Humor by John Christmann

Alone Together

a boy pushing a girl in a toy car in the snow

What if they threw a party and no one came?

Outside of the obvious feeling of isolation, there is something kind of appealing at the thought of being the only one present at what should otherwise be a well-attended event.

Certainly there would be plenty to eat, and for those of us who tend more to the wallflower side of the social spectrum, conversation would be pretty painless.

You skip these awkward gatherings often?

A few weeks ago I found myself in such a situation.

It was the middle of a Saturday afternoon. I was parked in front of a terminal at Newark Airport, one of the busiest airports in the country, where I had been anxiously waiting for two hours for my wife to arrive.

There was no one there. No one.

The airport was completely empty. No cars. No busses. No hotel or rental car shuttles. No security vehicles. No people.

It probably had something to do with the two plus feet of snow that had continuously fallen over the last several hours. The airport had been closed for most of the day.

As I contemplated the anxiety of being at a party where nobody showed up, a single question continued to haunt me: Why was I parked half buried in snow at a closed airport during one of the worst blizzards in years?

In private, I will tell you it was stupidity. But in the grand spirit of gallant adventure, I will tell you it was chivalry.

I sure hope my wife is reading this.

It happened like this. In a desperate attempt to work around several cancelled flights to get home from a business trip, my wife ended up flying into Boston and taking an Amtrak train to New York, where she could jump on a local train that stopped just a few long blocks from our house.

But by then she was traveling square into the oncoming snowstorm, a storm which forced the closure of local metropolitan trains shortly after her train left Boston. Her only viable option was to depart the Amtrak train at Newark Airport—a special stop which requires passengers to take a monorail to the terminals.

Sometime on the train ride the airport officially closed too. As did the monorail.

Now the part about stupidity vs. chivalry. Stupidity was leaving the kids at home and driving to the airport against the advice of authorities in whiteout conditions, deep snow, and unplowed roads. Chivalry was attempting to save my wife from spending a night alone in a deserted airport that was a relatively short drive to our house.

I figured that it would be far easier to survive my marriage with the awful memory of being stranded in a snowdrift on the highway trying to rescue my wife than to be safe and warm at home with my kids convinced that I was not being stupid while my wife slept on a padded airport bench.

This is what love does to otherwise rational people.

Still, I was not stupid enough to neglect to throw the snow shovel in the back of the car before I headed out of the driveway which I had just stupidly shoveled to free the car.

On the empty and barely plowed highway to the airport I began to understand the magnitude of the party that no one was attending, although I did pass cautiously around one jackknifed truck and two stranded motorists who had stupidly ignored the warning from the governor that the party had been elevated to a state of emergency.

Have you ever had to dig your car out of a snowdrift on an unplowed airport entrance? I have. It is pretty easy when no one is going in or out.

Along with the two other airports that serve the New York area, Newark Airport constitutes the largest metropolitan airport system in the world. Newark alone handles roughly 100,000 passengers every day.

Well, almost every day.

On this day there was only one person entering the airport by car and one by train. A train, by the way, that pulled into a transfer station that now had no ability to get passengers to the airline terminal.

And that is why I was waiting alone two hours outside a closed airline terminal in a blinding blizzard contemplating a party where no one shows up.

In the end, I am happy to say that chivalry won the day. A nice young man, gallant and polite in his flashing emergency airport vehicle equipped with studded snow tires and shining white armor, kindly delivered my wife from the train to my pathetic car wading in the deep snow at the terminal.

As for me? Chivalry had lost its allure. With my wife now safe by my side in the passenger seat and a very dangerous drive home in front of me, I was now staring stupidity square in the face.

But I had two things in my favor: an airport Marriott and a snow shovel to help get me there.

And you know what they say about throwing parties at hotel airports during snowstorms.

Someone always shows up.