Saturday, March 19, 2011


Since my sister moved to Alabama a few decades ago she has flown home several times.   Elaine is somewhat impatient but not so much as to cause a problem most of the time.  One thing she did learn is that when flying home to Kansas City there will be at least one layover that could last anywhere from five minutes to hours.  Add the layover situation to the fact that she arrives at the airport well before an hour prior to the plane actually starting boarding and she came to a conclusion.  She did not want to drag her luggage around for over an hour at the Birmingham Airport and did not want to have to drag the luggage off of a plane and onto another one during the layover.  It was well worth the time to check her luggage in Birmingham  and let the airlines handle it from there.

There were pros and cons to checking her luggage.  Of course the biggest pro was that she did not have to drag her bag around for most of the day.  There were cons as well.  Airlines are big and busy and they move fast.  No matter how many times you may have marked on your bag where it is supposed to go to, you are always taking the chance that it could end up in Fairbanks, Alaska or some South American city that you had no intention of ever going to visit in your entire life.  Your luggage could see more of the world than you ever dreamed of.

The other big con was in Kansas City.  I am usually the one who picks her up at the airport.  I try to get there as close to arrival time as I can because the terminal parking at Kansas City gives you free parking for the first half hour before the rates start to climb substantially.  I would arrive at the airport right on time and be there just as the plane arrived or within ten minutes of its arrival.  This should give us plenty of time to get back to the car and out of the parking lot before the thirty minute time limit had expired.  That is it would have given us plenty of time except for the fact that she would check her luggage and we would end up standing around a carousel watching other peoples luggage come crashing down onto the turntable while waiting for hers to arrive.  Usually this ended up costing me not only time but dollars as well since time in the parking lot equals dollars.

I have discussed this situation with Elaine several times over the years.  We just did not look at things the same way.  She usually had just one small bag and would be easy to carry onto the plane.  But from where she stood she would be dragging that little bag around airports all day long and it was worth a few dollars from my pocket for her not to have to worry about the luggage.

From my viewpoint of course was the fact the we were wasting a lot of time standing around in a crowd of people anxiously watching each bag that came up from the dark underworld which many passengers refer to as baggage hell.   We would stand in a big crowd of people always anticipating that hers would be the next one out but hers was never the next one out.  Not until the crowd of people had dwindled to the point where we all knew each others name and what kind of luggage each person was looking for.  Occasionally phone numbers would be exchanged with promises to get together sometime while they were in Kansas City.

When her bag did finally arrive I would insist on carry it for her.  This was not only because I am very nice gentleman who knows that it is more or less my responsibility to carry her luggage for her, but also due to the fact that I wanted to control the pace in which we walked to the car in hopes of saving a few dollars before the clocked rung up another half hours worth of charges on my ticket.

This pattern of traveling for Elaine and me trying to time it to save as much money as possible in parking fees went on for years upon years.  Each time Elaine would come into town and she would come off the plane the first thing I would ask is "Where is your bag?"  The first things she would say to me was"Oh, I checked it".  I would sigh and we would begin the long walk to the baggage claim area talking small talk along the way.

It was a case of where my logic would never sway her to do the obvious thing when it came to being efficient in her use of time.  I never gave up on her though.  I think that every time she flew in and was able to tell me that she had checked her bags it gave her a smile. She knew that I knew she would have checked her bags but in a way it was a small victory for her over my logic.  No matter how much I explained it to her there was not a thing I could do when she made the decision in Birmingham that morning to check her bags.  By the time I had a chance to explain it to her again the whole situation was already over with and we were standing amongst our new friends waiting for bags with them.

Then a miracle happened.  It was an extremely hot day in Kansas City and I had arrived about ten minutes before her flight did. They had been working on the airport over the last few weeks installing new passenger ramps that allowed the passengers to walk directly from the air conditioned plane into an enclosed air conditioned ramp and straight into the air conditioned terminal area.  Elaine's plane was due to arrive at one of the gates with the new ramp installed.

I stood there and watched her plane pull up to the gate.  It was the gate furthest from the baggage claim area so even of her bag was the first one out we would not be there to take advantage of the situation.  I began to notice the passenger ramp popping up and down.  It would never quite get over to the plane and wasn't even close to getting up to the height of the door on the plane.  This went on for quite a few minutes until I was getting a little agitated because I figured that this of all days would be the one where Elaine's baggage was off the plane first.  Had to be on this day because it was obvious that there would be no way we would beat the thirty minute time bomb because nobody was getting off of the plane.

Then I noticed the back of the plan open up.  It was one of those planes that has the stairs that fold down to the tarmac from the rear of the plane with steps to walk up to the plane or down from the plane.  I saw them coming down the stairs.  The passengers were coming off the plain from it's rear onto the extremely hot tarmac.  Then then would have to walk about thirty yards in the hot blazing sun to a door in the basement and then walk up two flights of stairs before entering the terminal.  The ramp had malfunctioned and so the airline was forced to ask their passengers to de-board in this peculiar and inconvenient way. 

I continued watching the line of passengers come down those stairs in the back of the plane when I saw my sister.  I was stunned for a second before the irony of the situation sank in and hit my sense of humor.  For the first time Elaine had decided to be nice and carry on her luggage.  So there she was struggling with her bag coming down the stairs of the plane into one hundred degree heat and stepping onto the shadeless tarmac.  She then began her hike across the tarmac to the shade of the basement where every one else's luggage was being loaded onto trams and taken down to the baggage claim.  I lost sight of her then but knew from comments made by other passengers before her that it was hot in the basement and they had to walk up two flights of stairs to get into the terminal.  I formed a picture of Elaine dragging her carry on luggage up two flights of stairs in heated shade.

Finally Elaine came through the doors.  When the coolness of the terminal hit her she stopped and let her whole body absorb the cool air.  Then she saw me.  It was not a smile she gave me although I was grinning a fairly large smile at her.  For the first time the first words out of my mouth were not "Where is your bag?" and her first words to me were not "Oh, I checked it."  No, instead my first words were "So, how was the flight?" and her first words to me were "grrrrr"

As we were driving from the airport to mom and dad's house she insisted that I thank her for doing carry on instead of checking her bag.  I did thank her.  I thanked her and told her I didn't even mind paying the extra fee for parking while she trudged across that hot tarmac.

It was worth the extra money.

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