The gods were angry, I decided. They were angry because Sharron and I had experienced a wonderful vacation in Denver, Colorado. Simply put, we had had far too much fun. We had accrued too much pleasure karma.
It soon became apparent that The Powers That Be found this to be completely unacceptable and determined that payback was due. They had a plan, and they would begin it by sending their first emissary: the driver of the shuttle back to the airport.
"What time does your flight leave?" he asked us as we boarded.
His eyes lit up. "Oh, we have plenty of time," he said. By that, we would soon learn, he meant we would have plenty of time to run his personal errands. He stopped at a 7-Eleven, bought a sandwich, and then delivered it to his girlfriend who worked not too far away.
"Now I've seen everything," a lady in the back of the shuttle exclaimed as the shuttle driver headed over to the gas station. We looked at our watches nervously. Three o'clock wasn't that far away.
The Denver airport was surrounded by ominous looking clouds, a warning that the gods were not looking down upon us fondly. While some gods send people signs to guide them on their course through life, these gods had used airport personnel to plant very misleading signs throughout the airport. Soon we found ourselves on the opposite end of the terminal from where we should have been. A surly attendant instructed us to go back to where we had come from.
Back to downtown Denver where life was wonderful? I thought. But I knew that wasn't what she meant.
Finally finding the check-in counter, the lady there pointed at my stomach and asked if I wanted to check it in as an extra bag. Clearly, I had enjoyed myself far too much that week.
I declined, and we set off to security and the concourse beyond.
Ever since her knee surgery, my wife has gotten to know TSA personnel very well. The titanium joint in her leg inevitably causes security's metal detector to go off. She got pulled off to the side, while I unloaded the trays from the X-Ray machine, which held our laptop, my backpack, Sharron's carry-on, two pairs of shoes, both of our jackets, my belt, and all of the items from our pockets. I piled all of it into my arms and lumbered towards a bench. Sharron chatted with the security guard who asked her, once again, if she had a bomb in her leg.
We were able to get to our plane on time, but that's because it wasn't going anywhere. Lightning had surrounded the Denver airport. Pinned in by the angry gods, our plane sat on the ground while they came up with their next devious plan. Sharron ignored them. She had recovered from her routine exam with TSA security and was now reading Lewis Black's Me of Little Faith, which was causing her fits of laughter that she struggled to keep to herself. Coincidentally, the chapter that she was reading was titled, "an airline traveler's prayer."
I gazed out the window at blackened skies. I swore I heard a voice in the thunder. "You will pay for your insolence," it said.
I quickly shoved my George Carlin book When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? under the seat.
The captain, in league with the gods, came on the intercom and announced that our flight would be further delayed.
It wasn't until a couple hours later, after our plane had finally taken off and we neared the west coast, that I thought we had been granted pardon. The thought was reinforced by a blue sky above and billowy clouds below. Hand me a harp, I thought, and I can complete the picture.
But then the descent began, and we plunged through the clouds to where torments awaited us — torments such as being trapped in the airport parking lot.
At first, it looked like getting out of the parking lot would be a breeze, as there were two lanes open. A bright green light shone over each one, signaling for us to go ahead. Our lane, though, did not move. At all. With a car in front of us and a line of cars behind, there was nothing we could do.
Another car left the parking lot from the adjacent lane and the attendant from that booth yelled over to us. "That lane's not working!" she called. "You'll have to come over here. I'll get you through quickly. I promise!"
I got out of the car and told this to the lady in the car in front of us because she didn't appear to have heard. She was talking on her cell phone when I approached and seemed oblivious to the fact that there was no one in the booth she had been sitting next to.
"You're kidding me!" she said.
When we finally maneuvered our way out of the line and into the other one, we were ten cars behind. The attendant, who had promised to get us through quickly, immediately broke that promise, and then made another mistake. She informed us that we had a discount and then she didn't give it to us. When we asked about it, she said that she couldn't do anything because there wasn't a manager on duty. She gave us his number so we could call him the next day.
Now, even the people at the worst McDonalds in the world know that when you overcharge someone, all you have to do is pay them the difference. It just so happens that we live near the worst McDonalds in the world, so we decided to go there next. That way we could:
A) Tempt fate
B) Send someone over to the Park 'N' Fly to explain how simple business transactions are done
C) Maybe get something to eat
We were able to do C, which, given our past experience with that McDonalds, was an accomplishment in itself. It seemed that the balance of our pleasure karma had been restored, and we were spared from further incident.
With a french fry dangling out of my mouth, I pulled the car up our driveway, past the sun-scorched lawn and into the garage where there was a pile of laundry waiting to be done. The house was intact, but inside there was a room full of projects, a computer full of urgent emails, and a stack of bills. Our alarm clocks were already set to wake us up at right time for work the next day.
"Welcome home," the gods said. "This is what you deserve."
We looked briefly to the sky, shrugged, and embraced our destiny.