Running Free at Terminal B
The sparsely populated but energized International Terminal at LAX is an embraceable symbol of the reawakening world. Neither as devoid of life as a Charlton Heston zombie apocalypse, nor as thronged as in pre-COVID days of innocence and joy — when “viral” meant a dog pushing a lawnmower and conspiracy talk leaned to the now-lovable Lizard Men of Alpha Draconis — the Tom Bradley International Terminal is today an unlikely teddy bear. This despite the 6,000 or so nervous flier miles that await my family and me aboard the unreasonably buoyant 400-ton flight KLM602 to the Netherlands. The accursed Wright Brothers’ assurance that a forward-lunging airplane “doesn’t have time to fall” is cold comfort in the hour before climbing into the gargantuan riveted whale and buckling our decorative little seat belts. Another story.
The much-ballyhooed return to “normalcy” is in touching evidence here at Terminal B. Strangers silently greet each other with arched eyebrows and crinkled eyes; the communal, smiling embrace of the surgically masked. If you’ve seen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you’ll recognize the indescribable vibe. When the apologetic aliens release several centuries’ worth of extraterrestrial kidnap victims, the bewildered abductees in their various period costumes materialize from blinding flying saucer light to plant their feet again on dowdy old Mother Earth, all of them wearing the slight, bewildered grins of folks who can’t quite put two-and-two together but like what they see. So, it is at LAX today.
The delighted Clawing Back to Normal reintroduces to our proscribed lives all the daily magic we previously took for granted; unremarked minutiae to which we’re now madly endeared. Normal never looked so voluptuous. While I stand guard over our luggage, my family fans out to the four corners of the airport in search of overpriced, flavorless airport food and return with a tongue-numbing cornucopia of colorfully wrapped caloric jetsam. The $10 breakfast sandwich they bring me is gratingly small — demure as a swollen communion wafer. I nearly laugh before washing it down with a sip of water. My grown “kids” have every adult right to fill a gaudy bag with candy and chips from some damnable airport shop, and I’m thankful for the occasion to watch them consume this junk in the company of my visibly giddy Terminal B community. The sense of resumption is palpable.
Yes, our destination country is undergoing a troubling and unforeseen spike in COVID infections — but we shall wield our vaccination cards as we would cloves of garlic in Castle Dracula — wincing, with arms outstretched. What virus would mess with an immune system that has its own driver’s license? And anyway, the whole affair is an act of faith. Yes, there is a killing virus in the world; there are many of them, actually. COVID-19 has circled the globe in a fever of self-replication, as living things do if given half a chance. If we as individuals are not personally surrounded by the intubated, we either are or are not persuaded that anything at all is afoot. And because institutions, as a long matter of record, tell half-truths when it serves them — absolutely all the time, in other words — a certain proportion of us will see every emergency announcement in the public square as one or another degree of diabolical, deep-state mischief designed to strip us of something. Freedom, I guess?
These machinations are ascribed to a government that, to date, can’t balance a checkbook. Must we fear — and hurl all our moral strength against — a nemesis incapable of tying its shoes? If that’s your inclination, have at it. The cabal’s grasping after our precious freedoms will be foiled as soon as the morons stand and give chase. If there is a paw-rubbing Deep State with the actual wherewithal to conquer and enslave us, we’re right to ask that these Trilateral Commissioners first fix the roof and see to the plumbing. However secretive, evil, and frighteningly lizard-like they are, they’ve yet to demonstrate a garden-variety competence. Are these dunces capable of breaking you down and jailing your spirit? Get a bigger spirit.
Our gigantic airplane drifts down like a monstrous feather and exits a summery smattering of clouds, pterodactyl shadow sweeping across green lowlands to capture the bored attention of Dutch cows who fleetingly glance up. My in-laws greet us at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport with an outlandish cloth banner of welcome, and there are tears all around as my wife falls into the arms of her sibs. Forty-five minutes later we pull up to the house where Judie was born. Her mom — my dear, indomitable mother-in-law — has survived Nazis, the spiriting away to America of her baby girl, and a badly overmatched virus from h*ll. The enforced separation is over. Mother and daughter wrap their arms around each other and hang on. Throw back the curtains and pour the coffee. We’re free.