not allowed to park in spot B-3 at Oakland International anymore. That
was the first change we noticed last night.
favorite parking spot -- and the ten or fifteen rows of airport parking
lot surrounding Row B -- have been permanently blocked off from the
public. Even without my glasses, I could make out the newly-erected
barricades through the darkness.
David said, matter-of-factly. "That's different,
isn't it?" And he navigated the Subaru into one of the few available
spots we could find, somewhere out in the nether regions of Row X or
Y or ZZZ. Once we'd parked and locked the car, David took my hand and
led me carefully through the maze of pedestrian crosswalks leading to
the terminal. Without my glasses, everything much beyond two or three
feet was a complete blur.
got Chrismas lights up already?" I scowled, squinting into the
darkness. "Those are traffic lights, honey," David patiently replied.)
was the first time we'd been to the airport since the world exploded in
September. We knew there had been changes made -- we were expecting
changes -- but it's still a little jarring to actually SEE the changes
for yourself. Airport parking was one. So was the National Guardsman,
strolling around the perimeter of the terminal. (He looked so young!
Even in camouflage gear with a gun slung across his chest, he still
looked like he would be right at home standing on my doorstep, holding
a Double Deluxe Pepperoni.) The airport wasn't nearly as crowded as I
was expecting it to be, though. I thought there would be miles and
miles of stranded irritable travelers everywhere, waiting in long lines
for their luggage to be meticulously hand-searched. But the place
was only moderately busy for a Thursday night, even one week before the
As soon as we walked through the doors we
checked the monitors: Jaymi's flight had just arrived, three minutes
earlier than scheduled. Now all we had to do was wait for her.
change: we are no longer permitted to wait for incoming passengers at
the gate. No one is allowed through the electronic sensors, in fact,
except for ticketed travelers and authorized airport personnel. So we
camped out in front of the baggage claim area, downstairs near the
front of the terminal, and waited for the newly-arriving passengers
from TicTac to begin making their way down from the upper level gates.
let you know when I see her," David said reassuringly. I stood there,
Mr. Magoo-like, squinting into the face of every passing stranger. (Is
that you, Puss?) And that's when I noticed yet another,
slightly subtler change: the fact that all of those passing strangers
were peering right back at me. Total strangers, all over
the terminal, were looking at each other with more care and more
caution than I can ever remember. The rental car reservations clerk,
watching a young mother hoist a sticky toddler into a collapsing
stroller. The security guard at the front door, keeping an unblinking
eye on the elderly Asian-American couple pulling luggage off the
carousel. The uniformed National Guardsmen, looking directly into the
eyes (and the hearts, and the minds) of everybody they passed. Instead
of walking around the way we usually do, with our eyes on the floor and
our minds a bazillion miles away, we were all actually making
eye contact with one another.
was as though we were all saying the same thing. Hello. I'm
harmless. Are you?
was just about to say something to David about it -- Isn't it
strange, how everybody seems to be NOTICING each other so much more
than usual? -- when suddenly Jaymi was walking down the
walkway from the gates, smiling cheefully, one modest carry-on bag
slung over her shoulder. (Of course I had to wait until she was four
inches from my nose before I was certain it was her. Where the hell are
my GLASSES, anyway??) We were immediately swept up in hugs and 'hellos'
and 'How was your flights?,' and I forgot all about the peculiar
phenomenon of strangers actually looking at each other in an airport.
I care about right now is the fact that Jaymi is here,
safe and sound ... that she survived the flight (and so did I) ... and
that I have my beautiful daughter in my maternal clutches for the next
three days. I plan to spend the entire weekend looking at her.
or without my stoopid glasses.
a great weekend, everybody!