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Sunday night in Terminal B

By Michael Sitzman

Section: Arts

March 3, 2006

Im leaving on a jet plane;

Dont know when Ill be back again.
Oh babe, I hate to go

John Denver

Once the planets eighth-busiest airport, formerly boasting the worlds highest control-tower, Bostons Logan International sits just a few miles from Lynn, Massachusetts, where General Electric invented the jet engine. But on this winter evening all the counters were closed, the ticket-agents long gone, the arrivals area all but deserted. Perhaps, were it at JFK or OHare, the American Airlines terminal might have been busier at this hour, as would befit a place with a history so marked by world records and ingenuity.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Attention, ladies and gentlemen: The captain has announced that we have begun our initial descent into the Boston area. At this time we will be terminating cabin service;

please gather all remaining service items and give them to the flight attendants for collection. Atencin, damas y caballeros

I went with some friends from Chelsea who were picking up a relative coming home from San Pedro Sula, Honduras on American Airlines flight 2298, the last connecting flight out of Miami. Doa Martas brother Rogelio was returning from a month-long family visit on one of those wonderful, long Christmas trips that one only gets to take every few years. Sometimes, if youre lucky, you might get to bring the kids along. But not this year. Heres what I mean:

BOS AA X/MIA AA SAP 381.65AA X/MIA Q2.32AA BOS 381.65USD765.62END AA ZPBOS2MIA2SAP2MIA2 XF BOS3MIA3SAP3MIA3 BF-765.62 TX-49.25 TTL-814.87 KE14NR

You guessed it! (No you didnt.) Known in the travel industry as a fare-calc line, the above code details a passengers travel route, base airfare, and taxes. Youll see one like this on every plane ticket. Alright, lets examine don Rogelios adventure:

He started from BOS (Boston), flew on AA (American Airlines) to MIA (Miami), changed planes there (notice how its written as X/MIA), continued on AA to SAP (San Pedro Sula), and paid $381.65 for that half of the trip. Then, if you follow the rest, youll see he returned the same way, paying the same amount again. The other codes represent various surcharges and taxes So, wasnt that simple?

No? Well, I was hoping youd have guessed the TTL-814.87 part. It means the total fare, which was, well, too expensive to bring the cipotes (kids) along this year. And thats the reason why I was waiting with them at the airport as more people started trickling in to await relatives inbound from Miami International.

Miami. That great transit hub of the Americas, where humanity from all points south converges, mixes, and disperses on connecting flights to every corner of the USA. Here in Boston, a once-quiet baggage-claim area began to fill with a bouquet of mixed cadences of Spanish. Mirroring the varied nationalities of the relatives they were awaiting, the peoples chatter was a staccato symphony of nations.

Say, like to learn some Spanish? Well use the fare-calc to help us. What does hacer escala mean? (Hint: Look at X/MIA again.) Get it? It means to make a landing stop! (You dont have to change planes, though.) Alright, ni modo;

never mind!

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Ladies and gentlemen, in preparation for our final approach into Boston, please fasten your seatbelts, stow all carry-on items, turn off all portable electronic devices, and bring seatbacks and tray-tables to their upright and locked positions. We will be landing shortly. Damas y caballeros, en preparacin

BOSTON AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROL: “American two-two-niner-eight cleared to land number three-three following United Boeing seven-three-seven two-mile final;

traffic will be an MD-eight-eight holding in position.”

The crowd had mushroomed and the excitement was reaching fever-pitch. You know, you can complain all you want about air travel, but theres just something magic about it all. The air at baggage carousel #4 was saturated with it by the time the flight information monitors announced the on-time touchdown of Flight 2298 and the human cornucopia that it carried. As hundreds of carry-on baggage-laden passengers descended the escalators, they seemed to bring the music and cheer of tropical latitudes to waiting hearts left numb by a New England winter.

So many reunions happening at once, so much confusion, so much love. Nina, Hctor, Edwin, and Josu scanned the crowd for their fathers face. And then

Who can understand the sheer wonder of a certain brief moment in the life of don Rogelio Maldonado, who, having made his weary way through the exuberant crowd, bumped into a living wave of arms, hugs, fingers, kisses, shouts, and tears. Papi, I missed you so much!

So say what you will, friends, but gaze with reverence upon the mighty airplane and the changes it has brought to our world. Look closer at the fare-calc line on the ticket: If you stare hard enough, you just might see the journey of a human being;

a life;

indeed the story of the human race. What a marvel is the airplane that it can obliterate miles;

render longitudes and land borders irrelevant;

mingle the flavors of coconut and codfish and bring Papi home.

And so it was, not far from where the jet engine was invented, that I waited with my little friends, and then witnessed the wonder and the magic, late one Sunday night in Terminal B.
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