The man behind me in the line-up for security is not respecting the invisible electronic fence of my personal space boundary. He keeps bumping into me with his box of lobsters and inching his wheeled carry-on forward so that it looks as if it and I are going steady. If I lean backwards into him (and I just might oh why don’t I and show him) my knapsack will come to rest against his box of lobsters and together we will form a new type of interstellar being. Or, better yet, maybe I will grab his box of lobsters, open it, cut the bands off the hapless claws, and set all those tasty crustaceans free right here in Halifax airport.
Here we stand in the line for security, which is inching forward at the pace of a line which is not moving one bit. This is my third attempt to get home, what will all the apocalyptic weather besieging St. John’s right now. Maybe if those four horsemen come thundering across the sky with their swell horns and mighty steeds, one of them will swoop down and give me a lift. But now I see that they, too, are stymied because of the torrential winds and inscrutable wind resistant fog. It’s written on the departures screen: “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Delayed. Please Check Back for Updates.”
I remember when the Catholic Church decided that purgatory wasn’t a thing anymore. But, I wailed, what will happed to all the poor souls lined up at heaven’s gate, waiting for the liberation that only a five dollar mass can buy?
Rest easy. They are all here, with me, at the airport.
There is an older couple in front of me who have been griping at each other with deadly sniper accuracy.
She says, “I don’t ask for much, do I? Do I? “ He says, “It wasn’t on the list.” She says, “But why do I have to put it on the list when we’ve already talked about it?” He says, “It’s not a real thing until it’s on the list.”
To my right there is a young woman travelling alone with a baby. The baby is old enough to be squirmy and unhappy in some sort of elaborate front-loading strap-on thing. In addition to her baby, the young woman is also staggering under the weight of various totes and bags which seem to hold diapers, formula, Onesies, and possibly a parachute.
The man with the box of lobsters bumps me again. I try to zap him with the powers of my invisible electronic fence but he weathers the zaps of my psychic darts and prods me again. He looks so unassuming, I can’t gauge his motives. One of the older security guards at the gate decides he is going to lighten the mood of us, the human centipede, and he begins to say things in a hearty jovial voice.
“Who’s going to the bingo game! Ha ha ha! Who’s going to the bingo game when you get to Newfoundland? Ha ha ha!”
No one cracks a smile, which does not deter him. He is affronted that we are not erupting into gales of mirth. Now he tries to pick on us, one by one, like a stand up comic gone mad with power. And, it is very intimidating because he is wearing a uniform, and we are at his mercy if we ever want to get out of this hellish hell, and so some of us attempt feeble resentful smiles. This is a mistake. He starts a running commentary.
“ What’s the matter? No one got a smile for me today? You sir! You there! Where’s your smile for me today? Look at her! She can’t help herself! See? She’s loving the thought of going to the bingo when she gets to Newfoundland! Ha ha ha.”
As he goes on and on, those of us in the line up begin to silently commiserate with other. The bickering couple in front of me pause to direct their barbed looks at him instead of at each other. The woman travelling with the baby rolls her eyes at me, as if to say, “Is he effing serious?” Her baby spits out a pacifier, which inexplicably lands on top of the box of lobsters held by the man directly behind me. We all turn to look.
The man holding the box of lobsters smiles a luminous smile that takes us all in. He is short, round, and dark haired. His cheeks are flushed and he has a sweet rumpled quality that melts my heart. He has the box of lobsters balanced in one hand, resting on the handle of his wheeled carry on, which he tries to position slightly ahead of him in order to accommodate the cane I hadn’t seen before. He shrugs a little, uncertain, and as the security guard shrills on and on about the bingo it becomes clear that our man with the lobsters speaks only a little English. The baby reaches over, plucks her pacifier in her baby fist and begins to thump it up and down on top of the box of lobsters. We all laugh at the baby, and we laugh at the box of lobsters, and we laugh at the security guard in a companionable not-nice way.
Now I’m the one holding the box of lobsters. The woman of the bickering couple is loudly lecturing the young mother on how a little bit of alcohol is good for mommy when travelling because babies are selfish blobs of need, as are husbands. The dark haired man behind me is shouldering one of the diaper bags instead of the box of lobsters. The security guard is turning rather mean and flushed with the lack of response to his comedy routine when the baby gives the pacifier another flick, where it lands, plop, in a sticky glob, on the front of his shirt.
Later, I discover that a glass of wine, while more expensive than a five-dollar mass, is still heavenly.
Later still, I also discover that the box held only one lobster, which had it’s own seat on the plane.