November 13, 2014KR BlogBlogEthics

Leaving Cedar Rapids

We just wanted to get home, seven people in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, airport thrown together by bad luck, a late flight, and something resembling apathy. Because the flight carrying our crew from Chicago was running late, we would all miss our connections in Denver, so the agent told us we could get a flight to Chicago, where we would be rebooked and given hotel vouchers for the night—all we had to do was talk with the agent on the ground there.

Apparently, most of the operation was outsourced while we were en route because by the time we arrived, the place was all but deserted, and what few airline representatives we could find had never heard of us, and never mind rebooked flights and hotel vouchers. We went our separate ways.

Fortunately, we found each other again, and by now it was clear we needed to stick together—leave no one behind, all for one and one for all, hell no we won’t go (and obviously we weren’t going anywhere anyway). I told my confreres that someone had directed me to find a man in a trench coat—were we in a noir movie now?—near baggage claim.

Despite his protestations that this was not really his job, the trench-coated man unlocked the airline office and helped us out with the rebooking and the vouchers, none of which he had heard about either. We were pretty sure that had we been only one or two people, we would have been out of luck, but given that we were seven, one of whom was a sleeping child draped over her father’s shoulder, we were more difficult to ignore.

For the most part, we remained polite though insistent. The only touchy moment came when the airline guy intimated that one of our number had not been on the flight, and the latter started to lose it, his voice rising as he insisted that he had in fact been there with the rest of us—“These people were sitting right behind me,” he said.

It was an understandable moment of distress, like being told that you don’t exist or that you’re not wearing pants.

The existential crisis averted, with our flights rebooked and clutching our hotel vouchers in our fists like we were school children on our way through the lunch line, we made our way across the street to wait for the hotel shuttle.

And we kept waiting. Standing out there in the middle of the night, we wondered out loud whether the bus was really coming, whether the hotel even existed. Maybe we were stuck in a really bad episode of The Twilight Zone that never aired because it was too dull, and this was going to be our life from now on. The flight never happened. The airline didn’t exist. We weren’t really outside Chicago. We were just a group of people with a collective false memory who would wait and wait until we died.

So we agreed that we would all remember the moment, create a solidarity of memory confirming that that ridiculous night really did take place. Here is my contribution.