Remember my “all’s well that ends well” arrival in Salt Lake City, where after having one flight canceled and being bumped off another I was flown first class from Boston to Denver and given a free round trip ticket anywhere United flies? That all worked out great, right? Well guess what…
The shuttle picked me up in Park City three hours before my flight. Plenty of time, right? Well it appears that everyone who attended Sundance, all 40,000 of them, decided to fly home today. After waiting in one long line at the Delta counter I was told I actually needed my boarding pass from one of the self-serve kiosks before getting into this line to check my bag. So I waited in the self-serve kiosk line. When I finally got to an open screen it said it couldn’t find my reservation. So I then had to wait in the “kiosk assistance” line, the longest of the three lines so far. I’m not worried, of course, because I have so much time–still about an hour and a half before my flight is scheduled to leave.
When I finally get to the front of the “kiosk assistance” line the fellow behind the counter gets a funny look on his face while searching for my confirmed reservation. “Did you show up for your Delta flight on January 17 in Denver?”
“No, because one flight was canceled and I got bumped off another so I couldn’t get to Denver in time to catch my Delta connection. United ended up flying me all the way to Salt Lake City.”
“Well, when you didn’t show up for your Delta flight in Denver they canceled the rest of your Delta flights in the system.”
Since I’d just heard him tell the person before me in line that if he didn’t make this flight he couldn’t get to Denver until tomorrow my voice cracked slightly as I sputtered, “But… but… but…”
“Yeah, somebody really screwed up,” he said, “and this flight is completely full.”
But after saying this he kept typing on his keyboard for a few minutes without saying anything and got me booked onto the flight. Having picked up a few things over the past ten days my bag no longer weighed 46 pounds. It weighed 54. He said I had to remove four pounds of stuff from my bag and cram it into my carry-on or else he’d have to charge me $50. I pulled out papers and clothes until the scale read “50” and he said we’re good to go. I jammed what I’d pulled out into my two carry-ons and made my way up the escalator to security.
I was stunned by the length of the line. My flight is scheduled to leave in about an hour and I don’t think I’ll get through screening on time. I’ve honestly never seen a busier airport before. Then a TSA agent came to the back of the line and told all of us that we should follow him out of this terminal and into the International terminal for screening. After a 15 minute walk I arrived at a line that didn’t look much shorter than the one I’d just left. But it did move along and I actually made it to my gate in time to board with about five minutes to spare. When the man behind the counter said, “We’re overbooked for this flight and need two people to volunteer to give up their seats in exchange for a $400 voucher…” I slumped down in my seat so he wouldn’t look my direction.
A young woman sat next to me and said, “Aren’t you Tom from Traces of the Trade?”
“Um, yeah,” I said.
“It must be weird being recognized in the airport, huh?” I smiled. She continued. “I loved the movie. It had such a powerful impact on me. I talked to all my friends about it and about your book.”
“I’m glad it moved you,” I said. “That’s our goal, to get people thinking and talking.”
“Why are you going to Denver? Don’t you live in Oregon?”
“Yeah, but I’m going to be at the Tattered Cover LoDo store this Thursday and will be visiting two schools between now and then as well. Where do you live?”
“Denver! I’m going to tell all my friends. Thursday, right? What time?”
“7:30. I hope to see you there.”
And then we flew to Denver where my cousin Keila picked me up at the airport. After a very busy week in Park City it feels great to arrive at Keila’s and Jerry’s peaceful ranch outside of Boulder. We relaxed and talked all afternoon, napped a bit, then went out to dinner and came back home to watch a movie. I know, I know, you’d think I’d have my fill of movies by now. We watched Turtles Can Fly, which was a perfect bookend to Nerakhoon (The Betrayal) and CSNY: Deja Vu.
Set near the Iraqi border with Turkey on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq, the story of war’s impact is told from the perspective of children, all played by local non-actors. It is both devastating and heartfelt. I encourage you to find it at your video store and watch it. We owe it to ourselves to understand more about what war means to those who are most directly impacted by it.