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.
Debbie Galleher - February 17, 2023 1:33 pm
What a wonderful way to be welcomed home ♥️
Carolyn Allen - February 17, 2023 1:34 pm
That just proves that you can’t always tell a book by its cover!
Trent - February 17, 2023 1:35 pm
…just like NY 😉
Bobbie Jo Bright - February 17, 2023 1:38 pm
The other rule about luggage is that if by chance it doesn’t come out last, people MUST crowd around the conveyor, effectively blocking you from retrieving your bag without somewhat tackling them on your way forward.
William Whited - February 17, 2023 1:40 pm
Welcome home Sean!
Trudy - February 17, 2023 1:42 pm
Welcome back to the South.
stephenpe - February 17, 2023 1:43 pm
Mark Twain and now the American newspaper. I recently had the parent of a child I taught buy my coffee and pastry in the local Circle K. I guess to thank me…..I have read the newspaper since the mid 60s and there is no doubt it is dying. I hate to see it go. But Mark Twain is immortal and almost ageless in his relevancy. I would love to take Sean fishing one day and pick his brain. He is a regional treasure………
Cristie Rethman - February 17, 2023 1:46 pm
Thought we were the only ones with a percolator 😃 It definitely makes the best cup of coffee! Just finished You are My Sunshine and it was definitely the best book I’ve read in a while- a gal named Jaime gave it to me! My hubby and I are looking forward to seeing you at the Grand Ole Opry – his anniversary present to me! Have a beautiful day at home! Keep shining ☀️ Hope you never meet another snake again 😅
Ann Thompson - February 17, 2023 2:02 pm
Thanks for sharing. Nice story. Well told.
Linda Lewis - February 17, 2023 2:06 pm
Welcome back to the Heart of Dixie!
Anthony Wilkins - February 17, 2023 2:22 pm
Thanks for supporting the newspaper business! Remember that saying,”Democracy dies in the dark!”
Christine - February 17, 2023 2:28 pm
Aww, what a great gesture of love from one human to another. God bless you both today.
nancy. of course. - February 17, 2023 2:28 pm
Love love love
Stacey Wallace - February 17, 2023 2:29 pm
Thanks, Sean. I’m glad you are back in Sweet Home Alabama. The Uber driver and Dorothy were 100% correct; there’s no place like home. It’s my favorite place to be until God calls me to my eternal home. Love to you, Jamie, Marigold, Otis Campbell, and Thelma Lou.
Patricia Gibson - February 17, 2023 2:34 pm
Good lesson in that story!❤️❤️
Sherri Nielson - February 17, 2023 2:48 pm
I love this column!
Robbie McAlpine - February 17, 2023 3:03 pm
I’m so proud you live in Alabama! One of these days I have to get you to listen to download the WCRL Radio app and listen to the Swap Shop we talked about on the podcast. It comes on at 11:15 Mon-Friday if you ever need something to listen to while eating that pimento cheese sandwich for lunch lol.
Sharon - February 17, 2023 3:17 pm
I love this. I love you. Even strangers can see what a blessing you are!
David Britnell - February 17, 2023 3:25 pm
There really is no place like home! I love my home in the hills of Arkansas with it’s beautiful countryside and the rivers and streams that snake their way through! Loved the story Sean!
Jenn - February 17, 2023 3:26 pm
One of the many SHAMEFUL moments in my life I have to recall now and then, to try to avoid any more, is that when we lived in England I asked a kind neighbor girl (a new friend of my daughter) what that small rosy breasted bird outside the window was. “A robin,” she replied. I said, “No it isn’t!” since I totally missed the fact I soon realised, our robin with an orange breast is named after that English bird.
Anne Arthur - February 17, 2023 3:31 pm
Oh, I feel you. All the way from NY to the homecoming rituals. Life, well described. Enjoy home.
Rae Malcolm - February 17, 2023 3:34 pm
This makes me feel good all over.
Gayle Wilson - February 17, 2023 3:42 pm
There is goodness everywhere we look. And don’t believe anything you hear about angels in white robes and majestic wings. Sean came in contact with one this morning with golden teeth, driving a snazzy cadillac.
Ginny F. - February 17, 2023 3:46 pm
We moved back to NJ after 20 years in AZ. It is great to be home again.🤗
Page Robertson - February 17, 2023 3:49 pm
Just FYI, since the printed B’ham News will be no more after next week, we LOVE the Tuscaloosa News, and it is delivered to our house. By the same carrier that brings the USA Today and the NY Times! We like to hold the paper while we drink our coffee…but then we are 80!
