From The Side of the Road… would I lie to you?

I was flying out of the Nashville airport recently, and I passed by a large, prominently displayed electronic sign, which said the following: “Plane Truth #1: BNA stands for Best National Airport. For real” (BNA is Nashville’s airport code). Then in smaller print just below: “Don’t fill up on just the facts. Food and beverages available on this concourse.”

I found this both baffling and offensive. For starters, it’s completely false. The Nashville airport was at one time called Berry Field, and when the airport expanded it became Nashville international Airport/Berry Field, with its IATA code, BNA, standing for Berry Field Nashville Airport. In case you’re wondering, by the way, IATA does not stand for “It’s A True Acronym,” though I’d certainly vote for that as “Plane Fact #2” whenever they get around to it.

I probably would have let this rest if they hadn’t added the insulting “For real.” Without that, I would have just said to myself, “Hmm, that’s not true. I wonder if they’re also lying about there being food and beverages available on the concourse. Oh well, I need to get to my gate anyway.” I suppose the “for real” was just them doubling down on an urban legend of their own creation. It represents their commitment to the false story. 

I’m uneasy with this kind of blatant gaslighting right before I entrust my life to a pilot, crew, and air traffic control.

It’s bad enough that we have to navigate our way through this confusing world, constantly trying to separate misinformation from truth about matters that are really vital, like elections, COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and the question of who played banjo on Jimmy Martin’s recording of The Grand Ole Opry Song. Now we have an airport authority lying about itself for no real purpose other than to direct traffic to their concourse vendors, when they could easily have done that with a true story: “Did you know that your luggage will sometimes come out on a different carousel than the one posted? For real.”

Perhaps as a way to promote bluegrass music, we could talk the folks at Best National Airport into having a whole series of “plane facts” about our music. Under each “fact” could be the message, “Don’t just graze on bluegrass, there are lots of other eating options on this concourse.”

Here are some suggestions:

  • Bill Monroe named his band The Blue Grass Boys because the original bass player in his band was Vida Blue, who went on to pitch for the Oakland A’s. For Real.
  • Before Flatt & Scruggs hired Josh Graves to play dobro in the band they already had a unique band sound, thanks to their French horn player Sylvester “Skippy” Coleman, best known for his hot solo on Your Love is Like a Flower. It’s true!
  • The first bluegrass festival ever was organized by former Tennessee governor Ned McWherter and held in his backyard in 1989. The featured acts were Jim & Jesse, Minnie Pearl, and the Rolling Stones (playing acoustically). It really happened.
  • The International Bluegrass Music Association is headquartered in Nashville but holds its annual event, The IBMA Big Bluegrass Thing (IBMABBT) in Laramie, Wyoming, citing better hotel rates than the Music City offered. Amazing but true.
  • Alison Krauss’ band name is shortened to AKUS, which stands for Alison’s Knights of the United States. Would we make that up?
  • Most 5-string banjos actually have six strings, but the sixth one is virtually invisible to the naked eye. Now you know.
  • Bluegrass mandolinist Adam Steffey, though well-known for his instrumental prowess, is also a gifted tenor singer, having at one time performed opera for a living. He famously received four encores after a performance in Venice in 1986. We wouldn’t lie to you.
  • Before it became known as “The Birthplace of Country Music,” Bristol TN/VA was called “The Birthplace of Cheese,” because the first cheddar cheese in the world was made there in 1972. Honest.
  • The “bass fiddle” is not a bass, nor is it a fiddle. It’s really a form of 4-string harp, covering the low baritone section of the tone spectrum. Really.

After looking this over, you can just consider this a companion piece to last week’s list of conspiracy theories. Except the conspiracy theories are all true. For real.