My ride to the airport is hours earlier than necessary, but I welcome the quiet hours at our local airport which come after the morning rush of three flights leaving within the same hour. All hands on deck. After the flights to Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle take off, the atmosphere between Gate One and Gate Three sags into a sweet hush.
I’m the only passenger who did not board a plane and I wonder idly if this makes me appear suspicious, wandering the deserted concourse. But there is no one here but me. What happens when everyone is gone? I turn the corner from the west end of the concourse and walk towards the northernmost gate.
One solitary security guard in her glowing yellow-green vest is on the phone at Gate Three, crouching beside the podium and the phone cord is stretched as far as it can stretch. The red-lit ticker sign behind her flickers: SLC 11:40 on time. It’s not even 9:30. She scrunches up her brow and I want to hurry to get beyond earshot, before she admits to someone she calls Baby, I’ll give you more money but you can’t keep bouncing checks.
Racing at the SLC airport to catch my flight to San Antonio, I fall into step behind an elderly couple holding hands. They are just stepping onto the moving sidewalk when they read the sign: Walk Left Stand Right.
But how can we do both, they protest to each other, turning to smile at me over their shoulders, apologetically.
And I find more quiet time in San Antonio after seeing my friend to the start of her 67th marathon. Twenty-two thousand runners at the corner of Market and Alamo! When they head west, I head north away from all the noise. It’s the Rock and Roll Marathon, which means live bands every three miles. I walk until I can’t hear music and then stop beneath a tree. Acorns and lady bugs capture my attention for a bit. When I look up, I realize a policeman dressed in khaki shirt and slacks, weapon and tan cowboy hat is studying me from the intersection he’s been assigned for traffic control.
There is no traffic now that the runners have run through. I gesture to my camera--see, I am just taking photos–and he turns away from me. Skylines and old rock walls. A car approaches and stops behind me, motor running. How much of this can I spend? Flag poles and old light fixtures. Yellow awnings snapping in the breeze. Shampoo and water bottles and oh yeah we ran out of condoms.
When I turn back to face the intersection, the policeman is leaning into the driver’s window to kiss a quick goodbye. The Walk signal flashes white across the street. The car moves forward, turns left and he gestures for me to walk. I wave my thanks. He gestures to his wallet in his back pocket and shrugs.
Count on me to take at least five hours were her instructions and so I decide to give her 4.5. That way I will be sure to see her cross the finish line, where there are thousands of spectators cheering the runners on. Behind me, a rock band is playing 80’s music and in front of me a baby is screaming, belted into her stroller which is parked beneath a loud speaker. And through the speaker comes the debate between the two finish-line announcers. In between announcing the names of the full-marathon runners as they approach the finish line, they debate the name of the movie Ron Howard once starred in.
American Gothic, the pretty, young blonde screams.
No, no, her co-host hollers back. It was American GRAPHIC!
And we laugh, those of us in the crowd who can hear and can also remember the 1970’s. It’s amusing and I make a note to myself to tell SheWhoRuns about this when we find each other after the race. She’ll laugh and recall that American Graffiti was the movie playing on her first date with her first husband.
But I never see her cross the finish line. Eventually she calls my cell phone to tell me she’s resting in the shade of the Alamadome, 200 yards behind me. How did I miss that? Later when she accesses the Rock and Roll website and locates the video featuring the end of her race, we can hear in the background: American Gothic! No No American Graphic! Don’t you know anything?