Indianapolis Airport: Gate B7
After a full day of waiting and watching our departure time bump in minute and hour increments from 12:40 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., our flight to Philadelphia canceled altogether. Weather issues on the East Coast, they said. That left my daughter and me standing in line at Gate 8 in Fort Wayne, IN. "I'm sorry," the ticket agent told us as he punched his keyboard. "I can't get you out of Ft. Wayne until the day after tomorrow. The only other option is to leave out of Indianapolis tomorrow at 12:22 p.m., fly to Chicago, and then onto Scranton.
Another ticket agent who happened to be standing there began to scroll on her phone. “Here’s an option you might want to try.” She turned her screen in my direction so I could jot the number down.
Hoosier Shuttle. Maybe I could make this work.
Once we arrived at the motel, I called the number. Would anyone answer at 11 p.m.? I left a message and paced the floor. Soon my phone rang. “We’re booked at 7:30,” the lady said, “but I have seats for 5 a.m.”
We boarded the shuttle at 5:20 and sat on the front bench seat behind the driver and a gentleman passenger. Conversation began to flow in the predawn darkness. As the miles clicked by, I found myself listening to the man in the front passenger seat. With charcoal skin and a dark mustache, he wore a flat cap and glasses. Stories rolled off his tongue like thick molasses. One of six children, he was born in Mississippi. His dad picked cotton for two cents a pound. His parents didn’t have much of an opportunity to learn to read and write. Leftover prejudices saw to it that black ignorance remained the norm. “So they couldn’t better themselves,” he said. He told us his family had no running water in the house until he was fifteen or sixteen.
“How did you end up in Wisconsin?” the driver asked, referring to an earlier part of the conversation.
“The good jobs were in the north,” our new friend simply stated. “Many of my high school friends went to college to become teachers. Me? I went straight to work—made more money than them, too. I’m 62 now. . . . I’ve done okay." Later, the father of seven girls and one boy mused, “This is the best country in the world. You can better yourself if ya have a mind to.”
Topics jumped from the beauty and roar of Niagara Falls to how the Amish live to politics. “Ya know, the world is coming to an end.” He leaned up in his seat, pointing his long brown finger to make his point. “If the wrong leaders get into office and if they push the red buttons. Well . . . that’ll be it.”
“Where are you headed?” I asked as we neared the terminal.
“New York. I’m getting a car and driving it home.” He turned to me. “You live far from I-80?”
"About forty-five minutes."
He laughed. “There’s nothin’ at them exits all away across Pennsylvania.”
I watched him enter the double doors, somehow feeling lighter having listened to his story, the story of a man so unlike me—a white woman from Buffalo and Pennsylvania who always took running water for granted and who’s never been to Mississippi or Wisconsin. I took a little of the conversation with me, and as we wait at Gate B7, I’m grateful for that little bright spot tucked in a couple of days of travel frustration.
And now, I just want to go home!
NOTE: Thanking God that we made it home safe and sound, even if it was twenty-four hours later than expected.