We had three hours to kill in Phoenix. Connor’s plane would arrive late from Eugene and we weren’t sure what time he was landing. There was only one sensible thing to do: head over to the Mesa Gateway Airport to find out.
We got there around 8 p.m., intending to read new/used books scored on a fun visit to Changing Hands Bookstore. The arrival room at the spiffed-up little airport was practically empty, a big open space with a shiny tiled floor, four rental-car booths and one guy reading a newspaper.
The Allegiant Air wall sign posted only four flights, from Eugene, Grand Island, Bozeman and Rapid City, all about two hours late and landing between 9:30 and 10 p.m.
Dan decided that the rows of stiff chairs were too uncomfortable for reading. He strolled over to the information desk, which had two empty padded chairs behind it. We settled in with our books. That’s when the fun began.
First an old man came up and asked why the flights were late. We made up a theory that became feasible: the early morning fog in Phoenix had caused the delays.
At least four people wanted us to explain how the parking payment system worked. I suggested that it was better to pay outside in the parking lot, since I was clueless about how to use the payment machine nearby.
“Let me help you,” said Dan to one woman and walked over to the machine with her. Whenever he factually, but unknowingly, answered a question, I cracked up and slapped him on the knee. The situation was just too funny.
Why weren’t these folks noticing that we didn’t belong there?
Two men hung around and chatted us up. One got married at 57, had a son who was a banker, flew all the time on business but now preferred driving. The other was originally from Wyoming, had been a farmer, lauded the Arizona Republic newspaper for providing coupons for over $450 worth of groceries that only cost him $150.
He started talking about how efficient Wyoming farmers were: “You know why? Because Wyoming is conservative!” I was itching to ask him if he knew Dick Cheney, which would surely have gotten us into a political mess.
Thankfully, and partly out of respect for Dan’s current aversion to politics, I opted not to. “Oh, let’s not talk about politics,” I pleaded. Good move.
Talking to regular folks is entertaining. We could have been in any small town. I thought of so many similar conversations I’ve had with strangers at the Bangor “International” Airport.
No tension, no fear, no disagreements.
When I saw people who looked like they had a question but weren’t coming up to the desk, I smiled or said “hi.” Guess that established the trust for them to come closer.
“Can I take those?” one quiet woman pointed to the Phoenix maps, brochures about the play “Annie,” Arizona tourist magazines, and listings of Allegiant Airlines destinations in a display behind us.
I wanted to give everyone permission. I’m not sure for what, but I replied, ” Absolutely!”