Airport Gauntlet

Modern day air travel feels exactly like one of those stupid, ridiculous dares you accepted in grade school, just to prove your chutzpah, then immediately realized, too late, you just signed up for a big, big mistake. You are going to get creamed, humiliated, and you know it.

Yesterday started early. Very early. We gave ourselves three hours to get to our flight and used every minute to get to our gate just as they started boarding. After a traffic backup on I-70, we were strategizing the quickest way to unload, etc. I asked my husband to give me his driver’s license and credit card so I could start check-in at the kiosk. He blanched. He’s been on and off so many planes this week, which suit pocket or coat was it nestled in, safe at home? In about two minutes we figured he’d have to zip home, grab his license, and catch the next plane. We unloaded the car and voila, his license was in his jeans. “I’ve been wearing suits all week, how did this get here?!” I knew how: traveling mercies. You prayed for them, they arrived. Miracle: Delivered!

At check-in we had to reshuffle a bit. You cannot believe how heavy these boxes of formula are. I had bought an extra big suitcase to accommodate them and our clothes for a week. When Joe lifted the packed bag as we were leaving the house, he had me grab another empty one. Good plan. The bag was 80 lbs! I shoved the formula and our daughter’s medical records (2″ stack of papers—and that’s just through March) into the empty, and we were off.

Security was a workout. (I had called TSA ahead of time to get the scoop on traveling with medical liquids.) They were very polite and professional. They swiped everything in sight, did a pat-down on me and our patient, and 10 minutes later, we were off–without my cell phone! The agent forgot to put it back in my coat. So for the second time in my life, I ran back up the “Do Not Enter” stairs. In Frankfurt in 1988, I was greeted by an officer with a machine gun. In these days of global terrorism, no one noticed me. Thank God, because who has time to get arrested when you’re trying to catch a plane? A few minutes later, I got my phone back. Whew!

Now we had to collapse the IV pole and switch to backpack mode while boarding. I have the blood blister to prove it was a bit of a scramble. Finished before takeoff. With the gauntlet run, I had a good cry as the plane took off. I could not believe the day we had dreamed of for so long had finally arrived! It was just such an immense relief to have made it this far. If you’ve talked to me in the last few weeks, you know I have been just living for that moment.

Rochester, Minnesota, is a clean and friendly, short and tiny town. Our hotel is literally across the street from the Mayo Clinic’s main building, the Gonda Building. I stared up at the lighted windows and felt that rush of anticipation like kids must feel when they get to the gates of Disney World (but not as sweaty and miserable because we are in refreshing Minnesota, not a drained swamp).

We had dinner in the hotel, which is the oldest hotel in America, I think. Charming outside, but as we say around here, “At least it’s not prison!” Seriously, the bathroom, which looks like luxury accommodations for a bomb shelter, has a slot in the wall for disposing of old, single razor blades, like they used in the ‘50s. I can almost hear the ghosts of 1950s razors calling to me as I struggle to turn on the faucet. Did I mention the rusted metal medicine cabinet and the fluorescent lighting? Oh well. It ain’t prison!

Last night my husband, Joe, and I decided to pick up some stuff for the hotel room while the girls settled in. (I had brought some flat Christmas decorations to spruce up the room, but they were too tired to hang them.) We asked the locals for directions to a drug store for snacks and sundries and a liquor store for a bottle of wine. “Oh, wow, I don’t think there’s a liquor store within walking distance of downtown,” was the surprised reaction of the nice Midwesterners. It was seriously like the thought of a liquor store had never occurred to them. So then we just felt like Wild West drunks. And super athletes, because it turns out we could walk “a whole mile!” to Buckeye Liquors in no time, but they seemed to think we needed a cab. Let’s just say that, coming from 8500 feet, we could have easily done a half marathon without even panting. They have so much oxygen here!

The weather is terrific! Brisk and exciting, like Christmas could actually be just around the corner. (Colorado had the decency to wait until I had the studded snow tires on the car before it even so much as grew chilly.) Not nearly as much holiday decor as I expected, but we are comfortable and ready to turn our worries over to higher powers and smarter people. Today’s agenda includes goofing off and maybe a cab ride to one of two—TWO!—movie theatres in town. Let the games begin….

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3 Responses to Airport Gauntlet

  1. Ricki says:

    Traffic jam on I-70, imagine that!

    • Ricki, in an earlier draft I had given you credit for teaching us to plan ahead. Now I feel bad that I cut that line. You are a good teacher, and we owe it to you that we had a cushion to handle all the setbacks. Thanks! Hope you are planning with such wisdom for Costa Rica!

  2. Joe says:

    When leaving here, the best thing for Sandy and Lily will be the small airport. I only saw one conveyor belt for bags to be security-checked! When we were in the cab driving to the hotel, I heard the dispatcher telling someone about the chaos that ensued when two planes had arrived at the same time. The smallness reminds me of the Durango airport in the mid-nineties, pre-9/11. Cab driver told us that 80% of his airport pick-ups were for “The Clinic”. 10% were for business travelers. The other 10% . . .

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