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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks!]

Fly solo    I lose Frequent Flyer miles traveling solo, but it’s so much easier …

Airports and I have a rather lengthy history of mutual distrust.

Honestly, Boss, offers Screen Three, of the two, you’re more flighty. He laughs at his pun, alone in his admiration. Three is easily amused.

It’s not just because I miss a flight kissing a girl in Columbus. It isn’t because I sleep through the Pittsburgh boarding process, plane leaving me knocked out in the gate area. It has nothing to do with Los Angeles TSA agents stealing scuba knives from my suitcase. Reasons are much deeper, more meaningful. Let me try to explain …

The year is 1988. I am at the Portland, Oregon terminal now, but just four hours ago I was in a friend’s home, trying my best to calm jittery Joseph Rivera.

And losing, assures Screen One.

“You don’t understand,” Joseph utters plaintively. “I’ve been away from my family too long. I thought I could make it … get a good job, create a fine life, be able to wait for them. But they are in Puerto Rico and I am in America and” – he fights hot tears – “it is time for me to go home.”

Pastor Mike shoots me a look that instructs me to give up the battle.

Not yet! replies Six. Black, remind Joseph he has a nice rental. That his brother the cop lives in the same neighborhood. That all of you are standing with him.

“It’s no good,” Joseph sadly tells me. “I bought the ticket. Help me pack my kitchen.”

I look around the tiny home, spotlessly clean but minimally furnished. Pastor nods for me to step into a different room, one where he and I talk privately to see what solutions might arrive.

AvonDing dong! mimics Three. Avon calling … but not ideas!

We drive in silence to the airport, which is free of metal detectors in these pre-terrorist times. America’s skies have tasted but a handful of hijackers. Potential passengers simply declare the contents of luggage and learn whether it may be carried on or must be checked.

Trying to offset our lonely family man’s heaviness of heart, five screens provide a running supply of humor that is far better than Three ever offers.

Heard that! Three interjects. Not laughing, guys!

To my surprise, Pastor Mike joins in. Banter quickly grows

Into the big, green Hulk, right? asks Two.

­- and soon even Joseph is smiling, though his mind remains unchanged. However, the lonely late-night gate’s one and only ticket agent, an aged chap, is less prone to levity.

Stiff, I’d say, declares Five.

Our efforts to make him laugh backfire. “Open every one of your suitcases!” the agent bellows at Joseph. “Dump it out – all of it!”

Joseph resumes his fretting but complies quickly, quietly. He has one suitcase yet to show off when Six pushes me to speak up.

“Look,” I growl, “this is ridiculous. Our friend’s already missing his family. There’s no reason to make him go through all thi ….”

oopsWords stop. Screens gasp. World crashes as Joseph dumps the last case, spilling kitchen silverware everywhere. Elegant forks and several sizes of spoons are joined on the polished wood floor by …

Eight meat-carving knives Mick Dundee himself would envy, glows Four.

Enraged agent calls for the federal air marshal just once before Six shouts, Grab the mike!

“Please,” my dry throat ekes, “he – Joseph – didn’t know. Don’t detain him.”

Or us! adds Four, staring at the manhandled mike I hold.

“Detain?” blasts the agent. “Jailed! All of you!”

Hahahaha, laugh the screens. Jailed? That doesn’t happen until much later.

They’re right, of course. About the jailing being later.

Well, not jail, exactly, clarifies One.

Right, adds Five. We do finally help you talk your way out of it that time. But things sure heat up in your next airport –

I’ll tell it! interrupts Four. I’m the historian.

Read that book, shivers Two. Vlad the Impaler. Not a nice guy.

Shhh! barks Four, then takes a lecturer’s tone. So, Black, you’re at Toledo Express Airport. But that restless ADHD energy –

All six screens salute.

won’t allow you to simply sit in the passenger waiting area. You’re pacing the length of the tiny airport, swiftly making your way back and forth in mere minutes. Several such trips go by before you decide to double-check your gate assignment.

“Yes,” I agree. “I walk right up to the desk to certify I’m in the right place.”

But nobody’s there yet because you’ve arrived so early. As you stand in front of an unmanned –

Unwomanned, possibly, corrects One.

– ticket booth, your ever-vigilant eyes detect the slightest movement down by your feet.

Mighty Mouse“Mouse!” I shout in jubilance. Hahaha! Here in the midst of all this electronic gear!”

Then you realize the mouse may chew through the desk’s computer cables.

“They’ll kill him for this.”

You flush him from the crawl space beneath the desk, chase him madly through the passenger seating (insert mild screaming here) and steer him toward certain sanctuary.

“The exit door! He’ll be safe outside.”

Safe he is, indeed, once you push the “No Exit – Security Only” lever that opens the path to freedom.

“And set off the ear-splitting alarm that prompts four air marshals to surround me.”

Good try, explaining that whole “poor little mouse” business.

“Too bad he makes me look like a liar, disappearing from sight so fast.”

Scoot, the mouse does. Guess he’s leavin’ on a jet plane.

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Postscript: My inexplicably lumpy garment bag does not fit the blue “your bag can only be this size” bin that has just come into vogue. I plead, but huge Houston Intercontinental Airport’s loud, large Luggage Lady is unrelenting.

“If it won’t fit the blue, it doesn’t go through,” she says in a swell little rhyme that makes two of my screens nearly toss their cookies.

Four other screens suggest a ready alternative. I yank the garment bag out of its tightly-wedged, partially-inserted home in the blue bin, throw it flat upon the floor and start stomping it.

“S-s-stop!” shouts the Samsonite Strumpet, “you’re breaking something inside!” But my new baby girl waits for me what seems halfway across the world, the distance I fear I’ll travel in the airport to reach my next departure terminal. I dance and smash and leap, my pounding feet accompanied by terrible cracking noises and the fear-filled eyes of Luggage Lady and responding backup.

Breathing heavily, I bend down, pick up the now-smooth bag and slide it easily into the ballyhooed blue bin. I look up, ask, “Good ’nough?” – shocked faces wordlessly nod yes – and race the hallway maze to find my blondie.

Mental note, suggests One. Next time, cheapskate, skip smuggling Grandpa’s walnuts. Just mail ’em.

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