Thursday, September 11, 2014

Colombia, Part 2: Miami

The plan is for Dan and me to take a car from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to Miami's airport, and we are whisked away from the airport into a white sedan with black-tinted windows. I'm glad my big brother is with me. I've lived a small-town life for twenty years now, and everything about our trip has been anything but small-town: slick, busy, fast. 
Now Dan and I are flying through the traffic jam that is South Florida. Our driver, Alfredo, is from Ecuador, but to me he’s Rayco's twin. My brother-in-law had the same charming Spanish-softened English, that sharp wit, that sweet Tony Bennett smile. But Rayco didn't drive like a bat out of hell. At one point I mouth to Dan, “How fast are we going?”
“Seventy-eight,” he mouths back. And this is in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with the usual construction along the sunny, palm-lined highways. But Alfredo is an excellent chauffeur, and we don't die on this less-than-32-minute drive. In Miami’s airport, Dan and I have to walk the entire length of the terminal, A to H, to track down his luggage. Halfway there, we ask an airport employee if there's a quicker way to make the trek. "No," she says. "Anyway, it looks like you could use the exercise." Once we've found Dan's suitcase, we go to great lengths to find the people-mover back.
Checking in at an American Airlines ticket counter feels like heresy; we are Delta people. There's no line at the freestanding computers that look like R2-D2, but there's no human contact, either.
We get Starbucks mochas and share a scone, but end up having to wolf it down in front of the security gates. The woman checking our passports and boarding passes looks at mine, then at Dan's, and seems to make a decision. "Just go this way," she tells me. Once in line, Dan whispers that I've dodged a bullet. She has let me go with him and he is preapproved. The non-preapproved line is easily three times longer. I walk through the security gate holding my breath. In Pensacola this morning, a perfectly normal-looking woman in her seventies, polyester pantsuit and all, had been searched pretty thoroughly. Things have sure changed over the past thirteen years... But the uniformed Hispanic gives me a nod. Good to go.
We head to our concourse, riding a Disney-style tram through gray buildings, open hangars, and big sky. We are dropped into another part of the airport I swear is cleaner, brighter, better; we are now among the international jet-set. 

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