Sunday, December 27, 2009

a short Coffman adventure

When I arrived at the airport, my grandfather and mother were already in the designated waiting area reserved for curbside pick-up. As soon as I texted my mother to let her know we had landed, she was calling. I couldn’t answer the phone since the plane was still taxiing into the gate and probably going over 100 miles an hour. Once I saw the phone ringing, I knew they had probably been waiting for quite awhile as my grandfather has to be early for everything. They probably had their hands on their cells, impatiently waiting for any news that I had arrived. I celled them immediately once I got off the plane and again once I stepped outside to wait for them.

I found the place on the sidewalk where there was nearly no one waiting, just an elderly Asian man with a small black carry-on and a gray hat pulled down over his eyes. I tried not to make too much eye contact with him even though I wanted to keep looking at him. My grandfather and my mother found their way to where I was waiting on the sidewalk and I got in the back seat just in time for the car to go speeding into the left lane [at grandpa speeding speed] to pass all the other cars picking up passengers for the Christmas holiday. It’s more crowded than I’ve ever seen it.

We are exchanging pleasantries about the flight, the weather in Colorado and what we will have for dinner, when we get thrown off track. My mother is on the phone with my grandmother, who couldn’t hear a thing because she has accidentally pushed the mute button and doesn’t know it. She is screaming, “Hello! Hello!” while my mother screams, “Hello, Hello! I am right here.” I sit in the backseat, right in the middle, with my head between the two front seats. I like the seat that would be called “bitch” if I had any siblings, but for me as an only child is the best possible seat because it allows me to be a part of all the action. And currently, to see out the front window so that I can be the calm voice of reason that gets us out of the airport and closer to the pizza we are about to consume.

Somehow, my grandfather misses the turn to get back onto the interstate. Correction, he randomly turns left onto an unknown road that leads to more parking lots and evidently has no return to the main road or the interstate. He does something like this every time he picks someone up from the airport. He gets excited and thinks he needs to do something instead of just staying put and thus, we end up driving in circles through parking lots and connecting shipping docks on the east side of the Sky Harbor Airport. It is already dark and hard to see where we are going and we are nowhere near the airport exit. To his credit, the signs are not at all visible in the dark. They are so reflective they are not productive at all. (Sky Harbor, take note.) To top it off, he can’t hear a thing. In my whole life, I have never known him to be able to hear well, so it is now just a part of his personality. If I needed a defining characteristic when introducing him, I could definitely use, “This is the man who can’t hear,” and it would be accurate.

My mother starts barking orders at my grandfather from the front seat. He is angry at her because she was on the phone with my grandmother telling her to order us some pizza for dinner when he made the mis-turn and so he is barking back at her with accusations of misdirection. They begin into another lovely exchange that is all too familiar as their only means of communication. Even with his hearing aid on, he can’t hear the high pitch of women’s voices and she hasn’t figured out yet to just lower her voice and talk slowly and so they yell at each other instead. I tell my grandfather (in a low and slow voice) to turn around and go back to the road we were just on so we can simply exit. He says we can’t do that because we are on a one-way street, which we are not. We eventually end up back in the passenger pick-up area. The signs get confusing again, but we gradually get out of the mess of it to same road with the potential left turn hazard that leads to the highway.

My mother suddenly looks left as me with what I perceive as surprise. I am still sitting in the middle with my head between the seats.
“Are you surprised to see me here,” I say.
“No, just making sure you’re paying attention to the signs,” she replies and looks straight ahead again. As we drive up the ramp onto the highway, a sure sign we are out, she says, “Well that wasn’t the same way road we were on before, we must be on the other side,” Which is a cue to me that she really did want me to be paying attention to the signs because she was probably as lost as the driver.

Once we are traveling at a normal speed on the highway, the two in the front start to recap the adventure with replays of the actions and the words. They start to bicker a little more over how it should have happened and who did what wrong. I start to settle back into my seat and put my feet up on the console. I am absolutely smiling.

I am laughing to myself as all the commotion surrounds me, the noise in the front seat, the airplanes taking off and landing all around us, my blackberry dinging with all the texts, voicemails, and emails that are coming into my system now that it has been powered back on. It’s one of those moments that if a movie was made of it, there would be hysteria all around and I would be sitting in the middle of it all with a silly grin on my face and a little shoulder twitch of happiness at how giddy I feel to be home. These are the things that make my family mine. I love them for all of it and I can’t imagine my life without all this confusion…and yelling.


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