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The Return Home
Returning home from a trip to Oklahoma and Mississippi recently I found myself standing in the underground of the Birmingham, Alabama airport returning our rental car. If you ever find yourself in BHM and in need of a rental I would say it’s the worst experience I’ve ever had. The signage for where rental car pickup is located is horrible. It is on the bottom floor of a massive parking garage. It is poorly lit, kind of reminds me of the Philadelphia subway system back in the early fifties, damp, dark and eerie is the feeling. My head was on a swivel and my hand was on my gun, oops, not there any longer, I’m retired, I forgot.
Thrifty, not really as much as the name implies is the last kiosk as you drive through this underground maze. Were it rows of corn I would have used the word (Maize,) Wordsmith taught me that one. This being the Saturday after Thanksgiving, things were busy in the underground. Returning cars, worker bees and people standing in line were the order on this early morning. Fortunately I departed Starkville, MS early or I would have had an elevated stress level.
I had dropped herself and our granddaughter at the departing curb up above first, a smart move on my part I must say. Granddaughter Rachael had an earlier flight than us and the two of them started the check in process, they had my suitcase also. It was just me, the rental car and my backpack, I give that to no one.
There were multiple cars being returned at the Thrifty kiosk which is shared with Budget Rental Cars. I’m directed to a line of cars by a young man smiling and sipping from a hot cup of Starbucks, steam from the cup is giving his face a cloudy haze. I start to park behind the last car, the woman in the driver’s seat is looking back at me, waving excitedly for me to back up and beeping her horn like a mad woman. There is no place for me to go, another car has already placed it’s self in line. The young man drinking Starbucks approaches and after a few minutes gets things organized. We park, crazy lady leaves.
It seems the panicking lady had left her purse at her place of departure and needed to return. Those of us in the growing line of returnees were sorted into various spaces so the mad woman could go from whence she came and return once again at a later time. Any bets if she made her flight?
I get back in line, not quite in the same order as a car to my rear jumped in front of me thanks to the directions from Starbucks man. I hand my paperwork to a young woman who proceeds to do the fastest walk-around of a rental I have ever seen. Perhaps too much coffee and she needs a pit stop? She tells me I’m good to go, I grab my backpack, she hands me my papers and points to the growing line of returnees, I’m, number five.
I’m only in line for a few minutes when I’m joined by a family of five, mom, dad, two girls ten or so, and a teen age boy busy on his cell phone while he sits on a huge duffel bag. I’m guessing a girlfriend back home is on the other end. The girls are busy giggling, the mother looks as though she is not happy being up so early and is expressing the same to the husband. In a few minutes she leaves with the girls and heads towards the terminal.
My wife says I’m a talker, she’s right, I am, who, what, where, when and why are my trade mark. Back in my Law Enforcement days I conducted and evaluated hundreds of background investigations while a member of the CT State Police Selection Unit recruiting process. That penchant for people’s nomenclature has never left me.
The line has yet to move, I turn to the man in line who’s wife just left with the girls, he’s wearing a red sweatshirt with a monogrammed “R,” I point, “Rutgers” I say, “yep” he says. “You from Jersey” I say. “Yep, Exit 8A off the Turnpike,” “Exit 5” I say, Jerzyeez jargon for those who don’t know. Everyone in Jersey uses a N.J. Turnpike Exit # or Garden State Parkway Exit # to orient people as to where they live. The inquisition has begun.
We chat while the line moves slowly, Rutgers man was in Alabama for Thanksgiving with the wife’s retired parents. They have a lovely retirement home on a lake in Sweet Home Alabama. I learn the son is most definitely talking to his sweetheart back in Hightstown, seems he had no desire to come south and visit Granny and Gramps. Who would think that was the case. The Mrs. teaches school, Rutgers man works in pharmaceuticals and will be glad when he gets home. He will also miss the Iron Bowl, a football game between Auburn and Alabama for those not in the know. Oh, and his beloved NY Giants are not doing well this year. They will do Newark by way of Atlanta on Delta. Who, what, where, when and Why, all answered.
My phone rings, it’s herself, where am I she asks? It seems she and the granddaughter are all checked in, as is their luggage. My luggage however is still on the conveyor belt at the ‘AA” counter. TSA rules prohibit it being loaded until an ID’d person is matched with it. And where is this person, still in the Dungeon of Doom, Dilly Dilly. I explain its at least another ten minutes prior to me being on my way. She sounds frustrated as we hang up. It’s been a long trip.
Rutgers man and I chat football, growing up in Jersey, the beaches at the shore and stay away from politics, Roy Moore country you know. Eventually I made it to the front of the line, I thought I had won a prize. I got apologies from the kiosk attendant, a lovely calm young lady who gave me a $50.00 coupon for a future rental that I never asked for. I didn’t even complain. If you travel Thanksgiving this is something to expect. I say goodby to Mr. Exit 8 and make a bee line to the check in counter. On this day I will get my steps in.
The AA staff are happy to see me and get an ID from the baggage owner who’s luggage is accumulating dust. I get my receipt and we are off to find our cup of Starbucks, I’m smiling.
As for me and mine, we were off to the Eastern Shore via Charlotte and Philadelphia on American Airlines. I hope all who celebrated the day of Thanksgiving had a wonderful four-day weekend, and from our home to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.
Photo Credits: Turnpike , Wiki. Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, city of Birmingham, Rutgers Jersey, Rutgers, Thanksgiving Dinner, Pinterest