I Once Had Three New Year’s Eves.

Mexico City to Los Angeles, December 31, 1975.

The takeoff from Mexico City was uneventful, we’d reached cruising altitude, and the captain had turned off the seat belt sign. We were on Western Airlines “champagne flight” advertized as “The only way to fly.” Their mascot was Wallybird, often seen lounging on top of the plane, leaning against the tail, and holding a champagne glass.

The flight attendants were already pushing their cart down the aisle, pouring champagne for willing and thirsty passengers.

I pulled my pre-printed leaflets from my bag in the overhead bin. My wife found her stash of dozens and dozens of small plastic bags of confetti. I handed out my copies of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns’ famous (and famously misquoted) “Auld Lang Syne.”

It was a minute to midnight, Central Standard Time and that meant it was New Year’s Eve.

My wife passed out the confetti, I pulled out my harmonica, and we led the 30 or so around us in a more-or-less correct version of the song which used Burns’ words as lyrics.

We finished the song, threw confetti, and drank a champagne toast to a Happy New Year.
Western Airlines Wallybird on carpet
We all laughed, some re-read the poem to see where it is mangled by popular recollection of the hard to grasp Scottish dialect. We all drank more champagne.

After a while I checked my watch again and looked at the flight map. We’d just crossed into Mountain Central Time. It was midnight again, New Year’s again. I was up, harmonica ready. My wife pulled out even more confetti. The flight attendants were game.

We sang again, tossed confetti again, drank again and toasted again.

Then we settled down. A little over an hour later, we were over the Pacific, making a long dogleg into LAX airport, trying to keep the noise down over the neighborhoods near the airport. Here we were on our glide path to landing.

Here we were in the Pacific Standard Time zone. For the third time, it was midnight. Up again. More champagne appeared, more confetti rather miraculously appeared. Our final rendition wasn’t a rowdy as the first or second. This time, on our third New Year’s Eve of the night, the singing was quieter, more reflective.

And that’s my story of three New Year’s Eves in a single night. And tonight as I think of my friends, I’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet for auld lang syne for surely, were you here, we’d say and there’s a hand, my trusty fere! And gie’s a hand o’ thine! And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, For auld lang syne.

Here’s the true lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus – For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus…

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus…

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us briad hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus…

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus…
by Robert Burns

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