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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another Airport Encounter

This episode isn't quite as scary as my shuttle ride (see post below), but it left me shaking my head while it was happening. Let me start from the beginning.....

I met fellow author Ginny Aiken on the shuttle back to the Denver airport after the ACFW conference. Her plane left an hour after mine from the same gate so we decided to hang out together. We grabbed a bite to eat, chatted enroute with Cara Putman, and eventually made our way to our gate, a full hour before my flight was due to leave.

We found seats (there was still plenty of room, but starting to fill up) and I set my carry-on bags in the empty seat next to mine, then headed to the restroom. When I returned, I found them repositioned in my seat and a duffel bag in the adjoining seat...with an empty seat just beyond.

Ginny leaned close and whispered. "A man moved them. He wasn't too happy that we were taking three seats for two people."

"Where is he?"

She nodded toward a desj where the man bent over his work. "He's kind of grumpy."

I set my bags on the floor and moved them slightly to the side so they weren't right under my feet. A few minutes later the man approached. "I need to move this." He bent over and picked up my bag containing my purse and other items, and plopped it against my feet.

I looked at him, raised my brows and simply said, "okay...?"

He proceeded to rummage in his duffel bag then went back to the small table where he'd been working. Ginny and I simply looked at each other, trying not to laugh. He'd had all sorts of room to reach his duffel, without bothering my items, and they weren't in his way. We talked for a few minutes in a low voice, wondering what his problem might be, then changed the subject and began to chat about other things.

A few minutes later, he returned. He leaned close to my face, about 12" away and hissed. "I was simply moving your bag so I wouldn't step on it. You didn't have to act snooty and make a big deal out of it." Honestly, I don't remember his exact words, as I was so shocked to have him in my face and even commenting on my simple "okay". I guess it really bothered him, and it's possible he thought we were laughing at him, when we got the giggles a little later remembering a disembodied voice in the airport train, warning everyone that they were delaying the departure of the train by standing too close to the door. Whatever his problem, it took me aback.

I looked him directly in the eyes. "You don't need to be rude."

He moved back a few inches and glared. "I'm simply responding to you in the same manner you offered to me." He picked up his duffel bag and stalked two steps across the way to a seat facing us and a little off to the side.

Ginny and I sat stunned, wondering what just happened. We offered each other a small smile and tried some small talk. Finally, she leaned over and told me not to worry, it would be one more story to add to my growing list of airport adventures I could use in a book someday.

We both agreed that most people would be nervous or a bit irritated if a strange man approached a woman in an airport and grabbed her personal belongings rather than asking her to move them, if they were in the way. We changed the subject and decided to try to forget it...although I did whisper that I hoped my seat wouldn't be next to his. The man had ear buds in and seemed to be listening to something, so we assumed he'd settled into his new seat and we wouldn't be bothered again.

About twenty minutes later he stood and walked directly to me, leaning over again. I cringed, wondering what was coming next. "Excuse me?" He waited until I looked up. "I'd like to apologize. I've had a really bad day and I didn't think about the fact that I was moving your purse or personal belongings and it might make you nervous. I shouldn't have acted that way."

It surprised me and I stumbled an acceptance. He went back to his seat and settled in. A few minutes later, I nodded and smiled at him, and he returned the gesture.

I was one of the last to board and I passed down the crowded aisle in the airliner, looking for a seat. There sat the man from the terminal near the front. No, there wasn't an empty seat next to him, but he did sit in an aisle seat and traffic was moving at a crawl. I could have avoided eye contact and pretended I didn't see him, but instead I met his gaze. "I hope you have a good flight, and a wonderful rest of the day. And I wanted to thank you for apologizing...that meant a lot."

He smiled, his face falling into relieved lines and nodded. "Thanks. You too."

I moved on down the aisle, praising God that He'd turned what could have been an ugly situation around. We never know what a cranky, seemingly mean person has been through, what kind of loss they've suffered, or what pain they might be carrying. That man had the courage to stuff his pride and apologize, and I'm so thankful God gave me the grace to keep my mouth shut, when it would have been so easy to snipe back at him.

Looking back now, I wonder if the ear buds were actually some type of device to increase his you see advertised on TV, when people want to listen to conversations a distance away? He may have heard us comment that we were concerned when he picked up my bag, and felt ashamed that he's touched another person's possessions with permission...or the Lord might simply have moved on his heart. Whatever it was, I'm thankful. God is Good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Part Two...Shuttle Nightmare

This is the second part of this true experience I had a few days ago....but it won't make sense if you read it first. Scroll down to the older blog entry and start there, then come back and finish with this one.

