Terminal Time

The Daily Post
10 June 2014

I’m eighteen and serving in the U.S. Air Force. They’ve sent to a yearlong electronic school in Mississippi, and after completing the first nine weeks I’m headed home on a ten-day leave. Normally, according to my ticket, I change planes in Chicago and then fly directly home in a few short hours. However, a computer crash has brought O’Hare to a halt. Nothing in, nothing out. How soon flights will resume? Airport officials will not allow themselves to be nailed to a timetable. as soon as possible, they promise.

Great! I’d like to call my girlfriend, at least that’s what she was before the Dear John letter arrived last month. But I can’t do that because I dropped my cell phone while dialing her number. I’ve done all I know how to do – recycled the power, preformed a hard-reset. Nothing I know how to do will bring it back to life. I could use a pay phone, but I decide she really isn’t worth the cost.

A dozen seats away sits a girl close to my own age. She’s tall with short brown hair and wearing spike heels. She, like me, has time on her hands. This is a golden opportunity to hone my conversation skills, something I haven’t done since I bought my cell phone. I watch her for a moment to see if she has a traveling partner. When I don’t see one, I take the chance of being rudely rebuffed.

“Hi,” I croak. “Can I get you some coffee or a cold drink?”

At first she seems alarmed that a total stranger might try to pick her up in the middle of a busy airport. Perhaps it’s my uniform that calms her, because then she smiles. “I’m fine … just waiting for this mess to get straightened out.”

“Me too. My name’s Greg, by the way.”

Our conversation is rather jerky, both of us evidently out of practice communicating face-to-face.

“I’m Sally. Where are you headed?” she finally asks.

“Home. Boise, Idaho. Normally I would be phoning my parents, but my phone’s broken. I dropped it a few minutes ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Would you care to sit?, she says, patting the empty seat next to her.”

“I need some coffee first. You sure you don’t want anything?”

“Well, maybe a small diet Pepsi,” she says, reaching for her purse.

“I’ve got it.”

“Where are you headed?” I ask as I hand her soft drink to her.

“Trenton, New Jersey. I’m meeting my brother and his wife at Fort Dix.”

“I bet they’ll be glad to see you,” I reply, noting that she’s wearing a class ring.

“I hope so.”

The afternoon slips away. I’ve hardly noticed the inconvenience of being stranded. By the time a voice announces that certain flights will be resuming momentarily we have exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. I caution her that my phone is on the blink. I’ll call her the moment the number is good.

We go our separate ways. The officials at O’Hare will never realize the opportunity they’ve given Sally and myself.