Saturday, February 4, 2012
The Transfer (Blogophilia 49.4)
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We are on our final approach to Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. We’ll be disembarking at gate E-63. We at Delta Airlines appreciate you flying with us and we hope you will remember us for your travel needs. Please prepare for landing…”
The droning voice faded away. Bill had heard the speech too many times. Mechanically, he shut off his laptop and put it in his case. He took one last sip from the soda can and gave it to the attendant. There was weather and the view out the window was completely gray. The only indication the plane had touched down was a small bump and the high pitched whine of the reversing engines.
It had been a long trip from Gatwick. And now there were three hours to spend in the terminal before connecting to Louisville. At least he was going through Atlanta. You can actually find your way around there, compared to JFK or Newark. Traffic from Aylesbury was worse than usual. But that was still better than Heathrow, with the crowds and all of the soldiers standing around.
The text from Corporate had come whilst he was in security. There were going to be guests at the product rollout. Lovely. No indication of who they might be. He guessed it was going to one of the Chinese widget vendors. They were polite enough. But this was one of the most important presentations of his career. He didn’t need another group of people judging his performance. But he soon put that out of his mind.
The flight itself was uneventful. Six hours alternating between PowerPoints and power naps. Of course, all of this did provide a nice lifestyle. Nice detached house in the suburbs. A wife that put up with him being gone. He’d been doing it so long, that nothing ever surprised him. Weather, arguments, death. He had seen them all. He always looked on the bright side of life. The attitude just worked for him.
The attendants performed their normal routine as they pulled into the gate. They wished him a good day as he went down the gangplank and started towards Customs. He stopped a moment as he entered the concourse to get his bearings. As he walked towards the customs desk, a muffled sound came into his ears.
“This is Delta Airlines paging a Mr. Bill Henderson. Mr. Henderson, please report to the nearest gate agent. Mr. Bill Henderson...”
Really? I haven’t been on the ground three minutes and someone wants me? There was an information desk just to his right. A bored blonde woman, looking like she wished she was anywhere but there. Bill gave her his name and she handed him an envelope. Inside was a note with a new itinerary. The flight to Louisville was departing from gate T-16. T Concourse? That was all the way back at baggage claim. At least the departure time was a few minutes later.
He looked at his watch and wondered who sent it. Corporate would have just sent a text. No, this message had come from somewhere else. The agent didn’t know anything other than it had been passed along from someone at security. It probably didn’t matter. There was something else in the envelope. A printed sheet of paper with his name and what looked like a credit card account number. No other explanation. Corporate must be up to games again. He shrugged his shoulders and ambled over to Customs.
The Customs agent was an affable fellow. Bill handed the bag and itinerary over. The agent smiled through the talk and grope session, returning the bag none the worse for wear. There was an agent with drugs dog that was casually strolling through the crowd. On a prior trip, he witnessed a rather scruffy fellow taken away after the mutt sat down beside his bag. Apparently that was the signal for the arrest. No such drama this time.
Bill moved on towards the people mover to the T concourse. The sleek tube was cleaner than any subway he had ever used. Fellow travelers stared blankly toward the center, only moving when their stop is reached. A detached feminine voice announced the stops.
“We are approaching terminal D. Please stay seated until the mover comes to a complete stop. Please check to see you have your belonging before you exit…”
His fellow travelers flowed off then on the tube as the doors opened and closed. Bill thought about how many times this was repeated during a typical day. So many people going different places and most of them have no idea where they want to go.
This repeated until they reached the T Concourse. As he was exiting, he noticed a woman holding a baby. She was holding a piece of paper similar to his. He wondered if she was going to be on the same flight. The thought of a baby crying, even on such a short hop, made him wince. He decided not to say anything.
Finally, they reached the correct concourse. Stepping on to the main escalator, he tried to think which way he needed to go. At the top was a sign saying: T8-15 to the left, T1-7 to the right. He looked down at his paper. It definitely said T-16. A chill went through him. Something wasn’t right. It must be over by T15, right?
As he approached T-15, he noticed a door on the hall opposite the gate. T-16 was posted in small letters. Bill paused a moment. He knew that most of the solid doors were secured areas. As he was standing there, the woman with the baby opened the door and disappeared inside. It must be the gate. He pulled the door and went inside.
The gate agent here was a small man. His uniform coat looked to be about two sizes too large. He reached out his hand.
Bill handed it over. The agent nodded and gestured to his right.
“Have a seat over there and we’ll be calling for boarding shortly. “
The chairs in this section were plush leather. Very similar to what was in the Crown Clubs. The ones on the other side of the room looked like broken benches. Looking at the paper, there wasn’t a departure time listed and the destination had disappeared. Another chill came over him. He was going to get up to say something when the gate agent came over the speaker:
‘Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Saint Peter airlines. Most of you have checked in and have had your flights assigned. But as a reminder, flyers to my right, your left. Your flight to Heaven will be departing in ten minutes. For those on my left, the flight to Hades has been delayed. And as always, we thank you for letting us interrupt your destiny.”