Freezing on Friday the 13th in Northern Minnesota

I needed a ride to the Bemidji Regional Airport for my 7 a.m. flight, and no one in my family could take me. Bemidji is too small to have Uber and Lyft drivers, so I called the three cab companies listed in the airport’s transportation guide.  The first two numbers had been disconnected. At the third, the dispatcher told me the drivers didn’t work between two and eight in the morning. Most of their late-night customers—the overindulgent bar crowd—wrapped up their carousing by 2 a.m. The company was willing to give me a ride after the drunks had been taken home, but it would cost me an extra $25 over the fare on the meter and I would have to arrive at the airport by 3:30. Nonetheless, the guy assured me the lobby would be open.

When we pulled up to the darkened terminal, I started getting concerned. The cab driver jumped out and approached the first set of sliding doors. They opened, but a second pair stayed shut. The driver encouraged me to wait in the partially sheltered area between the two doors, predicting that in minutes the airport would be bustling.

I believed him because Minnesotans never lie. They may hide information from time to time—the location of a favorite fishing hole, a secret passion for lutefisk or the Green Bay Packers—but they would never lie to harm another human being. So I decided to stand in the cold but covered area between the two doors and wait.

Five minutes dragged by. Then 15 minutes … 30 minutes … and, finally, an hour.

My ears and feet were starting to freeze, and I began to think about ways to save myself. I could walk in the sub-zero temperature to some distant gas station, but the wolves and bears would probably do me in along the way. Or I could throw my suitcase through the second glass door, but no one in Minnesota would ever do that. A Minnesotan would rather become a human popsicle than damage a piece of public property.

I began to think about the best way to stage my death in the space between the doors. Maybe I could cover my body in sidewalk salt from the large plastic bin near the door, and then lie down on a luggage cart with my suitcases on top of me—a raw piece of performance art focusing on the burdens of travel and the futility of man’s struggle to regain traction under life’s constant and uncontrollable setbacks. Or maybe I could just freeze solid with half a Kit-Kat bar sticking out of my mouth.

Then the door in front of me opened and the lights came on. I scrambled in and saw the couple that had saved me. It was two TSA agents coming to work. The first was an enormous man with a mustache and a beard, carrying a red plaid coat over his shoulder. The second was an equally large woman, half as tall but twice as wide. She wore a billowing blue jacket with a TSA logo, along with a Minnesota Vikings hat with integrated earmuffs and two giant horns pointing from the sides.

As Paul and Babe approached me, I thanked them for letting me in, although I could have yelled at them for being an hour late to work and almost killing me. But this wasn’t New York.

Now, having landed in Minneapolis, patiently waiting for those with connections to exit the plane (as all good Minnesotans do), I look forward to my flight to San Francisco. It’s already delayed three hours by the latest bomb cyclone.

Just another Friday the 13th in the Great White North.



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