Friday, July 09, 2010

Cleared for Sliding

Now I'm at YEG, which brands itself as EIA: Edmonton International Airport. I'm here two and a half hours before the flight, a little excessive, but that's when I got here. I saunter leisurely to the bag drop. The suitcase I wanted to check weighs 54 pounds. I crack it open and pull out my bag of cords and battery chargers, stuffing it in my carry on. Now the big suitcase weighs 52 pounds. So, "how much," I ask, "will it cost me to check a suitcase weighing an extra two pounds?" The answer is fifty dollars plus GST, so $52.50. Yeah, the marginal value of my stuff is not $25 per pound. I go over to another scale and pull random other stuff out of the big bag until the suitcase weighs 49.9 lbs. I zip it up and check it. I try to zip up the carry on. Not quite. Sigh. I'm getting too comfortable on the road. Have to slim it down. After the suitcase has been tagged and marked with a Heavy/Lourd tag, I consider shoving the stuff that barely fits in the carry-on back into the suitcase, before I drop it on the conveyor belt, but I have friends who chuck bags for a living, and fifty pounds is heavy enough.

I head out with my overstuffed carry on towards the gate, looking for things to entertain me as I wait. There's a big colourful playset with the words YOU ARE CLEARED FOR SLIDING written down the slide. It's so inviting. I look around for a bit and don't see any rules posted. "Do you see any sign with an age limit?" I ask a woman who is sitting near the playset, watching a boy climb inside.

"Go ahead," she says. "I've been in it with my kids."

I don't need any more of an excuse than that. I take off my boots and go for it. The playground is really well-designed. The way up and in is a steep slippery ramp with little clouds to step on. That's trickier than it looks, a mini-climbing wall and a barrier to access for kids who shouldn't be on it. And also for adults who don't have the toe and arm strength to navigate the little footholds. Once at the top I go left into a twisty plastic fuselage with little airplane windows. There's a crossroads in the tunnel where a boy asks for my ticket. I take a moment to dig out an invisible airplane ticket, which he inspects before letting me pass. There's a spot to sit in the cockpit and look out the nose, and then around the corner to a curvy slide. I call out a warning as I go down it, in case there's a child at the bottom, and then find myself in a little cage made of rollers. I have two squeeze myself out like I'm laundry in an old fashioned wringer washer, to escape. It's awesome. I go back up and try a few more paths through the game before going back to the chairs and sitting with my stuff. There's a guy there now, instead of the woman.

"That's a great playground," I say as I crawl out and sit next to him in the chairs.

"She designed it," says the man, gesturing to the woman I spoke with earlier. She is just coming back with the boy.

"Really?" I say. What are the chances? "You're funning me!" But it's true. Her name is Elizabeth and she is in charge of graphic design and appearance at the whole airport. She was hired, I think she said fourteen years ago to do graphics like I suppose the signs that tell you where the baggage carousel is, and her job expanded to fill her area of expertise. She figured there should be a playground here, so she designed it, told the airport how much space it would require, had all the components built and put it together. She is not the paperclip. I wonder what I would be doing if my job could do that!

I rave about her play structure, but she probably had the most sincere compliment she could get from me the moment I was so captivated by it that I had to put down my luggage and play in it. Later when I was photographing it from different angles I found a small sign that restricted use to ages twelve and under, but if you ever go there, know that the designer thought it was just fine for grown-ups. Just remember to have your invisible ticket ready if there are any kids inside.

As I get up to find my gate, there is a PA announcement reminding the owner of Charlie the Tank Engine to return to the gate for a toy left on an airplane. A few minutes later the FO comes through the gate area, asking us if we've lost it. So sweet. I hope Charlie and his young owner are reunited.

Seeing other people being nice makes me happier. It makes me look for an opportunity to be nice to someone else and keep it going. By coincidence, today I had another opportunity to link two people I only know through the Internet. One of them hopes to work in airline logistics, and the other already does. I told the former I'd get in trouble from my blog if he was Muslim, but he says he'll have to get back to me on that. He thinks his grandmother might have been. That's a sleeper cell in deep cover.


Rhonda said...

Oh that looks like so much fun...

jump154 said...

That was the best thing about having young kids - an instant excuse to go play in the most awesome play areas that were not there when I was a kid. One I went in the England, was a large room with a 3 level ballpark - internal slides, mazes, ladder - could get lost for hours. Needless to say, there were more adults than kids inside, all suprvising little ones they could not find :D
Now they are teenagers, and i'm not allowed in any more :(

zb said...

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