Miriam Feder home



I’m looking at the map the night before we leave Charleston.

“This beach is just about an hour out of town. We could check out first thing tomorrow and get back weasily before the flight.”

The plan is we’ll check the bags at the hotel, have one last float in the Atlantic, pick up our stuff, change in the bathroom, drop the rental and fly home.”

We’ve spent over an hour bouncing and bobbing in the warm surf. It’s the last-possible-minute to leave paradise and we’re toweled off, damp-bottomed and ready to pedal our economy car to the mainland, sticky and sandy as the weather, and loving it.

The bridge is open. The little bridge to this island beach has swung open for a sailboat with a tall mast.

“Slow boat, hunh?”

I didn’t think there’d be any delay to a midday trip through town. I’m getting hotter and itchier. It feels like we’re sitting here a long time. I wish I’d allowed a little more time for the return. Some people allow cushions of time; they allow for bridge openings. I should have seen the bridge coming out here.

I’ll just check our itinerary and reconfirm our timing.

What?!! We get into Chicago at 3? I planned this for take-off from Charleston at 3. We leave Charleston at 1:40? It’s noon now. We’re at least an hour from our hotel.

This bridge is sure going nowhere. Only my pulse is picking up speed.

I’m going to have to announce my error. I’ve just totally blown it; I deserve whatever is coming to me.

Luckily for me, our mutual panic is so great there’s really no time for a full-blown attack. Sure a little shock, disbelief, the usual screaming and yelling to help let off steam. But we’re both gearing up for the mad dash. We’ve been late to airports before. But never quite like this. He’ll drive, I’ll navigate, and we’ll ditch bits of the plan as we can—just as soon as this damn bridge closes.

Ok, we’re finally moving. Once we get to the freeway, traffic moves along pretty well. I’m a squeamish passenger at best, so I keep my eyes off the road—I don’t need to see us weaving in and out of traffic. This would all be so much easier if we didn’t have to go back to the hotel. Never separate from the stuff. What was I thinking? His fear of car break-ins. We have to go back into that tight little tourist district, and park, and be civil to the bellhop and tip and….

“We can forget changing. I’ll pull some clothes out of the bags and we can try to change in the car on the race to the airport. Yeah—then we don’t even need to find legal parking.”

“Ok—you stay with the car, I’ll claim the stuff and tip the guy.”

“Hi, yeah, we’re in a bit of a hurry. You can just throw them in there. Great—this is for you. We had a great time, very relaxing.“

That went pretty well. We might make it.

We’re screaming down the freeway again. Where are we going to drop this rental car? My temples are pounding so hard I can’t find the rental return on this little map. It’s an off-airport cheapie.

“Let’s just drive to the airport and leave the car somewhere, call them and let them know. They might charge a fee, but it’s better than missing the flight.”

More scary driving. I try to be encouraging and not to look at the road. Ok, we’re off the freeway and on the airport drive now. This airport looks just like Portland’s–familiar!

“I’ll leave you and the luggage at curb check, I’ll get rid of the car and meet you in the airport.”

I’m the resourceful one.

I dump him in his swim trunks, flip flops and sandiness amidst a sea of boxes and bags at the curb. The porter is coming to his rescue. Note to file—next time do not buy chairs on vacation, even portable chairs.

Good news! The porter says the plane is delayed.

“Great—gotta go.”

I’m screaming around the circular airport drive to find a spot to get rid of this car and I’ve almost made the full circle. I’ll just follow this guy into the employee parking lot. I sneak in on his card swipe–a charmed life.

I race into the building behind another employee with a card key and I’m surrounded by the rental-car desks. This is perfect. I approach a friendly looking woman at the not-busy desk and explain:

“I have to leave this key with you—the car is next door here in the employee lot –perfectly safe. I don’t have time to go to their off-site return.”

She’s willing to take the key, if I call my company and let them know the details. So I dive into the pay phones (note to the present–this is obviously before 911 airport security and cell phones.)

Here I encounter my first resistance to my exploding adrenals–the southern hospitality trick. The nice, slow-talkin’ lady at Alamo wants to assure me that they are more than happy to drop me at the airport after I bring the car back to their off-airport location.

“It’s real easy to find. We’ll have you back in no time. “

“No time is just what I have. I simply can’t do that.”

And I simply can’t explain it to her anymore. I drop the key off with my first lady and run upstairs.

Breathless and sweating, I run into my husband who almost looks sane by now. The bags are checked, the plane is thankfully delayed, and there’s another half-hour to go before we can takeoff. Oh to breathe again, and go to the bathroom, and get some more sand out of the creases before flying cross country.

We each make our ablutions. Then we saunter up to a little ice cream stand and treat ourselves to double dip waffle cones of fresh peach ice cream. It’s June in South Carolina; nothing has ever tasted better.

We amble to the gate. Clearly, we’re the lost passengers, but we’ve made it. The plane has been loaded for over half an hour and it’s quietly baking in the sun, power off, waiting for the thunderstorms to clear Chicago. There are two empty seats, no longer together, but maybe that’s for the better.

The other passengers are grumpy, sweaty and red-faced. They hate us. We walk down the aisle air conditioned, with fresh peach ice cream dripping down our arms. Relaxed.