This Side Up

The 24th hour of Christmas


Considering it was Christmas night, the cop could have been somewhat more tolerant.

Instead, he looked angry. In his reflective rain jacket, he was gesturing. He brought his left hand up to his face, as if looking at his watch, and then pointed with his other hand. I couldn’t hear what he was saying. The car windows were closed. The rumble of buses vibrated through the concrete caverns of Logan Airport. Yet I knew what he was saying and I could imagine what the man standing on the curb beside his car, the trunk open, was responding. He had his cell phone in one hand. He was pleading. The cop wasn’t going to budge, not for a minute, not even because it was Christmas and this really wasn’t a busy time. The man turned to the trunk and slammed it and headed along the car for the driver’s door.

At that instant, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my shirt pocket. The car was in park. Five minutes earlier, I had pulled into the arrival area, frustrated to not find a single opening at the curb. Now, I was thinking that maybe I stood a better chance of hovering a few more minutes before getting yelled at, too.

I flipped open the phone and saw from the caller ID that it was Carol.

“She’s there. She’s filing a claim for her bags. Where are you?”

For an instant I wondered why I was having this discussion with Carol, who was in Warwick, instead of my daughter, Diana, who was flying into Logan from Wyoming with her 7-year-old daughter. They were “there” and that was good, and probably no more than 200 feet away, but where was there?

Diana had the day planned. The family would celebrate Christmas morning in Jackson with her husband, Scott, and his mother, Janice, and then they would leave in the late morning. Scott is busy doing inventory this week and stayed home. Janice would fly with Diana and Natalie as far as Chicago, and then Diana and Natalie would connect to a flight to Rhode Island, getting them to Green shortly before 11. But the plane was late to Chicago and they missed the connection. The next best was Boston, if they could get a seat.

“What level are you on?” Carol asked me.

“Arrivals,” I said. Yet I didn’t know if it had a number or letter.

I lowered the passenger window and yelled to the man who was sliding into the driver’s seat. He didn’t hear me over all the machinery. I don’t believe the cop heard me either, but he looked in my direction. He was waving his arms and shaking his head. I was to get out.

I looked in the rear view mirror. The cop was going down the line, clearing out all those not active loading arrivals. Doors were closing. People were piling into cars. He must have had a lousy Christmas. The car, its driver looking totally frustrated, pulled out from beside me.

I gave the mirror another glance. The cop was dressing down another reluctant driver pleading for a reprieve.

I figured I would risk it. I put the car in reverse and then eased into the curbside slot. I popped the trunk lid and jumped out of the car. People were pulling their bags and looking for their rides as they streamed from the terminal. There was no sign of Diana. A young man with a backpack came to the curb and looked around.

Where could she be? On another level? Where?

The flurry of activity satisfied the cop, at least for a moment. People hugged. Bags were dropped into car trunks. Cars were weaving to get out. The area cleared except for maybe half a dozen cars and now my cover was gone. The cop spotted me. I could see him jump into a car at the end of the line. He hit the siren and blue lights flashed as he slowly cruised the line, waving us on. I closed the trunk and prepared to get in.

Just behind the cop came the driver who lost his place earlier. The young man with the backpack waved. The older man got out. They hugged. The cop gave them that. It was buying me seconds.

“What’s on the jacket?” the man said, pointing to me. I was wearing a jacket with an insignia from the Narragansett Terrace Yacht Club. It looks pretty official. Maybe he thought I was a cop about to give him hell.

“Sailing,” I said.

He looked relieved. He smiled and gave me a thumbs up.

No sooner had I slid into the driver’s seat when my cell phone vibrated.

It was Diana.

“A cop is giving me a tough time. Where are you? Hurry!”

“I see you!” she replied and the phone went dead.

I jumped back out and looked at the terminal’s sliding glass doors. No Diana. Then from behind came her voice. Natalie, wearing pajamas, was smiling. I gave them both hugs. They climbed in. I didn’t delay.

As I pulled into traffic a small voice came from the back seat.

“Merry Christmas, Peppy.”

She was right. It was a great Christmas now that they were here and Logan was behind us.


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