I did make it home yesterday, though not without a snippet of travel drama. The flight was smooth, overall, though we got put into the fly-past-the-airport-and-land-from-the-west flight pattern that usually accompanies the Santa Anas here in SoCal, so I knew the weather was going to be a bit weird. And indeed, the remnants of Emily were over the area yesterday, which even resulted in this bizarre phenomenon, in the middle of the afternoon, where water suddenly fell from the sky. Strange, I tell you. My cab driver, though, told me that there’d been hail in Riverside, so things could have been weirder.
In the airport, though, things hit a much higher level of strange. As is the airport’s custom, three flights had arrived at roughly the same time, and so three airplanes full of people were milling around waiting to figure out which baggage claim carousel their luggage would arrive on. I hung back between the two most likely alternatives, and just happened to catch my flight number as it flashed on the sign in front of one of them, about three seconds before the buzzer and siren announced the news to the crowd. I used that three seconds to weave my way toward the belt, staking out my piece of carousel-front property. As I did, I passed about four feet to the right of an older woman of perhaps 80, who had gotten a trolley and had her carry-on bags stacked on it, and her cane folded up and tucked into the basket. Immediately after she passed from my peripheral vision, I heard an enormous thud, and turned just as a collective gasp went up from the crowd. The woman was rigid, flat on her back, on the ground. She hadn’t crumpled to the ground, as she would have if she’d passed out; she’d apparently gone down like a tree, and hit her head quite hard on the floor in the process.
I swear to you, my first thought was “oh my god, what did I do?” Even though I was four feet away, the timing of my passing her and her going down produced a sense of causality in my head that was quite hard to shake.
Several people went immediately to her aid, checking her pulse and calling for help. TSA agents arrived within about a minute, followed a few minutes later by the airport police, followed quickly by two trucks full of the Ontario Fire Department. The woman was breathing throughout, and was in fairly short order able to tell the police her name, and the family member she was being met by, so that they could find her sister and bring her over. She was clearly in good hands.
And in the midst of this, folks are claiming their bags and heading for home. As did I.
Little wonder, I guess, that the cloud cover outside and the news of hail in Riverside seemed a bit surreal. Everything did, for the next several hours.