by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 6, 2004
THE INTERMINABLE TERMINAL: OFF THE ROAD AGAIN
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Whether you rush around preparing for the holidays or a holiday, there are always things left undone that nag you while you're away. What if something happens and you don't make it home and people have to come into the house and see my unmade bed. What if? Really, what if?
Well, if there had been more time, of course, I'd have made the beds, but the airport insisted on our showing up two hours early, and what if I said five minutes to make the beds won't make any difference? And what if it did make a difference, and we reached the airport too late to meet their requirements? And what if orange alert turns red, and what if... ?
At just about this time, my nervous What Ifs are addressed by my cool, calm inner voice saying, What does it matter? You can't make those beds before the 5th of January. Look at all the sweaty work you've avoided by not rushing around the house before jumping into the car and heading for the airport?
Ah, that's better. My conscience is clear. It wouldn't be a problem if the time I tried to save was expended in folding and rolling sweaters and slacks into an easy-to-rifle-through and zip-up-again suitcase. That's okay. Unmentionables must be seen through zip-lock bags; cosmetics, the same.
When these procedures began, we all took it as part of a great adventure: will they pull me out of the line, do they really think that infirm old man could be a terrorist, why do they ask us to remove our hats and jackets and not ask that man in the sky-high toupee to reveal what's under there? Who's directing this traffic?
Now we're the traveling sophisticates. We follow the guidelines addressed in every newscast around heavily traveled weekends. Then we see (what I did this time) a suitcase unattended in the middle of the walkway. What gives? We're curious, but we figure with all the Home Security Guards ambling about, one of them would have questioned it by now. Or would they? Of course, that's the question.
One airport has an outlined footprint on a riser. "Put your foot there. If it buzzes, go over there and take off your shoes." At another airport, it's just, "Take off your shoes." I was behind this man, looking at me as he bobbed around on one foot and then the other as he unlaced his all-purpose athletic shoes, and he said, "Remember when it was easy?" I just smiled. He seemed nice enough, not really being critical, just going with the flow - as it appears we must.
That inner voice of mine - so often on target - held back saying "Yes, and I also remember nice breakfasts at the Windows of World atop the World Trade Center" - which was true but would not salve his embarrassment as he hopped around, bracing himself against the moving conveyor as it carried his gym bag out of sight and they examined his shoes.
Yes, I remember when it was easy, when there was no hassle. I also remember when there were no wheels on luggage. Now, the wheels are so common we have to put colored ribbons on them to tell them apart. That was so long in coming that many of us snapped our fingers and said, "Now why didn't I think of that?"
And why did it take us so long to think of airport security? In no time at all, it will be so ordinary just falling into the preboarding routine. We'll find ourselves just marching along together, going with the aforementioned flow, getting where we're going with the same comfort we might find in our own bedrooms.
I'm home now. There were no hitches in this delightful Christmas/New Year's vacation with family and friends - until I was on the ground, that is, standing by the luggage carousel waiting for a bag I checked through rather than carry it on after having to "watch" as they rummage and thumb through my gear - now containing dirty laundry.
The wait was interminable (does "terminal" have the same root as interminable?) and we stood and leaned and squatted and paced for an hour and a half. Only one attendant was unloading the plane. A cynic in the crowd said, "This is how they make money in the parking garage." I laughed (because I needed a laugh) but although making a profit is king in these parts, I doubt if the airline, the airport and the parking garage were in cahoots this time.
I made it home. My watch tells the "right" time now, having flown through time zones going and coming; my radio responds to the button I press for easy listening, the garage door opens to my remote control and the cat starts meowing, "Where the hell were you?", his inner voice making demands with a constant, growling meow.
And the work I left to do is still here. On the one hand, I'm sorry I didn't get it done because I wouldn't have anything to do now. On the other, that unmade bed looks every bit as inviting as it would had I tucked the sheets in with perfect hospital corners, fluffed the pillows, and folded the comforter, too.
The imprint left by my sleepy head on the morning I jumped up to get the show on the road was still there. The suitcases I carried now stand near the front door, now coming in, not going out. What if I leave them there? What if I don't? What will it matter? Will it matter?
It mattered if I got to the airport on time. They told me I might miss my plane. My inner voice interrupts just now: It's important to get to bed on time; you might miss your dream.