Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Chapter VIII: Alex the Technician
“You would think with all the money airports make they would invest in comfortable seating along with free WiFi that worked properly! Alex shifts his weight on the uncomfortable chair and wished he was home in DC, his soft chair beckoned him.
Chattanooga airport in Tennessee was bustling today. He looked over to Jessica, his average looking wife, and fondly remembered the last three days. It is not worth staying online when he can’t even get a page to download properly.
Jessica has sandy dark blond hair that is cut a couple inches above her ears. In her lap is Becky who is a two year toddler. Nearby, his nine year old son pokes his five year old sister with one hand. Subway sauce drips from a sandwich onto his favorite Metallica shirt.
Matt, his son, tries to get his sister to share in the mess.
“Matt, stop getting sauce on your sister and clean up.” Alex says this lovingly as he watches his son put the sandwich down. His son leaves for the bathroom without complaint. His sister Elizabeth quickly picks up the sandwich and starts to systemically look for tomatoes. She loves tomatoes but hates ketchup.
Alex looks back down at his computer and grumbles when the screen shows a weak wireless connection. Another window pops up and asks him for another six dollars to continue service.
He tiredly tells his wife, “How long until we leave? It’s been six hours since our plane was supposed to be here.”
His wife bounces the toddler on her left knee and softly responds, “I don’t know.”
Alex impatiently looks at his computers clock and sees its quarter past the hour. He loves his computer but doesn’t want to pay more money to stay online. He closes Windows and briefly thinks about the day he is going to miss.
“I love the family trip but I think my boss is going to chew me out for not showing. I was supposed to help set a stage for the office.” His wife doesn’t seem to hear as the toddler makes some cute but annoying noise. Other passengers comment how cute the toddler is while one teenager rolls his eyes. The ones that had no patience for kids found new seats hours ago.
His son comes bouncing back and flicks water at his sister. Elizabeth pretends to not have touched his sandwich and begins to play with a toy train. She doesn’t fall for his old trick of water being urine.
Alex works for the Smithsonian in Washington DC. He has a degree in computer technology. He is an IT officer at the museum. His job entitles a lot of fixing computers and setting up exhibits. His family was supposed to be back in DC hours ago. His office needed him to wire the microphones and lightening for today’s guest presentations. It was to occur outside of the Capital building. Instead he found himself stuck waiting at the airport in Tennessee.
He was fortunate and found himself not minding missing work. His director was an ass and he was happy to be with his family.
His family spent the last three days in Chattanooga and it was a splendid family vacation!
They spent the weekend at Best Western and visited the local aquarium. His son bought a hat from the aquariums hands on exhibit where kids are able to touch sea critters. They even managed to fit in the IMAX the first day. Chattanooga is known for trains, Ruby Falls and its Rock City. It was a wonderful family experience and he hoped to repeat it next year.
Alex asks his wife to watch his computer and pats his daughter on the head with much affection. He wants to do a few stretches near the window overlooking his terminal.
He can’t help but hear one of the flight attendants whisper to another flight attendant, “They are having issues with the radio tower. Apparently a solar flare is disrupting telecommunications which isn’t abnormal. The plane is finally making ready to land.”
Alex instantly remembered his college course on power grids. According to his professor new technology had to be created that will reflect solar flares from disrupting communications if nations did not want to lose their energy grids in the future. The problem comes from X-ray and UV radiation which fries much of the current technology being used. This answered the question why he wasn’t able to get online; at least the airport wasn’t scamming him on that service. He also remembered solar flares generally only affect radios, phones and the internet. He had no reason to believe it was going to affect his family’s flight.
Knowing his family was secure he found himself having some anxiety for missing work. Maybe he should call his director and tell him he was going to miss the entire day.
Feeling a sick knot build in his stomach he calls his director. On the third ring he hears the voice he learned to hate.
