This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

But Soft, What Brick Through Yonder Window Breaks?

This morning, I had occasion to be at Boston's Logan Airport. The reason was that I was dropping my kids off for another of their regular visits with my ex-wife (visits that last generally months at a time, in between the infrequent week long stays at home with me). And the reason for that is that, although this is to be posted somewhat later, I am writing this on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Oh, and the reason I specify that this was Boston's Logan Airport is that at the other end of my kids' journey, they would arrive in Billings Montana at an airport the entirety of which (including runways) could fit inside one of the larger baggage return carousels in Concourse A in Boston, but which for some reason shares the name “Logan”, such that my kids spent many hours today enacting their own version of the 70s movie “The Logans Run”.

I have to say, by the way, that there is almost nothing I enjoy about going to airports, and Logan is one of the worst. From the logical “bowl-of-spaghetti” layout of the various airport roadways to the curt “This job would be really awesome if you idiots wouldn't insist on actually TRAVELING” attitude of the people at the ticket counters, enjoyment-wise the entire experience is comparable to booking your next family vacation to sunny Iraq, but without the pretty fireworks. Plus, dropping off “unaccompanied minors” takes over an hour, meaning that I had to take out a second mortgage on my home to pay the parking fees. Oh, and did I mention that the airport is conveniently separated from all other land area by various different waterways such that you can't get there without taking a bridge or tunnel, packed with traffic and charging yet more money for the privilege of sitting and watching the guy in the next car over pick his nose while talking on his cell phone and (if you're really lucky) engaging in some highly personal grooming activities normally reserved for the privacy of the bedroom, preferably a bedroom in a locked bunker a mile below a mountain in a retired ICBM silo.

But what made this particular trip truly memorable was this: As anyone who has ever been to a modern airport large enough to have its own weather system knows, they have these ingenious little moving walkways (for those who think "Y'know, I'd really like to ride one of those fancy escalator things, but the change in altitude always makes my ears pop painfully!"). These generally have a handrail that no one holds on to, because for some reason that no one can adequately explain, the handrail is always moving at a slight but distinct difference in speed from the one the belt you're standing on is moving, such that if you don't pay attention and shift either your feet or your grip on the railing, by the time you reach the end of the walkway, you are tipped at a 45 degree angle to the ground.

Additionally, these railings are generally held up by large panels of industrial strength glass which looks like it could stop any bullet of caliber smaller than a cannon ball, the same kind of stuff the attendants in city subway systems sit behind, because clearly everyone knows that the true wealth of the nation is stored in masses of $1.25 tokens in those booths.

Anyway, the glass is very strong. It has to be, because there are literally thousands of people lugging tons of luggage across them daily, and statistically some of that luggage has to occasionally get bumped, jostled, dropped or thrown into the railing from time to time. Which is why I simply cannot fathom what might have shattered a pane of this stuff, but that's exactly what had happened, to not just one, but TWO adjacent panes. In the “passenger walkway” between the parking garage and Terminal E (a suspended hallway roughly as long as the Boston Marathon, but without Gatorade breaks), one of the moving walkways OUT of the terminal was shut down. As we passed the end of it, we saw a pile of something we would in hindsight recognize as shards of glass piled up at the end of the currently stationary walkway belt. A bit further on, we could see that the handrail was at a somewhat less horizontal and linear orientation than we were used to, and as we got closer, we noticed that the glass was missing. Just gone.

My theory is that someone's been smuggling wild animals again. You know how every few months you hear one of those “stories of the weird” of someone getting caught trying to smuggle rare birds in their suitcases or exotic lizards in their underpants? (Not the lizards' underpants, they tend to wear thongs and you couldn't really smuggle anything in them). Well, from the shattered glass and the way that the heavy-duty metal on which the moving handrail runs was now bowed significantly towards the floor, I can only assume that someone decided to let their illegally carried rhinoceros out for a moments break, only to have it decide to sit upon the nearest railing. (Believe me, if you'd been smuggling a rhino in your underpants all day, you'd need a break too. Or, um, so I would imagine.)

So, to sum up, not only did we get out of bed at 4am to drive several hours, brave the traffic, risk getting lost in the airport roadways, pay large tolls and the gross national product of a small nation in parking fees, walk enough distance to erode holes in the bottoms of our shoes, and by the way have to say goodbye to two of our children for the foreseeable future, but we had to WALK back to the garage from the terminal because someone, somewhere, had found a way to break a pane of glass that had withstood literally hundreds of thousands of other travelers passing by with nary a scratch. And so you'll never guess what Janet and I thought was just the perfect thing do on our way home.

Really, you'll never guess, because although I know you've read most of my adventures in the past and have heard me tell you the extent to which I am a moron (and the patience with which Janet puts up with my ideas, knowing how they generally turn out), I know you're also very nice people, both too polite and too believing of the good in people to honestly realize how stupid one man can be, and so I will just tell you: We stopped at the Manchester, NH airport.

There is, of course, a good reason for this, beyond the fact that I am clinically insane with a legal mandate to register with my community as a compulsive masochist. No, the reason was that my parents were going to be in the airport for an hour and a half, and we thought it'd be nice to stop in and visit with them and have a cup of coffee or something, before they got onto their flight and we finished our trip back home.

But of course those of you who live in or near New Hampshire realize that Manchester Airport is small enough not to have most of the problems of Boston's Logan Airport, meaning of course that there aren't terribly many flights that connect through there. So how did my parents, who live in North Carolina, come to be in the Manchester Airport? Well, they were there because THEY'D JUST SPENT MOST OF THE PRECEDING WEEK INCLUDING THANKSGIVING DAY WITH US. That's right, I'm apparently such a Momma's boy that spending a week with my parents isn't good enough. No, I have to spend MORE money on parking and wander through yet ANOTHER airport, just so that I can spend another few minutes with my Mommy and Daddy before they leave and go back to their home, secure in the knowledge that they've fulfilled their familial obligation to their obsessive son for at least another 6 months and can return to North Carolina where there is very little chance they'll have to deal with me in any form more threatening than e-mail for the foreseeable future.

Which means that in the process of writing this, I've learned several things. First, that my life is not an easy one. Second, that the difficulties in my life are largely of my own making. And third, there's GOT to be a better place to hold this rhinoceros, or at least some way to keep it from chafing.

Copyright © November 25, 2006 by Liam Johnson.


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