I got stuck for seven hours at the Minneapolis airport when they cancelled three flights to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, due to bad weather. It's a seemingly nice, friendly looking airport if you're already at your gate and need a muffin or a bathroom. But when they change your flight, your gate or, God forbid, your terminal, you're in trouble. There are miles between gates and huge distances between terminals. There are moving sidewalks going nowhere for an incredibly long time, and a train that circulates weirdly, mostly between the C and G terminals. When you ask an employee where your gate is, they smile strangely and point you toward your destination, watching you until you're far enough so they can burst out laughing. After three long-distance marathons to gates where they cancelled flights at the last minute, there was a tornado alert. A grave male voice boomed through the immensity asking everyone to stay away from the windows, and when everybody had moved from the windows, the voice instructed everyone to follow directions to a connecting tunnel under the escalators and wait there until the all-clear. The herd moved into the tunnel and we all sat down on the floor. I was lucky enough to find a space along the wall. Many people just jammed themselves in the middle. It was like the London blitz. After the all-clear, I marched to my new gate, seriously considering abandoning my bag of clothes. How can two pairs of pants and three shirts weigh so much? I then had a few hours in which to study Midwestern body types. Not quite as huge as they used to be. Everyone was reading The Bible Code. The end of the world must have been near, and by now I believed it. I finally got on a plane for the short flight to Cedar Rapids, and as soon as we were in the air the storm came back and shook the plane like an angry baby with a rattle. There were long bolts of lightning zigging across the windows, followed by shattering thunderclaps. About 1 a.m., the jalopy found the ground, and there I was, weak-kneed but safe. Or so I thought. The only ride to my hotel in Iowa City was a taxi driven by a fat drunk guy in pajamas and sandals. I had to kick his seat several times so he wouldn't go careening into the cornfields. And he stank like a compost heap; I had to keep the window open the whole half-hour. I happily got to bed around 2 a.m. after the night clerk at the hotel tried to bill me twice, but at least there were no roaches. Anyway, I think there weren't because I slept like a satisfied masochist. Three hours later I got up to meet the press to talk up my book.
Andrei Codrescu's novel, Wakefield, is now in stores. The author is on the road.