Living at the end of the line

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The alarm woke us at 3.30 this morning – Bob was leaving on the early flight and I was driving him to the airport.

The early flight. Not the 6 a.m. departure or the 7 a.m., but the early flight. That’s what it’s like when you live at the end of the line. People leave and people arrive but nobody transits. You leave on the early flight or the afternoon flight, you arrive on the afternoon flight or the late flight. The plane spends the night here and the next morning it takes you to Seattle or Minneapolis or Salt Lake City where you transfer to a flight to your destination. If you are flying to the east coast, the time change means the early flight is your only choice.

There are compensations to having a small airport, of course. For a start, we can drive there in 20 minutes – that’s about as long as the shuttle bus ride from some far-flung satellite parking lots in major cities – and park just a minute’s walk from the terminal. The line for a turbo-prop or a 737 is a lot shorter than the line for a jumbo, and the ladies at the check-in are real nice – no “city attitude” here. TSA has signs to remind you not to pack your bear spray, and the entertaining security video is pretty low-key. Going through security I’ve had the helpful suggestion that I could either leave a prohibited item with the lady at the gift shop to pick up on my return, or just run it back to the car (parked so conveniently) and still have plenty of time to come through the line again. The little café makes breakfast and sandwiches to order, and serves espresso along with regular coffee.

The waiting area at the gate is usually fairly social – there’s almost always someone you know traveling on the same flight (three this morning, Bob informed me) and on the short walk to the plane you can pop your carry-on onto the à la carte instead of having to manipulate it into the overcrowded overhead bin. When you return, around midnight if you’re on the late flight, the walk to retrieve your checked bags is a comfortable distance to stretch your legs after the flight, and the wait is never very long – giving you just enough time to greet others on your flight who you may have missed at the connecting airport.

After dropping Bob off at the airport this morning I drove home, made myself a cup of coffee, and from my kitchen window I watched the lights of his plane as it ascended into the not-quite-dawn sky. Next Sunday, when he returns, I’ll check the internet to see when his plane has taken off from Seattle – that will give me a comfortable amount of time to head off to meet him. He’s coming in on the afternoon flight.

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