Stuck at Atlanta Airport, or what we did for our 17th anniversary

Lori Desrosiers

A young man is on the train that travels between gates. When we exit, he does too, but he does not follow us up the escalator. I see him play with the zipper on his back pack, and head back to the train. I know what he is doing. He is as lost as the rest of us, not knowing what to do to pass the time until morning when our planes leave, unable to get a hotel, or not able to afford one, so he’s riding the train, back and forth, from Baggage Claim to Gate D. He is in the one warm spot at the airport. Settling near our gate for the night, I know he is still there, pretending not to ride the train.

Airport morning at 2am with the news on one screen and Chuck Mangione (or an imitator’s) saxophone crooning on the other. The florescent lights are always on, an orange-vested cop rolls by on a segue, looking up like it’s no big deal. Another worker rides the floor-buffing machine across the tile. My husband is lying on the blue rug with my jacket and sweater under his head. I sit Shiva, mourning the hotel that was overbooked, the lost day of vacation, trying not to imagine the long hold with Priceline tomorrow to try to get our non-refundable reservation refunded. This means we bought and payed for the room, but the hotel didn’t actually have a room for us. Apparently, this happens all the time.

We have spent hours getting here, storms forcing our plane to reroute to Charlotte, refuel and turn around. We are not yet at our final destination, Jacksonville, Florida. The soonest flight is tomorrow morning. We were the only people at security at 1:30am, my briefcase rattling the rollers on the belt. Another worker vacuums enthusiastically beneath each chair. She is heading our way. She may ask us to move. She may not. I wouldn’t. I realize after ten minutes the song is the same one, repeated over and over. The news is familiar, I try to block out CNN, repeating the same three stories all night. Five more hours until boarding.