“Kyle, can you here me?” The connection is weak but after some static he hears his boss tell someone to give him a minute.” Alex reminds himself it is normal for a boss to be jerk and that Kyle was going through a rough time. He tries his best to keep his contempt for his boss hidden and out of his voice. It’s been a little difficult lately because Kyle has been sleeping at the office. No one has the heart to tell him to get his life fixed or to get lost.
Kyle angrily asks, “You are not coming to work today?”
“No sorry, I’m still at the airport. Our plane is finally coming to the terminal. I can come later if you want?” Deep down he hopes Kyle says no. It would be nice to have another complete day with his family. Maybe he could talk them into eating dinner at the Olive Garden?
Without much professionalism Kyle answers, “You are not important; I don’t care what you want.”
Feeling righteously annoyed Alex is about to respond when Kyle follows this up with, “Sorry, not you. I’m talking to someone else. Do whatever you want. I will see you at the office tomorrow.” He can hear Kyle argue with someone in the background. Maybe Kyle finally pissed off the director? One could always hope. He is about to hang up when he sees his plane making its way to his terminal suddenly try to turn sharply. It was to surreal and his mind didn't want to register what he just saw.
The two flight attendants behind the counter start to get excited and one quickly picks up the phone when it rings. They don’t notice the plane and how it turned. They are preoccupied with something being said on the phone and start to act frantic.
The female attendant looks up and loudly tells the male attendant, “Something is wrong. I was just told to have everyone leave the terminal.” Color leaves her face as her voice takes on a higher pitch. She still has the phone near her ear.
“They said an earthquake just hit.” A couple of seconds later a few security guards show up. A large group of passengers are beginning to ask questions. Alex feels uneasy and he notices his toddler is crying. He motions for his wife to come to him.
The male flight attendant looks up and says, “This is ridiculous. I don’t feel anything. He must be high or drunk and is joking.” People laugh uneasily but security start to tell people to pick up their luggage. Alex forgets about the plane and starts to walk back to his wife who looks like she is about to cry.
“Sorry honey, but it looks like we have to leave the terminal.” He takes another step forward and finds his foot slipping.
“What the hell…” He feels drunk and reaches out for something to grip. There is nothing. People around him start to shake like they are having seizures and the chairs start to slide on the floor. Luggage is being tossed around. His knees buckle as he lands on them with all his weight. His left hand is still holding up the cell phone. He tries to keep it from hitting the ground like it is something important. He quickly registers it is not the people shaking but rather the ground is moving. It feels like they are on a rough sea. The floor is literally shifting from right to left and looks like it’s about to bubble up. Cracks start to appear on the floor. It gets dark as the lights go out. The sun is shining.
People are screaming. He can’t see his wife or his kids. What is happening, this isn’t his world! His mind is screaming that he should wake up from the bad dream but he can’t.
Alex’s vision blurs and tears come to his eyes. He feels something sharp land on his head and reaches up with his right hand. It has something sticky on it. What is that? He sees it’s red and it smells pungent. Is that his blood? His eyes clear and he somehow turns around. He’s facing the terminal window. The plane his family is supposed to get is still coming. There is a crack on the runway and it appears to be growing. The plane tries to turn but can’t. The jet is heading towards the crack and for some reason it doesn’t slow down.
He felt someone near him. It is his wife. She is crying but is quiet. His kids were all there. They were quiet, even the toddler. He looked back to see what they were looking at.
The United Airway’s jet finally reaches its destination. It came to collect its passengers on their last voyage.
Alex knew he was going to die. He dropped his phone and grabbed his wife. With as much force behind his words he could gather he tells them“I love you all.” He didn’t have time to see their reactions. The second to last thought that crossed his mind was that the earthquake must be coming from the Madrid Fault.
The plane’s front wheel buckles when it meets the spot where the earth split open. In one smooth motion the plane turns to its side and a wing comes crashing through the window. The last thing he sees are passengers looking back at him through the plane’s windows.
Posted by Greg L. Miller at 9:33 PM