Airport Parking Makes Me Cry
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
Two of my nieces recently flew in to see me Ė arriving at LAX. Because they are underage, I was required to obtain a boarding pass, go through security and meet them at the gate where they landed. The same process was necessary when their visit was over and they were headed home.
The whole thing was interesting, because it was the first time in a very long time that I had parked at an airport.
Security restrictions that prevent all of us from sending off and greeting our loved ones at the gate have changed everything about parking at the airport, in my opinion.
At first, I felt a sense of loss at leaving my loved ones at the curb, knowing theyíd be alone in the airport for several hours we could have spent together. But I have grown accustomed to the curbside adios and now feel slightly relieved to be spared the two-hour goodbye, crushed by the awkwardness of lobby limbo, trying to make conversation when you are surrounded by people, feeling paranoid about missing your flight, and trying not to cry.
When I was a college student returning to school after holidays and such, my parents used to wait by the gate until my plane actually lifted off and flew out of sight. I always begged them to go home after I boarded, and they always promised they would. But I knew they were lying because I could still see them. This made me cry bitter tears for myself and for them, knowing we all missed one another terribly. I can only guess how much they paid to park for so long.
Whether Iím the one leaving or retrieving, not being allowed inside the airport has made things simpler, and doubtlessly less profitable for airport parking operators. These days I pick up everyone who visits me on the curb outside baggage claim. My mother, my mother-in-law, my friends Ė all gather their luggage and dive into my passenger seat as I slow, but barely stop, in fear of the armed and aggressive airport police, who, besides repeating over and over the recorded warning not to leave your car at the curb for any reason for any length of time, also patrol the area intensively and look very mean while they do it.
My husband travels frequently for work, and as we have been married 11 years, I no longer drive him to or from the airport or park at the airport for his sake. Thatís a job for the nice yellow-taxi driver who never sleeps and never needs to feed small children or apply deodorant.
In our life before parenthood, my husband and I lived and worked in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and had many occasions to park, travel to and from, and retrieve visitors at the DFW International Airport. Like any airport, once youíve made it in or out a half dozen times, you pretty much know your way around, no matter how convoluted the roads and terminals may be.
Our relocation to the Lone Star State made us geographic orphans, and we had no one to count on for a ride to the airport except a rattling old Honda. Whenever we traveled together, weíd park at an offsite lot for what seemed like $100 per day, take the shuttle to the terminal Ė a procedure that seemed to add three hours to our journey Ė and trace our steps upon return, which always seemed to occur during the middle of the night.
Once weíd lugged ourselves and our luggage through a semi-dark 3-acre parking lot, weíd load up and pray the old Honda would start. Most of the time it didnít. It ran great until we left it sitting for days and then tortured us by making an already long day even longer. These days, we have a few friends with whom we can exchange favors like rides to the airport, if needed. Weíve come a long way.
I actually havenít flown anywhere for a couple of years now, because the thought of paying for four tickets to anywhere is daunting. Flying with kids is not a vacation of any kind. But thatís OK, because I get airsick really easily and I get tired of visiting my in-laws. Itís a 17-hour drive to their house, and thatís not really an option, so if I canít afford to fly, well, then I just donít have to go. Iím not crying about it. You see my point.
Iíve driven into LAX about a hundred times now, so I know where Iím going, despite my fatherís doubts. I know where to park, where to pay, how to get out of the parking structure, and how to get back onto the freeway from the six-lane maze that weaves in and out of the airport.
I took my nieces back for their return flight, and we made it from the parking structure, by way of two elevators and a bridge, into the terminal, through security, and to their gate, where I had to wait until their plane lifted off and flew out of sight.
We sat around the lobby for nearly two hours making small talk about their visit. They conned me into buying them ice cream. We hugged and they boarded without a backward glance. And there I stood fighting my tears, missing them already and so anxious to get out of that airport where I could pretend we hadnít said goodbye. My car started just fine. Parking cost me $7.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTís amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.