Carry On and Keep Calm

This is a series of posts about Belize and Guatemala that starts here.

We would be moving around a lot on this trip, so I was determined to take only a carry on.  This was a good call because if I had brought my regular bag I would have been trying to cram it into the back of a van with the 10 carry ons of my fellow travelers, and I would have lost the unspoken competition for who could travel with the least stuff.

Checking the baggage restrictions, I was remembered that the free checked bag on international flights doesn’t always mean “international.”  I went to Canada a few years ago and they wanted $50 to check my bag.

“But this is an international flight,” I protested.

“No,” said the smiling ticket agent.  “Canada isn’t international.”

I think Canada might have something to say about that, but I had no choice but to fork over my credit card. I have to give Delta credit for clarifying things.  Instead of using the term “International,” they now list the fees by regions—checking a bag to Central America would be $25 each way.

I hadn’t traveled with only a carry on for years, so standing in the security line I suddenly had a start—I had been so focused on packing the right rain and sun gear that I’d forgotten about the limit on liquids and gels. Crap!  As we inched forward I took out my cosmetics bag and triaged the confiscatable items.  Obviously, toothpaste, then the wrinkle-reducing miracle face cream, then sunscreen were priorities. I could jettison the bug spray, shampoo, and five other gels and liquids I was carrying if forced, but I quickly distributed things among my carry on, purse, and vest pockets, thinking maybe they wouldn’t figure out they were all from one person.

I went through, no problem.  Should I feel good or scared about that?  I choose good.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport used to be the headquarters of Northwest Orient Airlines, which became Northwest, which became Delta, which moved to Atlanta where labor is cheaper.  It’s still a hub, but now we have this sprawling infrastructure without the cash flow to support it.  When people describe an ostentatious new house as, “cold and cavernous like an airport hangar,” that is not a compliment. MSP is pretty much like that—gigantic, soulless, with moving walkways that go forever, off-white walls that need new paint with billboards that proclaim, “America’s Leading Source for B to B Online Storage Solutions, in White Bear Lake, Minnesota!”

The main terminal used to be named Lindbergh, and the charter terminal was called the Humphrey.  The names were changed a few years ago to the scintillating, “One” and “Two.”  Charles Lindbergh was an anti-Semite who thought Hitler was on to something, but he was also the first person to make a solo flight across the Atlantic, which was a big deal in 1927.  Hubert Humphrey fought anti-Semitism as Minneapolis mayor in the 40s, and became Vice President under Lyndon Johnson.  Parents used to have to explain who Lindbergh and Humphrey were, which provided a little civics or history lesson while waiting at the airport. One and Two don’t pique any curious questions, but I guess they’re very, very clear.

There is Gate G, where the international flights depart.  They must have gotten a grant to redo it. It’s stuffed with shops and bars and there’re sparkly tile and mirrors and colored lights.  And of course the ubiquitous iPads at every seat—because for about five minutes five years ago, that was the state of the art thing to do—force people to order lousy food on them instead of from a real person.

There, I’ve had my say about MSP.  My opinion was reinforced when I connected through Atlanta.  What a beautiful airport.  I had to walk from one end to the other.  Some people might complain about that, but I am always glad for an opportunity to get my blood pumping.  There were all sorts of artworks and tributes to historical figures on the walls—none of which I read but I like to know it’s there.

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