Somewhere between Miami and Argentina

Transcribed from my travel journal It’s just after ten at night and it feels like it’s about three in the morning. We’re more than twelve hours into our sojourn to Argentina and it’s been interesting, to say the least. After leaving the Wallace House by bus at around 9 am, we boarded a flight from Detroit to Miami. For the most part, everything went swimmingly – until we touched down at Miami International Airport.

We were informed of a “security event” that had us waiting before heading towards our gate and, after ten or so minutes, those of us with cell phones downloaded the CNN news to discover that the airport was the top story of the moment. A Federal Marshall had shot and killed a man who, apparently, claimed he had a bomb in his bag.

It turns out – as of this writing – that the details are a tad different. We learned later that the man was, apparently, a manic depressive who hadn’t taken his meds. He became agitated on the flight, running down the aisle of the plane and deplaning, declaring he had a bomb in his back pack and was pursued by Federal Air Marshalls. They apparently demanded that he stop and get on the ground, which he did. Then, the story goes, he reached into his back pack – at which point, he was shot and killed. More details – and, perhaps, a corresponding lawsuit – will follow, no doubt. We may perhaps learn whether he was a dangerous man or just a sick man, or both. But the tarmac was swamped with emergency vehicles and as we taxied past the scene, there was little to see other than a circle of vehicles and myriad flashing lights.

The incident took place in terminal D, at gate 42. Our flight was scheduled to arrive at gate D 44. Thus, we were diverted to terminal C, just the first of many stops on our multi-terminal tour. I should note that we were originally scheduled for a lengthy five-hour layover in Miami, complete with threats of a seminar that never materialized. By the time our plane reached our makeshift destination, an hour of that time had already passed.

We disembarked and wandered off to locate the new gate for our 8:40 flight to Argentina. Like a bunch of disoriented (and, mostly, hungry) lemmings, we followed one another, winding our way through C, back over to D to find our gate. Satisfied we knew where we were going to end up, we headed to a little cafeteria-style joint serving up some fairly tasty Cuban fare – pork in various forms, baked chicken, ropa vieja, rice, beans, plantains, etc.

It was good grub, but it required us to go outside of the security zone to dine, so we had to line up again and remove our shoes like good little soldiers. However, once we were inside the D terminal, the screens informed us that our gate had changed and we were supposed to be at E 25. Now, despite the proximity of these two letters in the alphabet, traveling from one terminal to the other involves some sort of little train contraption and not a little footwork.

We arrived at gate E25 – an odd downstairs space owing more to a Greyhound station than a major metropolitan airport – and settled in for a moment only to learn that our gate had changed again. This time, we were to relocate all the way over to A12. Now, dear reader, while I know that detail is the stuff of truly great writing, no one here is making that claim and you likely know way too much about our travels already. But here’s my real point: it sucked. A lot.

And now we are in the air, after our flight took off about an hour late. It should take us about 8-1/2 hours to get to Buenos Aires, which means that – with the two hour time change – we’ll be arriving at around 8 in the morning. The lucky ones among us will be able to catch some shut eye on the plane, something I’ve never been able to do. And all of us will be taken directly from the airport to our first seminar of the week – on Argentine history, I believe. I pity the poor speaker who has an audience composed of our motley crew, exhausted, mildly jet-lagged and, likely, in need of bathing.

Apparently, after that seminar is over, it will be time to check into our hotel and we can do so then head out to sample Eisendrath’s favorite BA restaurant – or stay at the hotel and nap. We leave from the hotel for our next seminar at four. Should make for an interesting day.

We’ve been told that it’s the Argentine way that our plans will change frequently. It seems they’ve changed so much, in fact, that we haven’t yet seen a schedule for the week. So I have no real sense of how we’ll spend our time, other than knowing that the fellows have the vast majority of each day scheduled to the hilt. And if we don’t know what is scheduled for the Fellows, then how can the spouses plan what to skip out on to go shopping? These are our dilemmas. Hard life, really.

My prediction for the week: lots of beef.