Linda Hubbard - February 17, 2023 3:50 pm
Pubert Earle Bozemann - February 17, 2023 3:54 pm
Pone, great to have you home! Felt like I had a little vicarious journey myself. But, yet and still, like my old Delta buddy says, glad you decided it was time to “kick the tires and light the fires. ” (and don’t let the back door hit you on the butt on the way out!)
Welcome Home Bro!
PMc - February 17, 2023 7:00 pm
Click your red shoes…there’s no place like home!
Peace and Love from Birmingham ♥️🙏
Cheryl - February 17, 2023 3:55 pm
Again a heartwarming story! Thank you!
sjhl7 - February 17, 2023 5:06 pm
No place like home!
Donna - February 17, 2023 5:10 pm
Nice man. Glad you gave him the pleasure of blessing you! But I seriously thought you were going to say you went into the store to buy the paper, and there was no more paper because they’ve discontinued the print version. Such a shame for a city our size.
William R Webb - February 17, 2023 5:16 pm
Thank you. A nice read after all the gloom and doom on NPR this morning. I’m recommending to NPR that they read your posts on air during the news program. We could all use a respite.
pattymack43 - February 17, 2023 5:25 pm
Good vibes enjoyed by all!! Blessings!!
Dolores - February 17, 2023 5:38 pm
I don’t travel much, I’ve always been a homebody. For me the best part of any rare trip is always coming home. My felines are the welcoming group, the kitty committee.
Every day and from many sources we are encouraged to be kind, to be a blessing. To accept kindness, to let others do unto us is the other side of the blessing coin.
Linda Moon - February 17, 2023 5:39 pm
I know why you told us this. It blessed me when I read it, and I bet it blessed lots of other readers too. My most magical memories are from growing up in Birmingham. Why, even a couple of wanna-be magicians (my brother and his pal) practiced their craft there at home! Welcome Home, Sean.
mccutchen52 - February 17, 2023 5:44 pm
My daughter had an entirely different experience coming into Atlanta and renting a car. May she should fly into B’ham and drive back.
Sarah Dyess - February 17, 2023 5:49 pm
There is so much good out there, if we will but look for it! Sean helps us do that ~ I call them “Sean Dietrich Moments” and almost always have at least one when I go to the grocery store, Walmart, fast food places, etc., sometimes from the least likely people . . .
Gunny - February 17, 2023 5:53 pm
Nice, Sean! And I share your sense of duty to keep the newspaper business afloat!
Pamela H Thompson - February 17, 2023 5:58 pm
My husband and I were in NYC too! We went to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens for our 50th anniversary. It was in July but we are still celebrating. We ate a lot of good food and saw a Broadway musical, Funny Girl. It was warmer there than it is here today. We got back at 9:15 last night. We were thankful to get in around the storms.
We enjoyed your columns about NYC
Pubert Earle Bozemann - February 17, 2023 6:01 pm
BTW PONE, I hope neither of your seat mates took off their shoes- “whoo, them dogs are barkin! I guess not, you survived!
Becky Souders - February 17, 2023 6:18 pm
Last week, on a drive-through, the young man asked me if I believed in blessings. After some hesitation, I nodded. He then said that the car in front of me had paid for my order. Blessing indeed, and just as you said, “I felt good all over.” Keep writing, Sean Dietrich… your hyperbole makes me smile!
Ginga Smithfield - February 17, 2023 7:07 pm
Yep, there’s no place like home sweet home!!
Pat Rigsby - February 17, 2023 8:13 pm
This is classic humor — kept me amused & laughing all the way through it. Thank you!!
kingswaydaughter - February 17, 2023 11:41 pm
No matter where I go on a trip….it can be by car or air, I always have to go through this agitated restless feeling that I am leaving home. Once I get on the road or up in the air, I settle out and am fine. But for three days prior, my soul in in angst…..because I love my home. My home is ‘my sanctuary’ and there I rest or do whatever knowing I am where I belong.
June Anderson - February 18, 2023 12:34 am
Love it. AND, as a bonus, you made me remember my mother’s beat-up metal percolator with the glass bubbler on top. Sweet memories. Thanks.
charles Farrell - February 18, 2023 2:29 pm
Truly, there is no place like home. Good or bad it is what it is. Thank God.
thomas penn montgomery - February 19, 2023 12:37 am
Sean , I must say that you the new flying arrangement and experience down pat !!!!!!!!
Thanks for the memories -ugh!
Cheryl Yarborough - February 22, 2023 1:39 pm
Welcome Home! Best part of travelling is coming home, I agree. Hate flying but even driving away , I just love the feeling of walking in your home and feeling like that’s the best part of the whole trip.Home Sweet Home.