Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Claiming My Baggage

The other day, I went to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport to pick up my wife and daughter from their trip to visit her sister's family in Germany.

This should not be news, but it's a big deal.

I'm not even talking about their trip to Germany. I'm talking about my trip to the airport to pick them up from their trip to Germany.

I don't like to travel. I hardly ever drive long distances. Airports, like all crowded places, make me nervous. And I have no sense of direction. As a result, it would be easier for me to drive, even with a map, GPS, and travel guide, off the business end of a Norwegian fjord before I could find my way to an airport a hundred miles away in the same state. And I don't like to admit this.

So it's a big deal.

After entering the city and navigating 16 lanes that were actually one lane before the continental drift, I found short-term parking. I paused for a solemn moment and wondered if Christopher Columbus would have felt this way, had he suddenly discovered short-term parking.

I entered the airport and saw two sets of escalators, a stairwell, and several elevators, each going to a different level. And a lady pedaling around on a cart full of flowers. I picked a ramp that led down into the belly of the beast, where people crawled around with their own, visible baggage.

Arrow-studded signs unwrapped from every corner, all at once, from walls, ceilings, and lit-up displays, labeling hallways that branched off in every direction and were designated by colors. Red, blue, yellow, green. I felt like a disoriented Christmas ornament.

None of the signs said "This way to pick up your family from their trip to Germany," so I gave up and headed for a desk with a big yellow question mark on it. I asked the man, who had one crossed eye, how to get to gate 17 (where their flight was coming in). He pointed to a sign that said "tram," and asked if I had my boarding pass, because I would never get past security without my boarding pass.

Then I realized, out loud, that I was supposed to go to baggage claim to meet them, and that Gate 17 was for boarding passengers. (Does it make sense to anyone else that, since I have no luggage, naturally I wouldn't go to baggage claim?)

He kind of looked at me like I had something else in mind besides flying, so without trying to explain ("I hate airports"), I said thanks, smiled, and walked away. After all, how many grown men ask for directions to a boarding gate when they have no intention of boarding?

The intercom then announced that the terror alert for that day was "elevated," for those of us who weren't already walking around with knotted stomachs.


While I waited for Posy and Poppy, someone from London asked me to help him count out the correct change for a phone call. I never felt more useful in my life.

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