Tuesday, right at dismissal, after a shit day at work (because of a co-worker, not because of the kids; the kids are awesome this year), I headed to the airport to pick up my dad. Of course, if I hadn’t been fuming, I might’ve thought to check the flight status online before I left work and seen that it was an hour and a half delayed, but I had been, so I didn’t, and it was.
So I drove home.
An hour later I drove back to the airport, but smart me, I threw Tulip in the car because I thought, “I’ll scoop Dad, and we’ll go straight to Wa’s, where Tulip can patrol the fence and play Leap Frog with the kids.”
I pulled up to the baggage claim and looked for Dad. He wasn’t outside. I peeked in the doors but didn’t see him. A cop on a Segway, who I thought was going to chastise me for walking too far away from my car, instead gave me the phone number for the Airport Information desk and told me they would page him. (Airport Segway cop ftw!) I called, and they were really nice, and they did.
But Dad is more than a little hearing impaired and significantly ADD. I doubted he would hear the page. I waited ten minutes. Tulip was panting in the car. I called again; they paged him again. Nothing.
I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t take Tulip into the airport, but it was hot as the dickens outside, so I couldn’t leave her in the car, even for ten minutes. I called my sister. Had Dad called? No. She said there’s a place upstairs inside called The Meeting Place, and she had always met him there.
I drove to the parking deck. Tulip and I walked to the upper level of the terminal. It occurred to me I should just walk in like I owned the joint, pit bull and all, but I chickened out when I got to the doors. The Meeting Place was a hundred yards away. I couldn’t see my dad. After ten minutes of squinting and fretting, a woman who had seen me came out and said, “I’m killing time until my flight. Do you need help?”
I said, “Thank you so much! I think my dad might be sitting over there. Can you hold my dog while I run in and check?”
She said, “Will your dog be OK with that?” I assured her she would, and the woman agreed happily. (Kindness of strangers ftw!) I jogged across the concourse and did a sweep of the waiting area. No Dad.
You’re probably asking yourself why I didn’t just call his cell phone. Well, see, because my dad is bad at technology. His most recent cell phone—and you can extrapolate about previous cell phones from this, his most recent cell phone got packed, in my father’s fashion, in a grocery bag with some other items including a bottle of mouthwash and ended up minty fresh.
But if he was in the airport, why didn’t he just call you? That’s what you’re thinking now. Because another thing my dad is bad at? Remembering phone numbers. Even phone numbers you’ve had since 2005. (Good at: losing carefully scribed lists of phone numbers placed lovingly and repeatedly in his wallet.)
I went back out to the car. And one thing you should know, if you don’t already, about the hourly parking deck at RDU is that the signs that say EXIT and have arrows—ha ha, they’re just kidding! They don’t point to exits. They point to passages that used to lead to exits which are now blocked off by concrete barriers and dividers. But—ha ha—not to exits, silly! After about six thwarted attempts to extricate myself from that goddamn garage, I was about to blow a fucking gasket. I might’ve gotten to third gear on one pass through the deck. It’s possible.
I finally found an EXIT sign that lead to the actual exit, paid a dollar for the pleasure of having parked there, and did another lap through the whole airport (Oh, hello again, Terminal 1! Big Ben! Parliament!) to swing back through the arrivals lane.
My sister called then and said Dad had left a message half an hour prior on her home phone (he had remembered that number!, but the ringer was off because it was nap time), saying he was at the baggage claim. Aw for god dog dog. Tulip was whining. I was losing it. My sister offered to come to the airport. “No!” I said. “He’s got to be twenty feet from me! I just can’t get to him!”
Seething, sweating, panting, cursing.
I took a deep breath and, once more, called Airport Information. Again, the woman was lovely. I asked could she page my dad; the only problem, see?, is he’s mostly deaf and he may not hear it. The woman said, “Can you describe your father? Maybe I can find him for you.” I gave her his specs, and we hung up. She called me back two minutes later: “I have your father standing in front of me. I’m going to walk him out to you now.” Which she did. She even carried his bag. (Airport Information staff ftw!)
Dad got into the car (“No, I didn’t hear any pages”), and we headed to Durham in the middle of rush hour traffic. My nearly-74-year-old dad had been up since 4:30 in the morning, taken two flights with a layover in Philly, and wandered around RDU for an hour and a quarter, wondering if anybody was going to get him. After about six minutes of chit chat, he smiled and said, “Ah, this is the visit I was looking forward to!”