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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Adventure, Part III or "Twin Cities? I Thought You Said Twin...."

“I was booked on the flight to San Francisco,” I said to the lady behind the counter. She asked for my name and looked up my new itinerary.

“They put you on a flight to Minneapolis,” she said. Minneapolis. About a thousand miles north and approximately 16 feet west of where I was standing. “You have a connecting flight from there.” She printed out my new boarding passes and pointed me in the direction of the gate I needed to be at. The flight to Minneapolis was already boarding.

My newly recovered track skills were once again put to the test, packs of skinny people parting around me like the wake around the hull of a boat. When I regained self-consciousness, I found myself seated on a plane as it meandered around the tarmac in Memphis.

We followed the Mississippi north, farmland splayed out on either side of it, seemingly without end. The cabin crew distributed drinks and snacks with feverish abandon. I tried to recover as much of a sense of my own being as I could scrape together in order to plan my next moves, all of which were essentially out of my hands.

Once I had deplaned or unplaned or plain gotten off the plane, I did what I always do. (No, after that.) I found the gate for my next flight. During my copious free time in Memphis, I had been able to phone my wife to ask her to email Mark to let him know that I was running late and to give him my cell phone number. As a result, I landed with a couple of voice mail messages waiting, and Mark and I were able to make voice-to-voice contact for the first time.

Having loads of time to kill, I made my way to the inevitable Food Court and got some of the worst overpriced Chinese food I’ve ever experienced. In fact, it would have been lousy even if it were underpriced. After I coughed up the ransom for my tray of food, I started, with shark-like intensity, to scan the area for an open seat. I saw one facing the window, a barstool-adjacent-to-a-counter sort of arrangement, and made a beeline for it. As I got to the spot, I noticed a woman shepherding her son in the same general direction. Since there were two spots open, I pulled up short and started to scan for a new haunt.

“Sit down,” she said.

“No, I’m fine,” I said.

“Sit down!” she said with the vehemence of a woman who had been trapped in a confined space with a small boy for several hours.

I acquiesced, feeling guilty throughout my miserable repast and convinced that she was sending hate rays my way with every coo and correction she showered on her boy. “Indigestion be damned!” became my motto, and I bolted both the food and the place as quickly as possible.

Back at the gate, I called my boss. “Where are you?” he asked.

“Minneapolis,” I replied.

“What?!” came the response. I couldn’t have agreed more.

At last, the cattle call for boarding was started, and, having been put in the emergency aisle by the airline, I got to slip past even the first class passengers and those with children and disabilities. I was on my way to San Francisco, high on adrenaline and coffee, and wondering what it would be like to go through the place the natives call The City for the first time since 1970.

I was going home.

Tomorrow, Part IV: “Hi-ho, Hi-ho, We’re Off to See the Show.”

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