Friday, August 26, 2011


Last week found me back in the (not-so) frozen North, as I had to make the trek back to the UP to attend my niece Jourdan’s wedding.
I’ll have more on that in a future post – along with pictures – but for right now I wanted to detail my journey back to Virginia.
I had thought about taking the early morning flight, which departs from Hancock at around 6 AM, but the problem with that would have been that I’d have arrived back in Virginia at around 11:30 AM.  That would have been good, inasmuch as I would have had the better part of the day ahead of me upon my return, but the problem was that there wouldn't have been anyone available to pick me up from the airport at that time on a Tuesday.
And so I found myself taking the afternoon flight, which, ideally, would have placed me back in VA sometime around 8 PM.
The Houghton County Memorial Airport isn’t a big place.  Really, it’s just one big open room, with a partition separating the terminal from the secured area.  There’s only the one gate, which is why I always laugh when I fly there and the flight attendant, being unfamiliar with the place, says, “For those of you continuing on, you can find your gate information from one of the electronic boards.”  Yeah, okay.
In any case, when it comes time to go through the TSA check, the line forms along the partition that separates the gate from the terminal, and there’s just a security rope separating passengers from the non-passengers.
On Tuesday they announced that because the plane we would be flying out on was a bit late getting in, they wanted everyone to go through TSA a bit sooner in order to speed things up once the plane had arrived and was ready for us to board, so we all got in line and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.
Finally, a TSA agent poked her head out from behind the partition and said that a piece of equipment had failed, and this was causing the delay.  It was later clarified that it was, in fact, the x-ray machine.  This meant that they had to screen everyone’s carry-on luggage by hand.
While I was standing there waiting, I heard…something, something that made me turn my head and look into the waiting area where non-passengers were seeing off friends and family who were leaving or else waiting to see friends and family who would be arriving.
I’m not sure what it was I heard, exactly, but there was something about it that sparked some sense of recognition deep inside me.  So I turned, and my eyes fell upon a rather large woman, who looked vaguely familiar, talking to an older, even larger man, and as I studied her features and took note of her mannerisms, recognition washed over me in a wave, and I thought, “Of fucking course.”
It was my ex-wife.
I caught a glimpse of her in a store, once, nearly eleven years ago, but other than that, it’s been over sixteen years since I last saw her. 
Given that she was now the equivalent of at least two and a half of the woman I’d known, I initially doubted that it could be her, but despite it all, the features were there, the mannerisms were there, and I realized that the man next to her was her father, and then I spotted her mother next to him.  (Later, I also noticed her sister.)
I assume they were waiting for someone to arrive.  I didn’t talk to them, and while I’m fairly certain that my ex-mother-in-law spotted me, I tried to remain inconspicuous, and I don’t believe that my ex herself saw me.
I have to admit, though, that all things considered, there was part of me that thought that I’d kind of like for her to see me.  I mean, it’s as though we’re inversely proportionate to the way we were when we last saw each other.  I’m much thinner, and better-looking overall, and she’s…not.  So, you know, life well-lived being the best revenge an all that.
But, really, I have no desire for revenge, there’s honestly nothing for us to talk about after all of these years, and, given the issues she’s had with brain, there’s a good chance she wouldn’t have recognized or known me anyway.
Still, there was one tiny, cruel part of me that thought, “Man, did I ever dodge a bullet.”
And there was an even tinier, even crueler part that thought, “Bullet nothing; I dodged that boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Her appearance aside, just seeing her was…unpleasant, and was something I definitely could have gone without doing, so I found myself thinking – not for the first or last time that day – that I really should have taken that earlier flight.
The manual screening caused a 40-minute delay for the flight, which meant that I’d only have 20 minutes to get to my gate in Chicago, and made me conclude that my suitcase probably wouldn’t make it onto the plane.  I wasn’t overly concerned, given that I was going home and there wasn’t anything in there that I absolutely needed.  Still, it was an annoyance.
Once we got to Chicago, we were forced to circle for over 10 minutes due to a thunderstorm, which left me even less time to get to my gate, and left me certain that my suitcase wouldn’t make it.
However, once I got to my gate I found that the flight to Dulles had also been delayed, so I had enough time to get something to eat.  I was still fairly certain that my suitcase wouldn’t make it.  Then the flight was delayed again.  Then we boarded and sat and waited for a long time.  We finally started moving, got to the runway, and were told that we had to wait some more, as there was a storm between Chicago and VA, so we might have to change the flight plan.  Then, a few minutes later, the captain announced that he hadn’t received any new information other than that we should just take off within the next couple of minutes.
So we did.
The delays, by the way, were caused by the fact that the plane we were originally supposed to fly out on had been struck by lightning when it was flying into Chicago, so they had to scramble to find a replacement – the captain took the opportunity to put some spin on the whole thing and say that it was an example of United’s commitment to safety – and the replacement plane hadn’t been quite ready and needed to be cleaned and stocked, which added the additional delays.
Eventually I was back in VA, and I was surprised to find that my suitcase had, in fact, made the journey, and was even more amazed to find that it was right there as soon as I walked to baggage claim.
Oh, and as something of an aside, while I was refilling my pockets and whatnot after going through security in Hancock, I noticed that my sister had called while I was in line.  I tried calling her back, but got her voicemail.  When I landed in Chicago, I had a voicemail from her telling me that she had just called to tell me about the earthquake in the DC area.  At that point I actually looked at my work e-mail and saw that there had been one from facilities talking about how the building had been evacuated as a precaution after the quake hit.
There have been a couple of earthquakes in this area since I’ve lived here, but I’ve never actually noticed them happening.  It seems that this one I would have noticed had I been here.
(Upon returning home I found that the quake hadn’t resulted in even so much as a crooked picture on the wall.)
And that was my trip back to Virginia.  Next time I’ll tell you about my time in Michigan.

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