“It's kind of late now.” Lisa nodded at the driver snapping his seat belt and inserting his key in the ignition. He reached for his radio and spoke to whoever dispatched him to the airport. I only heard one side of the conversation. “Yes. We picked up two women. No. No one else wanted to go.”

We looked at each other, and I saw the same concern I felt, mirrored on her face. I made a decision. “Driver?”

He turned around. “Yes?”

“I'd like to see your license, please.”

He just stared at me, and the man in the back sat unmoving, but clearly listening. The driver looked surprised, but didn't produce the requested document.

I tried again. “We don't know you, or the company you work for. I want to see your license, please.”

He grabbed the badge hanging around his neck. “This is my badge. No one can drive down here without a security check.”

I told him that was good, but I still wanted to see the company information and license, not just his badge. He unrolled his window and called to a security officer patrolling the sidewalk and beckoned the man over. “You want to see my badge?” He held it up to the open window and shoved it toward the officer.

The man raised his brows and shook his head. “No. And you don't need to offer to show it to me, unless I ask for it.”

I leaned forward and explained that he'd solicited us to ride with him, and we weren't familiar with his company....and that I wanted to be sure he was legit. The officer assured us NO ONE could get down into that area without a full security clearance, so we had nothing to worry about. Huh. Right.

We sat back in our seats and allowed him to drive off the airport property, although part of me still wanted to bolt from the van and make a beeline back to the Super Shuttle line, but off we went.

Yes, we arrived safely, with Lisa and I praying much of the way. Then two days later Lisa arrived breathless at my table in the conference dining room. “Did you hear the news about the shuttle driver?”

My mind immediately flew to OUR shuttle driver. “No. What's up?”

She leaned over my chair, her eyes wide. “It's on the news. The Feds just arrested terrorists posing as shuttle drivers here at the Denver airport. Wouldn't that be something if it was OUR driver?”

Yep. There's absolutely no need to worry, because NO ONE can get onto the airport pick up area without security clearance.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Shuttle Nightmare

It started innocently enough. I booked a Super Shuttle trip from the Denver airport to the hotel where our ACFW writer's conference would take place, not realizing I'd be imagining myself kidnapped before the end of the day. I know it sounds funny, but have you ever been in a situation where you truly thought your life could be in danger? Here's how it happened....

I arrived at the Denver airport and bumped into another ACFW conference attendee, Lisa Buffalo. Lisa and I made our way to the baggage claim area, then tootled on out to wait for our ride to the hotel. We passed the long line at the Super Shuttle desk, congratulating ourselves that we'd been smart enough to book our ride in advance. We confidently dug out our receipts and stood with the gathering crowd of women waiting outside. One of the gals was moaning about having to wait in the long line inside, and we suggested she might want to book online after this, and save the wait. She turned with snort of disgust. “I did. They made me go back in and get a ticket. The online receipt isn't good enough.”

No way. We couldn't believe it. I got right on the phone with the main office and they confirmed our fear....we had to go brave the line and miss this shuttle. We'd probably not arrive at the hotel for another hour, and we were both already tired from our early start and long day.

A shuttle driver who was clearly from a mid-eastern country (and had the accent that went along with it) from another company sidled over while I was talking on the phone I heard him urging Lisa to ride with him instead. “Only ten dollars each,” he insisted. She politely told him we'd already paid our fare, but thank you anyway. Five minutes later he was back. “Five dollars each.”

She and I looked at each other and from the look on her face I knew what she was thinking. I nodded and proceeded to cancel our reservation. By the time I hung up, our bags were in the van and the smiling driver was holding the door open. “Only twenty dollars and I take you right to your hotel.”

I help up my hand and shook my head. “Hold it. You said ten dollars, then five. What's with the change?”

He proceeded to explain that he'd thought the entire group would be coming and he couldn't take only two people clear across Denver for $5. each. The rest of the gals had already climbed on the Shuttle and it had driven off into the, sunny we were stuck.

We climbed into the van and only then noticed a VERY scruffy man in unkempt clothes with at least two days growth of beard, was climbing in, as well. He slid into the seat directly behind us, and the driver slammed the door shut. I started thinking about the appearance of the van, and realized I'd only notice a small decal on the side, and the vehicle had seen better days. The locks clicked down and the driver walked around the van, heading for his seat. Something in my spirit rose up and waved a red flag, and dread clamped onto my stomach. Get out of here. Now. I didn't know if it was the Lord speaking a warning, or just the over active imagination of a writer, but I knew I wanted out of that van.

I turned to Lisa and whispered. “I have a very bad feeling about this. I don't think we should go.”
Continued tomorrow.......

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