Saturday, February 2, 2013

A CAUTIONARY TALE There is a gremlin in my life. This Gremlin’s principal occupation has been the esoteric skill to know when I am traveling and where. With that knowledge the Gremlin then arranges for the plane I am on to be parked at the farthest gate from the main terminal. The day of the year, the season, the hour, the airport, the continent, the century is no obstacle to this Gremlin. Take Beijing Capitol airport in China. A monstrosity of modern design built to accommodate the Olympic traffic. Beijing Capitol Airport has reached the top ten among international airports based on traffic. Woe be to the traveler who flies there. The place is big enough. Far too big. Distances rival mini-marathons. Day or night, even in the wee hours when there is little traffic at the airport, my flight, irrespective of airline, is parked at the outer reaches of the airport. It happened at 02:00 one morning. Surely there would be empty gates close to the center of the terminal. And indeed there were empty gates, by the dozens. I counted them as we taxied by to our destination at the end gate. I suppose there is some solace knowing you will be way out there. My hometown airport, Shantou, newly built, has, like many Chinese airports been built with the future in mind. There are many more gates than flights at this stage of development. My Gremlin thinks is a grand opportunity to do its thing. I frequently take a late flight from nearby Guangzhou that lands at 11:55pm. Invariably we are parked at the farthest gate. Odd too, because the early morning flight to Guangzhou at 07:30, the reciprocal number of the incoming flight, often leaves from a gate next to airport security. I suppose they move the plane from the night before; or switch aircraft. Makes perfect sense. Why would an airline use the plane from the last flight in the night before as the plane first thing out in the morning to the same destination? Foolish me. Stick with me in case you find a way to avoid this Gremlin because the Gremlin acquired a new skill this morning. I was scheduled to take my daughter to the airport in Seattle at 06:15. Knowing my penchant for zombie behavior in the wee hours, I prepared everything I needed the night before. Clothes laid out. Gym bag with clothes and wallet and phone and e-reader inside. And my car keys were placed in the side pocket of my warm-up suit; the usual spot. You’re getting the picture? Up and at em at 05:45. Glass of OJ placed the night before on my desk to wet the whistle. Contacts installed, teeth brushed, clothes on and….. OOOOOOPS. No car keys. “I never lose my car keys”. I am not the misplacing or losing kind. I forget lots of stuff. Anniversaries, birthdays, why I crossed the room, items three and four on the shopping list I should have made but said to myself the fateful “I’ll remember”. But car keys. Never forget….that I can recall. I wore clothes with a total of six pockets. Gym, shorts, warm-up jacket, and down vest, each with two pockets. Checked em all. Twice, then three times. Checked inner pockets where I never put keys. Suppressed panic. “This morning of all mornings when daughter needs to get to the airport.” Check last night’s clothes. Trousers. Different down vest. Nada. Nothing. Curses and mutters when I realized the little bastard, the Gremlin was taunting me. It had been weeks since I flew and the Gremlin was clearly using this pretext to keep its skills honed. “Drive the poor SOB nuts because he won’t be thinking of this.” My mind raced. Alternate plans. “Borrow” my host’s car. He’s fast asleep so can’t ask him permission. He’s a good fellow and understanding. Thank heavens a solution. I’m early. Once more through all the clothes and all the pockets. Desperately reworking in my mind every step I took last night after I put my car to bed. Can’t be in the car, otherwise I couldn’t have locked it. Checked anyway. Car locked. Checked under the bed. Keys might have dropped on the floor. Found someone’s glasses. Not mine. Looked inside shoes and under chairs. Checked every corner of every room I had been in. Nada. Zilch, Niente. Started up friend’s car. Gas gauge close to empty. Can’t make the airport on fumes. I’ll make it to daughter’s house and we’ll use her car. Plan C or D by now. That Gremlin just sat there grinning silently. GOTCHA….again. Daughter had a spare key for my car. WHEW. Last time I checked, 8 years ago, a new key for a VW was $135 dollars. I can imagine what it costs today. We made the airport with plenty of time to spare, then I back-tracked. Leave daughter’s car at her house. Keep her keys. Pick up friend’s car, put gas in, and return to friend’s house. Its just 07:30 and he’s still asleep. Another WHEW. My clothes now bulge with my spare car key, my daughter’s car key to be returned later, my friend’s car key and, and, and, what the hell is this in the right hand pocket of my warm-up suit. My original car keys. By now the Gremlin is rolling on the floor laughing its fool head off. It’s sneering at me. GOTCHA GOTCHA GOTCHA. Have you ever done this: I pulled the keys out, looked at them as if I had never seen them. I put them back into the pocket where I found them. I pulled them out and did it again; just to be sure they wouldn’t disappear again. Forewarned is forearmed. The next time you are parked at a far gate, think for a moment: this may be only the beginning of your woes. Cheers peter

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