Escape From Colorado
I was slow in getting away from Pueblo. The Colorado side of the family isn’t a hurried bunch and especially with Dad in the hospital nobody but me felt any haste in leaving. “Only the weekend,” I demure. Dad’s second stroke arrived just as I went to my first lunch with new co-workers on Monday. After not-working for nearly five months, I had selected this fateful day to get started at a new job?
He’s doing pretty well, for a guy who can’t talk and who requires 24-hour nursing assistance, a guy who has several weeks of therapy at the hospital before he gets to return home, and years more of therapy ahead. He can take a walk down the hall with a PT, and peck out words on the computer. He is in better shape than when I saw him last year, when a blood clot had only hit one hemisphere of his brain, rendering him aphasic and depressed. It is like all the progress of the past year has been erased and he is pushed back a bit further, except that this time we know what the game is: less terror. He seems in better spirits this time, but it will be a long, hard road.
Anyway, the drive back caused me to wonder why 50% of Colorado drivers prefer to drive in the left lane of the Interstate. I’m glad I’m not into road rage because with a 75 mph speed limit, I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out why the passing lane was cruising along at about 72. “It would kill you to merge back to the slow lane?” But with a plane to catch and with the steering wheel of a nice Rental Car with a Powerful Engine between my hands, the locals made sure I made time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Fortunately, the Tollway around greater Denver saved me time to the airport. Hertz had a sign about charging $6/gallon if the tank wasn’t full, so I stopped in at the Rental Return Road Rage n Go to fuel up. My, what a large tank you have! And an annoying car alarm that started to beep as I replaced the nozzle and said Yes I want a receipt.
The Hertz return lot was a basket case. Twelve lanes, probably more, full of parked cars. My cohort pulled in to beyond-the-end of the remaining lanes, and as we extracted our luggage and wondered if one of the outnumbered attendants would be able to scan our barcodes and hand us our receipts, we noted that the entrance to the return lot was now choked with a line of cars waiting for spots that no longer existed. “Good thing we made it when we did,” I remarked.
I figured I’d drop ritual in favor of getting home and shuffled over to board the packed shuttle bus. It is a five-minute ride to the terminals, but since I was with Frontier Airlines I got to wait another ten minutes as the bus dropped off passengers on one side of the building, and then drove around the the other side of the building to drop us off with our airline. I wandered around a bit trying to figure out where Frontier Airlines checkin actually is: checkin is upstairs, you see, because they drop you off at baggage claim. I took the escalator upstairs and since I have used this airport before I narrowly avoided the rookie mistake of following the sign at the top of the escalator that points toward “checkin” . . . If you follow that sign you wind up on the other side of the terminal from where your airline is, wondering why your airline is not on the list of airlines even though you followed the arrow with utmost diligence, until you ask an airport employee where your airline is and they show you to turn around and go back to the other side of the building. This time I did an about face and walked to the side of the terminal where Frontier is. They put the self-checkin as far away from the escalator as possible, but I eventually found it.
Now, Denver International Airport is by far the dumbest airport I have ever used. They could drop you off at the checkin level, no? They could just drop you off in one spot since you walk just as far anyway, and the stupid signs will lead you to the far side of the building anyway, right? Perhaps they could put up signs listing all the airlines and tell your dumb ass to walk back over to the other side of the building. But that’s not enough for Denver. No, Denver is special. At Denver, there is no choice: you must go downstairs and wait for the subway, which has a total of four stations and talks a lot. Four stops: one for the big confusing building and one for each of the terminals. My favorite part of the subway is getting off at your terminal and making your way up the narrow flights of stairs trapped behind a herd of luggage-toting human cattle. That’s when I must suppress my urge to low.
But as I discovered on this trip: Terminal A has a “sky bridge” that you can cross while while listening to a recording of soothing native American music. And Frontier flies through Terminal A. The last moving walkway towards the security gate was blocked, even though it was moving. I hustled over to the left side and ended up inadvertently cutting in the security line that overflowed past the end of the moving walkway, which I guess is why they had blocked it: Look at Driver’s License Guy can’t keep up with the moving walkway.
Which is good, because after the line after Look at Driver’s License Guy, X-Ray Man castigated me for leaving my belt in my shoe, and for not laying my items flat enough. “You’re supposed to keep everything separate,” he explained to the ignoramus who smiled back at him vacantly, his aircraft now two minutes from departure.
(Good thing I left my gel deodorant and toothpaste at home.)
He re-ran items that I then collected and hugged around my torso as I ran . . . and ran . . . and ran downhill past a little kid who told his father “no running” and his father said he wasn’t running and then to an escalator down and then past more stuff and then into the terminal proper, and then past a dozen gates, and finally to gate A48, where a few employees were standing around a minute or two past departure, to tell the huffing puffing guy that he had just made it. A moment later a lady poked her head out the causeway door and I got to wait at the very end of the line of passengers who were still getting seated.
I nearly scored the exit row, because the seat right in front of mine was vacant and I was the last guy on the plane . . . except for the flight attendant who got on after me to make his way home. I moved back a row to sit next to a lady who preferred to pay $5 to watch cable TV shows to looking out the window. She pulled the shutters to maximize her viewing pleasure, and as I peered at the flight map and saw that we were in for a beautiful southern approach in over San Jose and up the peninsula, I buried my head instead in my magazine, and barely noticed the soft landing.