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Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Lost Tribe

Little did I know when typing my adventures from the terminal, waiting to leave Dallas International, they were just beginning. We few, we band of brothers (gender inclusive for literary effect), we exiled travelers in search of Oakland, Ca, plodded gratefully to the monitor near our scheduled gate, after many hours in the wilderness of boredom. The evilness of words splashed digitally across a lighted display assailed we band of brothers yet again. Flight to Oakland was departing at 8:00 PM, now departing at 9:20 PM. There’s some good news. We rush to ask why at our beloved gate D36 with parched mouths and swollen tongues. It seems, the nice lady informs us, a flight connecting from the East was delayed, and if our flight to Oakland left on time, it would strand those flying in from the East. Well, waaaaaahhhhhh… too bad you didn’t have the same compassion when we were circling your airport from the South twenty minutes before our connecting flight left for beloved Oakland. This crushing news is delivered at 6:30 PM, only an hour before what would have been our scheduled boarding time. Now the boarding time lies two and a half hours away from we, the new lost tribe of Northern California travelers. Standing amongst the lost tribe, we exchange glances of disillusionment, nod at one another, and trundle off with our pathetic belongings, knowing we do not endure this torture alone.

Spotting a few of my brethren near the holy place of Gate D36, staring up at the bank of monitors, around 8:00 PM, I join them, wondering what new scourge afflicts us. One mumbles they’ve changed the gate on us. I look up astonished to see we’ve been moved to Gate D31. You must remember, as a lost tribe, we have adopted the small Mecca of Gate D36 through the lonely hours, where we could congregate, and look longingly at our flight number and gate departure time. I hear a few sobs, and look around the tribe, only to see them staring in compassion at me. It’s me sobbing. I cough to hide my embarrassment; and we all agree to take turns on the monitor when we reach the new Mecca, Gate D31. Our monitor guard is to call out the code word ‘Oakland’ to gather the brethren in the event of news, since the airline has decided not to inform the lost tribe of gate changes on their sophisticated PA system. I begin to fear American Airlines has discovered too few spots on our flight to accommodate the incoming East Coast VIP’s, and have decided to lose a few of the lost tribe with unheralded gate changes.

I sit down near our foreign gate D31, a sense of loss enveloping me. Nothing seems the same. Colors near this gate appear bland, the chatter of voices more fearful and hushed. At 8:15 PM, we hear a strangled call from the monitor: ‘Oak…Oakland!’. We rush over where our vigilant guard points with shaking hand at the tyrannical monitor. Our gate has been changed again, this time to C21. We gasp together as if members of the Greek Chorus, heralding tragedies in Shakespeare’s Othello. We all know C means a different terminal complex. Confronting the wily D31 Gate person, a beleaguered black brother of the lost tribe calls out angrily, ‘what the hell are you changing the @$#*?&% gates on us for!?’.

“I’m sorry (she isn’t),” the gate keeper responds with her hands out in placating fashion. “I’m not in charge of that. Just walk five minutes down to the escalators, go up and walk straight over for three minutes, go down the escalator, and you’re in C terminal. Don’t bother with the tram (connecting rail car). It takes too long. Better get going.”

The tribe exchanges glances, and a lady says, “I don’t know about the rest of you; but if she says don’t take the tram, I’m taking the tram. I know where that is.”

Grunts of agreement ring out from the tribe, and we hurry toward the escalator to the upper level where the tram awaits. We arrive eventually at 8:45 PM in C terminal and locate Gate C21, hoping to be only minutes from boarding our escape craft. Moments after we seat ourselves near Gate C21, the dread cry of ‘Oakland’ rings out from our startled monitor guard.

“They’ve changed the damn gate on us again!” he greets us as we fling bags on our shoulders.

We look at the Gate C21 counter board, and sure enough, Oakland, Ca has been changed to Ontario, Ca. An older lady with a cane rushes the counter attendants, who do a quick two-step back as she swings it up, gesturing at them angrily.

“Okay… damn it… where the hell’s Oakland!?”

She has their attention. The two of them point down the terminal in sync to the left. “C…C 28, Ma’am.”

“It better be,” she states with an eerie smile as we gather behind her. “If it’s not, I’m coming back. Get on the damn PA and announce it, you $%^&#’s.”

While we hurry toward Gate C28, a hesitant voice announces the gate change on the PA system. Reaching Gate C28, we find the beautiful word Oakland on the gate board, along with our flight number, which not surprisingly begins with a 13. The tribe gathers around the counter, daring them to change our gate again. Instead, one of the counter creatures announces we will be late boarding, because the East Coast VIP’s are only now taxiing into the terminal area. The tribe continues staring silently at the board. These creatures have trapped us in this maze, watching us scamper around Dallas International for over eight hours. They’ve run us from gate to gate like we were victims of a kidnapping, rushing the lost tribe from phone booth to phone booth for new directions to regain our pathetic lives. If they change the board, there will be violence. Twenty minutes late, they begin boarding us. On the plane, lost tribe members glanced around happily at each other, like the freed captives from the ‘Raid on Entebbe’. We had overcome the last sandstorm in this desert of agony. Touching down at Oakland International near midnight will live on in my magical moment’s list.

I learned as a writer, I do have limits to my creativity while in captivity. Yes, anger, noise, mind numbing boredom, and fear do derail creativity. This morning, blogging my final Florida chapter, I am again invigorated here at my little auto repair shop. Although dramatizing slightly the trials and tribulations of The Lost Tribe of Oakland, the details of what befell our stranded band are all too true. It’s funny today; and rest assured, I laughed my ass off writing this chronicle. :)


Jordan Summers said...

I'm glad you're home safe and sound. :)

BernardL said...

Thanks, Jordan, I used to think life was all about the journey rather than the destination. Scratch that. :)

Bernita said...

"I used to think life was all about the journey rather than the destination. Scratch that."
~dies, laughing~
One can understand!
Bernard, at least no one struck up a rousing chorus of "Let my people go."

BernardL said...

I think we tried it, Bernita. That's when they shipped us to a different terminal. :)

raine said...

Oh my dear God.
Hamsters in an eternal wheel. This is both hilarious and awful, lol!
Love the old lady with the cane, btw. ;)

BernardL said...

Thanks, Raine, if you ever have a connecting flight to catch in Dallas, be afraid... be very afraid. :)

Virginia Lady said...

Ah, the perils of dealing with airlines and airports. So glad you didn't have to spend the night there, Bernard.

BernardL said...

Thanks VL, so am I. It wasn't as bad as the three day power outage you had though. :)