Primal Screams

Most days, the sun shines down on me. And that’s not just because I live in Boulder. I live a fairly easy life and whatever is difficult, is generally self-imposed. But once in a blood moon, everything goes horribly wrong.

Last Wednesday night, I had to catch a flight to Dallas. I’ve traveled enough over the last few years that I have my airport timing mastered so that I walk through security, take the train to my terminal, fill my water bottle, use the ladies room, buy an in-flight snack, and have just 5-10 minutes before boarding starts. I see no need to sit around the airport for an hour twiddling my thumbs. To adhere to my plan that night, I had to leave my house that night at 5:45. Everything was in place. The dog was already at his boarding facility, the dishes were done, my coat and shoes were on, and everything I needed was sitting in my suitcase. All I had to do was zip it. 

It was 5:44. As I zipped the front pocket, the zipper tore away from the suitcase. Minor inconvenience, but manageable. I didn’t have to put anything in it. I could safety pin the flap to the bag and hope it didn’t get torn off by baggage handlers. I’ve had that bag for almost ten years, and it wasn’t expensive to begin with, so I wouldn’t mind shopping for new luggage when I got back.

Then I zipped the main zipper. Halfway around the suitcase, it got stuck. It didn’t get stuck on the lining; it just got stuck. It wouldn’t budge forward or backward. It pinched the lid closed in the middle of the long side of the bag, preventing me from accessing the contents. I tugged and pushed and tore and tugged some more. No movement.

My heart rate rose. My face flushed. Trying to remain calm, I went out to the shed to grab my larger suitcase. I figured I could throw this one completely inside it and deal with the problem when I got to Dallas. Well, remember my barn cat and the suitcase he liked to sleep on? That was the suitcase I needed. A whole year of a feral cat making your suitcase its bed does some not very pleasant things to that suitcase. My suitcase was wearing a fur coat. A few futile swipes at the clumps with a sticky roller sent me into tears. The time to leave the house had come and gone, and I was nowhere near resolving the luggage problem.

Fortunately, I was flying Southwest (bags fly free!), so I decided to jam all of my stuff into two smaller bags. I grabbed a traveler’s backpack and a carry-on, and flipped them upside down to shake out the remnants of previous trips. But when I turned to the bag that had my carefully selected and necessary belongings for a long weekend of hiking in the canyons on the Texas/Mexico border and staying in a dirt house with no plumbing in the middle of the desert, well, I remembered that I still couldn’t get those belongings out of that bag because the zipper was holding them hostage. And then I lost it. A string of profanity and screaming, the likes of which I guarantee you have never heard, came flying out of my mouth as I stabbed my suitcase repeatedly with a butcher knife, not caring that I was probably also destroying everything inside. Had someone looked in my window at that moment, they would have been certain I was murdering a boxy, gray mammal of some sort.

I managed to create a hole in the lining with the dull knife. I stuck my hand through and yanked out a few items here and a few items there, each tug accompanied by a scream. (Hey, primal therapy is a thing, you know!) I jammed it all into other bags and then bolted out the door, praying I hadn’t left something vital behind.

There was no traffic on the main route, but regardless, I took the toll road where there would be even less than no traffic. A cool 20 mph above the speed limit got me to the shuttle lot with only a slight delay from my planned arrival. I had used this shuttle lot twice before and found it quite convenient. It cost about $6 per day, is only a 5 minute ride from the airport, and the shuttles run all the time. Except that day.

In the chaos of leaving the house, I failed to grab any cold weather gear—hat, gloves, scarf—and it was in the 30s with high wind. It was also pitch black out; I had never realized what a lack of lighting there is in that self-park lot. I waited several minutes but saw no shuttle in sight. Between still being wound up because of what happened earlier and being freezing cold, my patience was fried. More screaming ensued. Yes, there I was, in a shuttle lot outside DIA screaming at the top of my lungs that I needed a #$@&%*! shuttle to take me to the #$@&%*! airport right #$@&%*! now, you #$@&%*! #$@&%*!. Not my finest moment, but no one was around to hear me. The lot was deserted.

I walked to the valet area of the lot, determined to calm down and be polite and ask how to get to the airport, but when no help was forthcoming because I was in self-park and the shuttle there was “for valet customers only” and I should wait “over there,” a statement accompanied by a sweeping gesture of the arm that pointed out nothing at all, well, you can believe the #$@&%*! #$@&%*! #$@&%*! came out again. Maybe you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar most of the time, but sometimes, kicking and screaming is what it takes to get the job done. I got my own private shuttle to the terminal within moments.

I did apologize to the shuttle driver when he dropped me off.

All I can say is thank god I have PreCheck because if my dual a catastrophe had turned into a trifecta with condescension and a pat down from an incompetent and pointless TSA staffer, I would have spent the long weekend in jail instead of in beautiful Big Bend.

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