Wednesday, September 17, 2008


by Mark W. Danielson

It’s amazing how many images come from a couple of words. We’re all familiar with kids writing “wash me” on their parents’ dirty car, or perhaps it’s something a college kid might do to his buddy's, but I never expected to see those words on a commercial airliner’s wing. I must say, it made me laugh and sad at the same time.

You see, the state of the US airlines hasn’t been good since 9-11. Some of this is due to our sluggish economy, but there are other reasons you’ll never hear about. Compared to most foreign carriers, US airline service is as lacking as their image. That’s where this “wash me” comes into play. It’s only visible when the flaps are extended, so only a mechanic could have been responsible. This was probably a mechanic who has seen his or her pension slip away. He or she is also tired of seeing dirty airplanes; ones that used to sparkle with crisp, clean paint jobs. Disgruntled employees like the one who wrote “wash me” are finding creative ways to let their employers know that things aren’t so great. Personally, I thought this approach was a good one. No one got hurt, and those who notice or care get the point. Or do they?

Anyone who has flown internationally since 9-11 knows that most US carriers do not provide meal service in economy class, and it’s minimal in business/first. Compare this to foreign carriers that provide free drinks in a pleasant atmosphere and it makes the choice easy. I’m not sure what the solution is, but the “wash me” on the wing indicates that Mr. Obama isn’t the only one seeking change.

So, how does this “wash me” on a wing flap relate to writing fiction? It shows that stories evolve from a single thought, generated by one or two words. Think about the mental images created by the words rape, murder, and kidnapped; powerful words indeed. Pick a word and write a story about it. Write as if you’re having a phone conversation, or telling a story over a campfire. If you question your imagination, think of how quickly you could make up a story when you got into trouble in your youth. Never compare your writing to anyone else’s; just have fun with it. You’ll be amazed at how creative you can be.

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