Thursday, December 31, 2009

No Grinches for Christmas

As part of the crazy stretch we’ve been calling Christmas break, we drove to and from our older son’s home in Minnesota the week before the actual holiday, summarily executing lobsters and narrowly avoiding a zillion-inch snowfall along the way. After Christmas Eve and morning in Galva, we headed for the Quad Cities International Airport for a late-afternoon flight to our younger son and family in North Carolina. The decision to travel on Christmas Day was predicated by a combination of schedule and price. Especially the latter, as most people would rather be there for Christmas than be in the process of getting there, so it’s a little cheaper for those of us willing to fly on the heels of St. Nick.
I figured the QCIA (what makes it “International,” anyway?) would be a pretty quiet place, but had failed to consider the number of folks who had gone before me, leaving their cars behind in the same long-term parking lot we hoped to use.
If I had known how many times I would circle the lot, I would have just hit the highway and headed south instead, as I probably could have reached Louisville by the time I found a spot.
Meanwhile, the feeling of peace and good will towards men existing in our car was fast being replaced by a creeping sense of “gotta see those grandkids” anxiety.
She: “There are no parking places in this entire airport.”
Me: “I noticed.”
She: “Wait...there’s a spot!”
Me: “I think that’s the runway.”
She: “That’ll work.”
...and so on.
Inside, the scene was surprisingly busy, as I realized I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of slightly lower fares, not to mention the number of young couples and children, too, who were shuttling between families on the day.
And it was at that point that I stopped and thought again about how many people have to work on Christmas Day.
“Uh oh, we’re going to have to deal with a whole bunch of grumpy Grinches today,” I thought, as I figured most folks would reasonably prefer roasting chestnuts or giggling under the mistletoe to dealing with an overpacked, underprepared, slightly confused guy from Galva.
But to my surprise, I was wrong.
“Merry Christmas,” said the Delta ticket agent as she helped me outwit the self-service kiosk and obtain our boarding passes.
“Have fun with your grandchildren,” said the baggage handler, who advised me on the best way to keep my carry-on bagful of last-minute toys out of the clutches of her bag-bashing comrades.
We continued to receive the gift of smiles and greetings from airline and airport personnel during both legs of our flight and in both the Quad Cities and Atlanta airports.
The teenage kid working at the Starbucks in Atlanta received high marks for complimenting one of us on her Christmas sweater, while I was wowed by the security guy who whistled carols while checking my I.D.
But tops for the trip was the the pilot on the second flight who came on the intercom to explain to his younger passengers--and me--that our plane was equipped with several kinds of directional technology, including “an old, but very reliable system” called “RR” (Rudolph Radar.) He continued with a lengthy tale concerning the flight patterns of a certain North Pole pilot, finishing with the news that he had received a radio message from Santa Claus requesting that he give a candy cane to each and every good little girl and boy as they disembarked the plane.
I was hopeful, but apparently, my behavior wasn’t up to that pilot’s standards. Or maybe he thought I was a little older that his target audience.
But in any case, these words still rang in my ears and heart as we walked off the plane and towards our waiting family.
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

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