Thursday, January 16, 2003

I had an adventure at O’Hare Airport today trying to track down my brother Ken and pick up some of his extra luggage as he transferred flights from London to Los Angeles. Dad and I left Rockford at 3 p.m. to meet Ken as he got off his 4:55 p.m. flight. We got to the airport at approximately 4:15 and looked for his flight on the American Airlines listing board. We found it, but could not wait at the gate because of security reasons. Dad said we should wait in the baggage claim area, because that’s where he waited the last time Ken flew home. He stood at the landing of one escalator and I another. I assumed I was in the right place as taxi drivers flanked me with placards in hand.

So I waited and waited, each descending oxford shoe and pleated pant leg holding promise of my brother. But alas, they belonged to others. Ken never showed. After 45 minutes Dad rejoined me and I started some frantic detective work. I first called Mom and tried to get Ken’s cell phone number. But she only had his international number, 15 digits long. I knew that would not work here, plus had no pen to write it down and could not memorize it. Flustered, I asked Mom to call it, and then ran upstairs to have Ken paged. I also asked a person at the baggage claim desk if this is the only place American Airlines passengers can pick up their luggage. Yes it is. Ten minutes later I called Mom again. Esther had called her and given her Ken’s domestic cell phone number (Ken called my home wondering where we were). She read it off to me.

Ken is tempestuous, short-fused, quick to anger and cool. So when Dad and I had difficulty finding him I anticipated an outburst. And because of anticipation, when it did come I took the wave of profanity and frustration with an air of detached amusement as he complained about missing his flight and how now all his California plans were dashed or seriously altered. I calmly asked him where he was. I realized the error of our ways. We waited at domestic arrivals. Ken flew home on an international flight.

We took a short train ride to that area of the airport and I spied Ken with his back turned. “Hello harried traveler,” I said. Ken hugged me in relief, much calmer and almost embarrassingly apologetic for his earlier outburst. We watched his baggage as he tried to get another flight. He returned successful, booked on the next flight to LA two hours later. We retired to the O’Hare Hilton hotel bar and enjoyed beer, a meal, and each other’s company.

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