We've all heard it. That old joke that starts out, "A funny thing happened on the way to the airport " Well, at the risk of being a human punch line, um, a funny thing happened on the way to the airport.
Or, more accurately stated, on the way in and past it. I'll explain - but first, allow me to remind you of my route-going shortcomings.
What I mean to say is that by now, my horrendous sense of direction is legendary. For example, did I ever tell you about the time I was trying to find my way to Pomerene Hospital way, way up at the top of a Whoville-typed hill smack dab in the middle of rural Millersburg and wound up in the busiest shopping section of downtown Canton?
Sure, it turned out well for those on my Christmas list that year, but that's really not the point. The point is, when you're aiming for Amish paradise and land where the devil wears Prada, you clearly have a misfire going on in the portion of your gray matter which dictates your capacity for path finding.
I could get lost on the Daytona 500 track. Seriously.
In fact, it was my frantic call to Kerry during the Whoville extravaganza which landed me a very special Christmas present of my own that year: a GPS Navigation system by Garmin. I call her Gertrude, but she doesn't speak to me much anymore. Some say there's a problem with her mechanism, but frankly I think she just got tired of me still going the wrong way despite her very clear, explicit directions and is simply freezing me out.
Which brings me back to the Pittsburgh airport. Sort of.
You see, last Sunday night, Kerry and I headed to the Steel City to pick up our cousin Griffin, who was going to be spending a few days with us on a little holiday away from his home state of Utah. So, naturally, we offered to pick him up at the airport. And, as soon as we pulled into the exterior baggage drop off area outside the terminal, it happened.
Kerry hopped out of the car calling out something over his shoulder about checking on Griffin's flight and telling me to slide over into the driver's seat "in case you need to move the car."
Wait, stop, come back! What if they make me leave the curb??Couldn't we just pay the $400 parking fee??I?won't buy groceries next month!?Please don't make me wait in the car by myself!
You've no idea how a directionally-impaired person fears having to leave the safe haven of a parking area in lieu of having to brave the hard, cold streets of a highway, turnpike or interchange of any sort. I broke out into a cold sweat when I saw the airport policeman making his way toward me.
"Sorry, miss, you can't park here" I heard as I winced in the pain at the knowledge that I'd likely take a wrong turn or 20 and wind up in Trenton, N.J., before the night was out.
Sensing my angst, he added, "It's not that bad. Just pull into the Sunoco gas station off the exit ramp if you're afraid of going in the wrong lane."
Surely enough, I missed the turn to Sunoco on the first go round but somehow managed my way back to the interstate with only four angry horn honks and one prominently-displayed finger.
As if that wasn't humiliating enough, I ran into the gas station to use the ladies' room only to have the door key lock break off inside the tumbler.
Sort of gives a whole new meaning to the term "potty break," but I digress.
The sheer indignity of it all filled my face with shame - bright red, mortifying shame. Not to mention zits from the 22 bags of M&Ms I felt compelled to buy after going into the gas station for no other reason than to use the restroom and completely obliterating it.
My new buddy Linda Ellison of Howland gave me solace with a story about her own series of unfortunate events on a business trip.
"One time I got so lost on the 'Beltway' around Washington, D.C., that I circled it for 75 minutes, which led me to miss my plane, which caused me to have to pay $800 more for a ticket change and made me miss a day of work," she told me.
"Now when there's an out-of-town conference, they just have me join via webinar or teleconference," she said sheepishly.
Thank God for the person who invented Skype.
As for me, I'll just be taking out a second mortgage on the house to make sure I can pay the airport parking fees next time a loved one needs dropped off or picked up - or in case I accidentally dismantle some other unsuspecting public place.
Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.