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Escape From Cleveland

Copyright 2002 W. Bruce Cameron

Recently, through no fault of my own, I found myself in a state of existence which can only be described as "Cleveland." Having flown in for a meeting (you probably think of me as a mild-mannered reporter for the daily newspaper, but that's my secret identity; I'm really a
failing businessman), I now wanted to fly out, and selected the airport as being the logical place from which to commence my return journey.
The airport in Cleveland is actually IN Cleveland, as
opposed to my hometown Denver's airport, which is in Nebraska. When I dropped off my rental car, they asked me if I'd had a "good time" while in Cleveland, which I thought was pretty amusing. I settled into my airplane seat, which felt about as comfortable as a gymnast's balance beam, helped the woman next to me pry her infant off my shoulder, and listened intently as the stewardess explained how to buckle and unbuckle a seatbelt, taking extra time in case anyone on the plane was a voter from Palm Beach County, Florida.
The plane pushed back from the terminal and began rolling. It was dark outside - - the sun doesn't actually come out in that part of the country, but the gray does lighten somewhat during the day - - and I
was looking forward to being served the in-flight meal so the child next to me would have something to fling on my clothes beside the soggy graham crackers he'd brought for that purpose. We rolled some more, and then some more - - I checked my ticket to see if it said anything about actually flying, or if the airline could fulfill its commitment if they simply drove me to Denver. 
Finally we stopped. We were back at the gate.
"This is the first officer," a loudspeaker announced.
"We're going to call the mechanics, and we'll advise you the moment we know anything."
I frowned. What did that mean, the minute they "know
anything"? Didn't they know, for example, that we were back at the gate?
The only passenger to panic and bolt was the baby next to me, who attempted to escape by crawling across my chest. His mother gripped his ankles, and he began shrieking. "There, there," I murmured, meaning, "please stop screaming in my face."
After a long consultation with each other, the mechanics
voted that it was okay with them if we risked another attempt at flight. We pushed back from the gate, rolled a few yards, and then sat on the runway for two hours.
"This is the worst trip to Cleveland since the Edmund
Fitzgerald," I told the woman next to me.
"My baby usually gets airsick," she replied helpfully.
Back to the gate. It's easier to escape from Alcatraz than the airport in Cleveland. "Ladies and gentlemen plus screaming babies," the first officer greeted us, "I'm afraid we're not going to be flying to Denver tonight. If you check with the gate agent, he'll help you get on another flight."
This turned out to be true: I was able to get another
flight, just not one to Denver. "We'll put you up in a hotel in St. Louis," the gate agent beamed, acting as if I'd just won a free vacation.
"That's in Missouri," I informed him geographically.
He frowned at his paperwork, apparently distrusting this
slanderous declaration.
"I live in Colorado," I explained, so that he'd see the
"Oh! Well, there's a six a.m. flight to Colorado Springs
from St. Louis," he proclaimed, emphasizing the word "Colorado" so I'd be joyful.
"And then..." I prompted.
"And then you'll be in Colorado!"
"And then I'll be two hours from home."
"We have a bus to take you to Denver," he stated rather
"A bus. From an airline," I repeated.
He looked mournful.
I eventually took the trip to St. Louis, but my luggage
elected to go to San Francisco instead. This meant that the next morning, when I boarded the plane which would take me to my bus, I already smelled like baby. A few hours later, I smelled like fermentation. But I
made it home safely - - which is more than I can say for my luggage.
It's still missing.
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