Periscope Depth

that’s the look, that’s the look

My flight from BWI to Boston was delayed four and a half hours. Not all at once, mind: every time I Googled the flight number, JetBlue had pushed it back just a little farther. By nine o’clock, I asked my brother to just give me a lift to the airport anyway. No use sitting around the homestead.

The security gate for Terminal C had completely shut down. I walked down the exit lane, holding my boarding pass in front of me like a white flag, until a TSA blueshirt flagged me over. “Cheryl!” he yelled. A young lady came from around a partition and waved me back around a corner. I went the wrong way through a security checkpoint, removed my shoes and laptop, and went back through the scanner again. Cheryl thanked me; I thanked Cheryl.

“I don’t suppose the bars are still open?” I asked one of the TSA guys.

He shook his head. “Dunkin Donuts and Subway. Out in the main concourse. And security shuts down after eleven.” He didn’t follow up on whether that meant I’d be barred from my gate (my plane wasn’t scheduled to depart until 12:25) or if I’d be on the honor system at that point. Shift ends; out the door.*

Back in Boston, the T had stopped running, so the line for taxis stood a hundred deep. Shuttle drivers in dark slacks and muted polos trolled the queue. “Downtown Boston?” they asked. “Back Bay, Boston hotels, downtown.” Most airports are pretty strict about soliciting rides outside of specially designated areas, but at 2:00 AM on Monday morning no one cared.

Layer enough fatigue into any transaction and civility breaks down. People become sluggish and pliable. When you wait on a flight for four and a half hours, you’ll do whatever the young people in blue shirts tell you. Walk around the scanner and then go through it, please. Stay in the terminal until midnight. One at a time for the taxi stand. Maybe that’s why we’re all working fifty hour weeks. The dullest herd animal in the world is a man on his commute.

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* I considered the possibility that he was already staying past his shift, due to the delayed JetBlue flight. But ours wasn’t the only flight to arrive late in that terminal. Plus, if he’d been getting overtime, he’d have stayed until one. Time-and-a-half on a GS-10 isn’t bad.

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