Clippings: Free food was a day-long investment
You should know at the outset that I am a perimeter-of-the-grocery-store, CSA-subscribing, grow-your-own, Co-op-shopping, bring-your-own-bag, environmentally conscious kind of person when it comes to food. So when my husband asked me to go to the Middlebury Airport last Wednesday to pick up free food, I was skeptical.
“They said they’re giving away Cabot cheese,” he said, “and other good stuff.” OK, I thought, I’ll go. They’re giving away Cabot cheese, it can’t be all bad.
The food was being doled out from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. I left the house at 9:40 a.m. for a three-minute drive to the airport. I turned off Route 116 onto Airport Road and stopped dead at the end of a long line of cars. Uh oh, I thought. This could take a while.
It took about 15 minutes to actually get to the airport, then another 10 to get on the runway. And there all activity ceased. Middlebury Airport’s runway is 2,500 feet long, and it was full. I got my place on the runway in row five. It was like dead-stop bumper-to-bumper traffic on a five-lane freeway. It was about 10:30 a.m.; some loud folks ahead of me had gotten out of their cars and one shouted, “I’ve been here since 7:30!”
I tried to read my ebook to distract myself. Then the connection went south so I had to just sit there and ruminate. What are the positives here, I thought. Well, it’s a gorgeous sunny day. There’s a nice breeze. Just ignore the fact that people are sitting here at a standstill and not turning off their engines. I felt bad for all the people who got here later than me.
What does one do when stuck in five lanes of dead-stop traffic and a toileting issue comes up? I am here to attest that you can get very creative if you must, but I will refrain from the details. If you have read Bill Bryson’s “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” you know of what I speak.
Then, hallelujah, movement in lane one. This is promising. I advance about 20 yards, then come to a halt. The loud family, still out of their car, chats with another person who has her kids with her. Those poor kids. I wonder if their memory of this day will be like my memories of waiting in long lines at the gas station in the early 1970s during the oil embargo.
“I hope all this waiting is worth it,” I write in my notebook, “and they’re not handing out loads of processed crap.” Should I feel bad if I am ungrateful?
I begin to wonder if I am going to make it out of here in time for a medical appointment in Burlington.
An ambulance arrives. Does this explain why we haven’t really moved? Someone in the loud contingent yells “Someone had a heart attack from waiting so long!” After that the rows begin to move a bit more. The loud folks begin to cuss and moan that their row isn’t moving and how unfair that is. Finally, someone else tired of listening to the loud people loses her temper and yells at them. “Will you just shut up and get in your car! For heaven’s sake!” The loud folks, unfazed or possibly petulant, drive off as their row advances and wave shouting “Bye!”
We advance bit by bit. A few people begin turning around and driving away on the grass, calling out. “It’s all gone.” and “They’ve run out.” Surely not, I think. I’ve been here for three hours! I could be to Boston by now if I were in motion.
1:40 p.m., “Ugh — so close to end of runway.”
One of the cars in my lane has a muffler problem, so when I hear it start up I know it’s our turn to move. I wonder if this turn will get me off the runway. A car drives by on School House Hill Road. Oh, to taste the freedom of the open road. There is a car ahead of me with two kayaks on top. What I wouldn’t give to be out on the water in one of those kayaks right now. Instead here I am waiting to get an unknown quantity of unknown food. But it’s free!
I imagine I am in the ferry line to Martha’s Vineyard, and at the end of this I will be sitting on the beach with a cool drink, a good book, and the sounds of the surf. I wonder what my teenage daughter, who I bid goodbye to at 9:40 a.m., is doing at the moment, or if she is worried that I have yet to return. I am silently cursing my husband for wasting my day.
“Oh! Movement!” I finally get off the runway at 1:45 p.m. A National Guardsman, who is charming us by treating all this like a game show, asks me what town I am from, then says, “Congratulations, you win the prize of driving 15 feet ahead to the car in front of you.”
As stacks of boxes and National Guardsmen draw nearer I think, “I hope no one wanted to land today.” I now become one of those idling cars as our lines move forward in a slow but steady pace to the loading area. “Glad I stuck it out,” I write. “My bladder will be glad when I get home. Do I really want to go to Costco after this?”
“What’s in the boxes?” I write. “Weirdly feels like Christmas.”
At 1:50 p.m. I finally turn the corner into the loading area. Four boxes and a gallon of Monument Farms milk are thrown into my back end, and someone yells “You’re all set.”
At 1:55 p.m., I drive away feeling I’ve accomplished … well … something.
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