Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I was up at 5:00 am and after a quick shower and breakfast, Don drives me to the airport. I have a large lump in my throat as he drives out of sight. Although the check-in line is long, I go to the shelf check-in monitor and am through in a flash. Yes, there is still time for computers to be the panacea we've been hoping for! Security check-in is a breeze and I am at the gate with 45 minutes to spare.

A 7:44 am departure time for my return flight is very different from the ones I've experienced in the past. Typically, the flight leaves around 1:00 am. I really hate catching a flight at that time since I'm already exhausted and out of patience. Furthermore, a bizarre departure time seems to attract equally bizarre people. One memory that immediately comes to mind is the peanut lady. This person was so allergic to peanuts that she could fall seriously ill at just the smell of them. Therefore, everyone was asked to turn over their peanuts, Reece's cups, peanut butter, etc. for the duration of the flight. An even more crushing story was that of the gargantuan man, but then you've already heard that story before...

On the flight I have the isle to my left and two average-size older women on my right. Sometimes you just get lucky. I spent time writing thank-you notes, typing in my journal and sorting photos. When things are going too well, you just know something terrible is about to happen.

Landing in Chicago, one of our most frenetically busy airports known to man, we are put into "the hole" for 25 minutes due to another aircraft that has still not left the gate. Now I am about to panic. I only have 60 minutes between flights and this leaves me with a miniscule 35 minutes to make the next one. The moment I emerge from the plane, I find the flight listings monitor and then do that "OJ Simpson sprint" through the airport. I am to the gate with 20 minutes to spare. Whew! However, I notice my flight number is different from the one on the display. I ask the attendant about this discrepancy and she says the gates were reassigned. The gate I need is on the other side of the airport! When I ask her if I can make it in time she replies, "You better start running right now!"

Suddenly, it seems like everyone is an idiot; the guy and his bags blocking the escalator thus preventing me from running up the steps; the woman who turns right in front of me without looking; the family sitting down across the entire moving walkway. Everybody is an idiot...except me, of course. Bathed in sweat, panting like I need an inhaler, calf muscles cramping like I'll never walk again, I plop down into my airline seat with just minutes to spare. Fortunately, the plane is half empty. After take-off, I sit in the middle of both seats and turn both air vents directly on my face. Have I been tormented enough yet? Heck no! Thanks to Hurricane Katrina the ride is incredibly turbulent and I feel my lunch stirring painfully in my stomach.

As I emerge from the little puddle jumper in balmy Cincinnati, Ohio, a blast of thick, humid air encompasses my body. Ah, to be in Alaska again! My wife excitedly picks me up at the passenger-unloading door and we spend the hour and a half car ride chattering and swapping stories. When I arrive at home, there are welcome banners and notes. The kids are all in bed, but I go wake them up. They are all happy that I am home and miss me dearly.

Daughter Laura is most worried about my dog Dickens. Every evening he would go to the garage door and wait for me to come home from work. He repeatedly roamed the entire house looking for me. This search takes him quite a bit of time because, you see, Dickens is blind. Now that I am finally back home, he never leaves my side. As I am typing this sentence, his sleeping head is pressed firmly against my foot. You will find more sincerity in the wag of a dog's tail then in the handshakes of a dozen people.


Day 16 | Index | Epilogue