At the Airport
Lufthansa flight 446 from Frankfurt has landed. My husband and I pace the floor as the passengers slowly walk out of the big double door.
I’m worried about my mother who is going through the customs and immigration all by herself. She is in her eighties and does not speak a word of English. How is she going to handle the customs formalities? Would she be able to ask for help? Can she ask someone to lift her suitcases? No doubt it will take her longer to clear through the customs. Her age combined with her language problem make me nervous and worried.
I ask my husband to keep watch, while I dash to the restroom. When I return, I see him talking to a tall, gorgeous-looking blonde girl, early twenties, beautiful body, wearing a blouse that shows her midriff. As I approach them, my husband turns to me.
“This young lady needs to make a call and doesn’t know where to find a public phone.”
I look at her. She smiles, and I wonder why among all these people she asked my husband!
“Where do you want to call?” I inquire.
She pulls out a faxed sheet of paper and shows me a number, area code 425, State of Washington.
“Would you like to make a collect call?” and I point to the two phone booths near where we are standing.
“Collect?” she repeats, and adds “Need phone card. Where to buy?”
It doesn’t take me long to realize she does not speak much English. Arriving from Germany, I assume she speaks German.
“Sind Sie von Deutschland?”
“Nein. Von Russland” she replies softly.
I turn to my husband. “Oh, she is Russian.” I pull out my cell phone and hand it to her.
“Here, you can use my phone to make your call.” Then I add, “Give me your number, I’ll dial it for you. Who do you want to speak with?”
“Jasmine” she replies.
I dial the numbers and a receptionist answers at the other end. It must be a business phone.
“Hello. May I speak with Jasmine, please?”
“Who is calling?”
“I’m at the Denver International Airport. A young lady by the name of Olga wishes to speak with Jasmine.”
“Oh, just a moment please.”
At this point I hand the phone to Olga, and put a distance between us, so she can speak freely. I keep glancing at the customs door. A knot is forming in my stomach. Where is my mother?
Olga finishes her conversation and gives me back the phone.
“Jasmine says call again - ten minutes” she says in broken English.
We both walk towards the phone booths. I try to show her and explain how to make a collect call. A momentary thought crosses my mind: to be young and adventurous, to arrive in a foreign country, not speaking the language, and no one waiting at the airport to greet you. But isn’t it what my mother is doing at her old age? Except for the fact that I’m at the airport and worried sick! I hope nothing goes wrong, and she gets through the immigration okay.
I check my watch. Has it been ten minutes yet? “Do you want to call Jasmine back?” I press the number showing on my cell phone. The same receptionist answers. Olga talks again and returns the phone. Still keeping an eye towards the passenger arrival door, I ask Olga where she is headed.
“Beufer – Durango.” I can only comprehend Durango.
Why on earth is she going to Durango?
“Are you a student?” I ask.
“In Russia, yes.”
“What will you do in Durango?”
“I have paper to work there.”
I do not inquire further into the nature of her job. She then shows me the faxed sheet again and points to a second number she wants to call. I dial and hear an answering machine.
I hand Olga the cell phone. “Here, leave a message because they are not home.”
I’m worried about Mother; why isn’t she out of the customs yet?
“Need Greyhound bus to Durango.” Olga points to the words on the paper.
Goodness gracious, helping this young lady is getting to be a bit more complicated.
“Olga, wait here. I will find someone who can help you.” I see a uniformed airport officer turning around the corner. I run to catch up with him.
“Sir!” He turns around. “I need your help.”
The officer says calmly, but with a frown, “What is the problem? What can I do for you?”
“Please come with me.” I say. He follows me, looking not too pleased, but rather annoyed. I’m probably cutting into his break time. We both walk back to where Olga is standing. She smiles, a very pretty and charming smile. The officer’s disposition softens immediately and his thick eyebrows untie themselves. I explain the situation. Olga repeats that she needs to get to Durango on a Greyhound bus.
“Okay,” says the officer kindly. “I’m going to take her to the Customer Service and they can help her get to where she needs to go.” They walk away and I feel relieved.
Relief turns to curiosity and more anxiety. I’m curious about what Olga will be doing in Durango, and anxious for her to arrive safely at her destination; curious about what is going on behind closed doors at the customs office, and anxious to see my mother.
Within five minutes Mother shows up in a wheelchair, smiling from ear to ear and deep into a highly animated conversation with a young black man who is pushing the wheelchair with one hand, and pulling her suitcase with the other. He is laughing and talking with my mother like two old friends who just found each other after a long separation! I gaze at her almost speechless and in utter amazement!
My anxiety melts away and my body relaxes. Mother is here and she looks happy. No doubt Olga, too, will make it to Durango safely.