It’s late as the plane banks sharply for its final approach into the airport. The airport is designed poorly and I impatiently wait for the plane to taxi to its gate. An endless trundle across a vast expanse of tarmac punctuated by strobe-lights and assorted aircraft in the throes of divesting themselves of ground, or gaining it. (I can hear something…)
I keep my bag in hand, ready to leap into the aisle at the first opportunity but many others have the same idea. They too are astute business travelers. It’s like war, you see. Prepare well, or die drowning in a tide of strollers. As the plane comes to a stop it’s fastest fingers first. We size each other out of the corners of our eyes, trigger happy travelers. Suddenly there’s mayhem as we all scramble for the door. I get stopped short by an old lady, staring helplessly at her bag stowed three rows back, from where I’m approaching. I stop and am compelled to help. Nothing goes to waste and the space I could’ve occupied at the head of the line is taken up by a burly gentleman delighted to escape the family with kids sitting next to him.
As we troop out I keep my eye on the signs for baggage claim, but it’s not so easy. The concourse is too far. A train must be boarded, an endless escalator must be stood on, a late-night gaggle of tired travelers must be navigated. Everyone is bursting at the seams with anger, impatience and fatigue but the veneer of politeness stays. This is America.
The bags take their own sweet time to appear, possibly exchanging pleasantries and bar-codes with other bags on the way. Laughing as they switch hapless owners.
Bag in hand it’s on to stage two of the retreat. My car is parked at the other terminal and it’s a brisk stroll. I pray that I can walk fast. I pray that my credit card works at the payment kiosk. I pray that my car’s still there. I hate parking in the open lots but there’s no option. Too many people like me have places to go, people to meet, flesh to press and cars to park. (I can hear something in the distance…)
The car’s still there. An icy wind blows, urging me to hasten its release from this gulag. I pull out of the parking lot, offer my parking stub as a peace offering to the tetchy kiosk which proceeds to wave me on warmly in a voice only a robot’s mother could love.
I pull out of the parking lot and drive onto the interstate. Country roads, speed me to the place I belong. The traffic’s crazy but I have the perfect solution. I put my foot down. When you do it in real life it works sometimes. When you do it in a car, it works every time. The engine roars to life and other drivers get out of the way. Maybe it’s the sound of the engine, or my weaving, or the mad look in my eyes. Diminishing marginal utility of patience with time, and all that. (I can hear it a bit more clearly now….)
The car is eating up the miles but it’s like a never-ending buffet. I check the tripmeter and the numbers indicate it’s all coming up roses, but it seems different. There appears to be a time warp of some sort. I can clearly see the turn that leads to the house BUT I JUST DON’T SEEM TO BE GETTING THERE! Every inch feels like a mile now. Goddamned time warp.
Finally I pull into the parking lot. But years of obsessive compulsive disorder have compelled me to park the car facing forward, so I torture myself a little more by reversing the car into its space. (Almost there)
Fortunately the bag cooperates by not making love to the car door on its way out. I lock everything that needs to be locked and run towards the sound which by now is deafening in my ears. An irresistible call.
I ring the bell and the door opens. I can hear it better than I ever have. My family calls out my name and rushes to greet me. There is light. The door closes. I am lost. I am gone.