Matter, Energy, and Life of Michael A. Castello.

Leaving Dayton

When I last left off, I was experiencing a smorgasbord of weather variations in the vicinity of Dayton, Ohio while completing my final rotation of med school. Both my mom and Mark came up from their respective states of residence to visit me as Ohio, unlike California, is within a driving distance where one can both leave and arrive in the same calendar day.

My departing flight left Dayton at 06:30, which translated to reveille at approximately 04:30 once the usual allowances were made for driving time and airport security; accordingly, I went to bed early stayed up until 03:30 talking to Mark. An hour of sleep later, I stumbled into the waiting vehicle of my dear longsuffering mother, who had volunteered to drive me to the airport at this dreadful time of day. En route while looking up my flight information, I realized with a sinking feeling that my flight left not at 06:30, but 06:00, putting me thirty minutes behind. Not wanting to spread my sudden-onset globus hystericus affliction with Mom, I opted not to share this information. Instead I undoubtedly confused her by attempting to act as though my abrupt conversational shift to monosyllabic responses was entirely normal.

At this point a little additional background information is helpful because chances are you aren’t familiar with Dayton, Ohio. There is a nice airport that isn’t particularly busy because nobody “passes through” Dayton on the way to somewhere else. As a result the general air approach is to fly into one of the other Midwest hubs like St. Louis or Detroit and from there take a significantly smaller plane on a short hop to the final destination. I would imagine that people say there is traffic on the highways during rush hours, but with my relative scale calibrated to LA traffic, it’s a joke. Not to mention that at 04:30 there shouldn’t be too much happening on any roads, with some exceptions.

You can now imagine my surprise when traffic (mostly semi trucks) on I-75 ground to a halt. Not the slow, creeping, rush hour sort of jam, but the full stop, turn off the car and get out kind that happens when a tanker falls off a bridge in Baltimore or it rains anywhere in SoCal. We bailed off the highway and began navigating a series of surface streets to bypass the occlusion. It thus became especially relevant that my mother is a very, shall we say, careful driver, interpreting speed limits as actual maximums rather than loose guidelines while I practiced calm breathing through a rictus grin.

When we arrived at the airport, my fragile facade crumbled: the car had barely stopped moving before I was out of the car and unloading my suitcase. “Bye Mom, hugs and kisses, love you,” speed walk to the security line. All the smart med students paid for TSA PreCheck prior to starting interview season; I, on the other hand, did not. There were only three people ahead of me, though, which would have been fortunate had the first person not been subsequently joined by the other four members of their family. None of them had anything ready to go; and because this is Dayton, the friendly TSA agent helpfully walked them through what they needed to present and patiently waited while they fumbled for each new item. Here are the boarding passes! We need IDs too? Here you go. Wait, the kids need their boarding passes? I’m so sorry let me find them.

My plane has started boarding.

Finally they are able to get through the first checkpoint and into to the scanning area, but of course they have everything from car seats to breast milk to unload onto the belts for inspection. My turn, I went through, oh hey my carryon suitcase got flagged for further scrutiny; they had to throw away my double-edged safety razor blades, an item doubtlessly forbidden to foil would-be assailants who enjoy accidentally cutting themselves. I tried to walk quickly and calmly away from the area before taking off running to my gate, arriving out of breath at the empty waiting area as the attendant was closing the jet bridge door. She kindly let me through and I boarded the plane, making my walk of shame to the cheap seats in the very back only to discover that because this was a small plane, my bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment. Cue a repeat walk to the front of the plane to gate-check it, avoiding eye contact with everyone during my return. I buckled my seatbelt and the plane immediately pulled away from the gate, at which point the perspiration caught up to my heart rate. When I finally stopped sweating, we were landing in Detroit.

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