I dodged the curb-side skycap who kept repeating to my foggy 4:00 a.m. brain that I could have “complimentary bag-check inside” or I could have “sky-cap service curbside”. I stared at the outdoor bag-check kiosk, looking for indicia of its connection to Southwest Airlines. When did the airlines start charging to check your bags, I asked. It’s no charge, he insisted. You can have complimentary bag-check inside, or you can have sky-cap service here. My mind boggled. How much is the charge to check it here? i inquired. There is no charge, he replied. You can have complimentary bag-check inside at the ticket counter, or you can have sky-cap service curb-side.
My bag stood solidly between us. My writer’s brain on four or five hours of sleep contemplated his deliberate inclusion of the word “complimentary” to describe baggage check “inside” and the absence of that word to describe the service at his kiosk denoted a charge. I did not necessarily mind tipping or paying a fee to have assistance. I sorely minded his disingenuous and thinly concealed attempt to trick me into incurring a hidden fee.
No thanks, I wearily told him. I grasped the handle of my four-wheel spinner suitcase and trudged inside. A stream of golfers followed me, having disgorged themselves from a bus at the curb in front of my Super-Shuttle.
When my turn came at the ticket counter, a wiry woman of fifty or so hauled my over-packed suitcase forward and slapped stickers on it. You’re going to my gate, she exclaimed. I bet you need a wheelchair. She had seen me walk. I hesitate to use a pushed chair if I don’t need it. The Kansas City airport does not particularly challenge me, but LAX would. If you decline a wheelchair at any step of the process, getting one later proves difficult.
As usual, the attendant spoke little English and I outweighed him by ten or twenty pounds even at my meager 112. We got to gate 40 an hour before boarding, since the shuttle only offered service for my flight at 3:45 or 4:00 a.m. Even at the latter, the lack of traffic and the driver’s heavy foot insured my arrival at the airport before 4:30 for a 6:30 take-off.
I sat next to the gate with my Starbucks and my tablet, browsing social media and yesterday’s e-mail. By and by, the gate attendant wheeled me down and a heavy-set flight attendant handed me into my seat. With my computer bag shoved under the seat and my hat in my lap, I settled myself and awaited that lovely coffee from the airline with a heart.
I’m California-bound. Challenges lie ahead. I’ve never driven across the Golden Gate bridge. My hostel stay in Marin County holds its own particular intrigue. But this evening, if all goes well, I will mingle at a three-club Rotary Social at the Golden Gate Tap Room. I will sleep this evening with an open window and sea breezes caressing my face. It’s the twenty-fourth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. A temporary respite from every-day routine promises to invigorate me. Nonetheless, life continues.