Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Leaving On A Jet Plane

The trip to Malta and Scotland was an utter success.

Getting there, however, is a different story.

I flew out of LAX the same day Paul Ciancia decided to visit.  I heard about it from my office, and started checking to see if the flight was delayed or cancelled.  Magically enough, neither.  The airline representative (because I wasn’t about to believe the computer) told me there was no delay or cancellation.

C'mon.  How can this guy be a crook?
My good friend Dave was my ride, and we listened to the news the whole hour-plus trip from Riverside to LAX.  There really wasn’t much in the way of “news” beyond what was known a few hours after the shooting occurred, although the reporters doggedly kept repeating the information most people already had.

What was useful was knowing they’d shut down all ground traffic, including foot traffic, into the airport.  Dave and I grabbed dinner and beers to kill time, and then we made another attempt at the airport.  Traffic was an utter nightmare.  As the passenger, normally this wouldn’t have bothered me.  But as a passenger trying to make an international flight with all that entails, I was a wreck and getting worse by the minute.  I stared at the impassable jam of cars and willed them, ala Magneto, to lift out of our way.  I used every Jedi mind trick I knew (This is not the lane you’re looking for.) to no avail.

Eventually, traffic was let closer to the airport, but not actually into the drop-off zone.  Taxis, however, were exempt from this.  Dave was valiant.  He circled around, cut people off, forced his way through clogged intersections, all with the grace and confidence of a young Richard Nixon.

Me, on the other hand, I’m a frantic Sam Kinison.
I'd LOVE to help you with your bags!

Eventually, Dave managed to swing close enough to the blockaded airport drop-off that I tell him to pull in close and I’ll walk in.  I take off at a semi-frantic speed-walk, with sixty-pounds of baggage and not a wheeled hand-cart in sight.  I truck through two mile-long parking lots and another mile along the causeway into the terminal area.  Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are filled with people who look like me, trying to make their flights and nervous about the whole thing.  I keep up my half-jog only to be turned around at Terminal 3 where the shooting happened.  Police and a hundred men and women in suits and carrying walkie-talkies have the place buttoned up tight.  I have to go back to Terminal 2, around and under to get through.  

As I’m taking the final set of stairs to the bag check-in and ticketing, this older lady is struggling with two hundred-pound bags.  She’s pulling one up a few stairs, setting it down, and then returning the first bag, repeating the process.  She looks pleading at me, and I say, “Don’t worry, we’re going to get you to the top.”  I shoulder my duffle and scoop up her bags with what must have been panic-fueled adrenaline.

I make it to the top like an older version of Rocky Balboa, except panting and under cardiovascular distress.  I’m third in line at bag check-in, soaked with sweat and only an hour before my flight. 

I assure you, this is not the best way to start a 15 hour journey by airplane.

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