-eyed, watching luggage pass by on the conveyor belt. None of it was ours.

Eventually, after every human being in the Western World had collected their personal luggage, even people who had wandered in off the street, two pitifully familiar bags came through the chute, battered and duct taped.

We called an Uber. And within minutes, we were taxiing through the streets of Alabama’s second largest city. Birmingham. Home.

“Welcome home,” said the Uber driver.

“Thank you,” we said in a pleasant daze.

The Uber guy looked at us in the rear-view mirror. He smiled and spoke in a sage-like voice. “There’s no place like home.”

There really isn’t.

This morning, after a week in the chilly North, I awoke in my home. There were three dogs waiting patiently for me to open my eyes. They sat beside my bed, staring at me, willing me to wake up.

I woke up early. I heated the percolator. I watched the sunrise. I saw American robins, prance around my yard, looking for worms. I watched a Downy woodpecker beat his head on an old live oak tree.

Then, I fired up my truck and drove into town to buy a newspaper like I do every morning.

I’m a longtime newspaper lover. And even though everyone says the newspaper business is dying, I feel it is my duty to help keep it afloat.

I walked into the convenience store.

On my way in, I passed a Cadillac, parked at the curb. The Caddy was an unnatural shade of green, with giant chrome hubs, and windows tinted with roofing tar. The vehicle’s stereo system was emitting bass notes loud enough to puncture asphalt.

The man in the front seat rolled down his window and smiled at me. All his teeth were gold.

He waved at me. I waved back.

Inside the convenience store, I saw the man with the golden smile again. He was buying Black and Mild cigars and a Mountain Dew. I stood behind him in line, holding my newspaper and my paper cup of weak coffee, ready to check out.

“Excuse me, sir,” said the man with gilded incisors. “Would you allow me to buy that newspaper for you?”

I didn’t know what to say. “Buy my newspaper? Seriously?”

“Please,” he said.

“Are you serious?”

He shrugged. “Why not? You don’t need a reason to be a blessing. Let me bless you.” He smiled his golden teeth at me again.

So I let him pay.

The man paid for my paper, then bid me good day. He drove away, thumping off down the street, emitting enough volume to alter the climate patterns. And I felt good all over.

I don’t know why I just told you all this. Except to say that our Uber driver was absolutely right.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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