Delayed or Detained?

Sitting in a chair between baggage claim and East Exit 15 at the St. Louis airport last spring, I noticed a sparrow flying frantically between the beams supporting the terminal’s concrete vaulted ceiling.

Let’s call him Lambert. Lambert looked tired. He also looked trapped.

I felt the same way. Some of my cabin fever probably had to do with the History of American Journalism textbook on my lap and it being the last day of spring break. But I don’t think the symptoms of restlessness, edginess, irritability and anxiety that I had suddenly developed were entirely connected to returning to classes. I also react that way when I’m traveling home via St. Louis.

It’s not the airport itself that is so offensive; it’s the length of time that I’m there. St. Louis’ airport has all the offerings that a major airport should — magazines, t-shirts, coffee and food.

But traveling gets tedious when, instead of buying magazines for the plane, I have time to finish them before boarding and end up purchasing both a meal and snacks because my body has had time to digest the former.

During childhood my relationship with airports was good, mainly because I associated them with the free doughnuts that my hometown’s hub Dallas-Love Field offers morning travelers. But starting college changes many relationships’ dynamics.

With security considerations and on busy travel days the general rule of arriving two hours prior to departure time can actually be cutting it close, and factoring in the hectic schedules of MoEx and classes, I’ve had “layovers” in St. Louis that have lasted five hours. Currently airports and I are barely on speaking terms.

So I became excited when I saw the sign posted at Columbia Regional Airport, unobtrusively announcing that it is recommended that passengers arrive 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure time. Thirty minutes? That calls for a spotlight and balloons. I think that it has a direct correlation to there being neither an anxious face nor a Burger King in sight.

Most of my friends here are from Missouri or a bordering state, so I’ve never had anyone to commiserate with about airport imprisonment or to grill for tips to improve my obvious ineptitude at coordinating academic, MoEx and flight schedules.

But in conducting interviews for my article about Columbia Regional Airport’s new Columbia to Memphis route, I felt justified. I came across a MU student who cited the ordeal of getting from Columbia to St. Louis or Kansas City as her reason for going to North Carolina to see her boyfriend graduate from basic training via Columbia and Memphis.

“It’s convenient between classes. Like, I don’t have to plan a trip to take a trip,” she said.

Granted, there is a layover in Memphis; but of the passengers I interviewed the one with the longest layover was going to be in Tennessee for an hour and a half.

That appeals to me more than the hours spent waiting in St. Louis for my direct flight, and flying out of Columbia would give me the opportunity to check out Memphis International’s variety of fast food and news stand options.

If I have time.


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