I didn’t exhale, I think, until the plane landed in Albany. I had made it. All I needed to do was get to my car and get home.
I stood outside in the cold, waiting for the shuttle to take me to the long-term parking lot. The airport was pretty deserted. Although it was only 5 or 6 in the evening, it felt like the middle of the night. It had been 36 hours since I left my parents’ house. I was disoriented and exhausted.
Finally I saw the lights of the shuttle in the distance. I gripped my bags tightly. My hellish trip was almost over.
The shuttle pulled up and I got on. Just as the doors were closing, a man darted out from the terminal and waved frantically at the driver. The doors opened again and the man got on.
This man, it seemed, knew our driver; the two were chatting about shared acquaintances. The chit-chat continued as he steered the van through the maze of side roads and along the dark stretch of road leading to the long-term parking lot.
“Well, this is my stop,” said the man who had hopped on board. The bus stopped. The doors opened.
And then the two men sat there and continued chatting for another 10 minutes.
I know 10 minutes isn’t a very long time. But it felt like an eternity. I went from annoyed, to outraged, to a weeping mess in those 10 minutes because I just wanted to be home so badly, and it had been so hard to get that far.
Eventually the man got off the van and the driver asked me where I had parked, so he could drop me off right by my car.
I had forgotten.
Two feet of snow had fallen on this parking lot, and somewhere under it all was my car — my little, tiny, nondescript hatchback.