Saturday, December 30, 2006

Grace of the Season

As I write this I'm listening to the Prairie Home Companion Christmas show from last weekend. That's about the speed I'm at this week. Garrison Keillor mentioned something about the ICE raids at the Swift plants that I hadn't heard before; that the date of the raids coincided with the Feast of Our Lady of Guadelupe, Catholic Patroness of Latin America. Nice touch, that. I think I understand why Bishop Chaput was so concerned, among his other reasons. ICE could go a long way by remembering that like much of life, timing can mean a lot.

This past Tuesday, when the gloom and doom about another winter storm in Denver was starting to trickle across the National Weather Service website, I hastily made flight reservations from Grand Junction to Denver and reserved a hotel room near DIA, to make sure that my brother-in-law made it back to Denver to meet his traveling companions Thursday morning for the flight back to Providence, and then to his group home on Cape Cod.

This meant that I would fly round trip and he would fly one-way to Denver, which entitled him to extra-special treatment by the crack TSA detachment at Walker Field. Granted, they only have a job to do, and they did what they needed to do with grace and efficiency and sent us on our way, but between this, and the shoes, and the liquids, who are they kidding? I guess that's the thing that galls me the most about this approach to terrorism "prevention"; that everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise. Whether this approach is truly necessary is a matter that continues to be open for debate.

There is also an opportunity to give credit where it's due, and with that I commend the operations staff, private security, and TSA detachment at Denver International. They had constant eyes on the two security lines, made adjustments to the lines and barriers as needed, and were constantly issuing verbal reminders to have your boarding pass and ID out, coat and shoes off, laptop out, and for God's sake make sure that before the infant carrier goes through the X-Ray that the infant has been removed. DIA staff also did the same thing for the incredible lines of people with luggage to check that had descended on United's ticket counters, some also trying to see if they could move up their flight to beat the storm. If you were carry-on only, they directed you to the self-serve kiosk, and they made adjustments to the dynamics of the line whenever additional ticket agents became available, went to lunch, went crazy, etc.

The cumulative effect of this well-staffed and coordinated effort was that we hit the door of the airport at 8:00 and were at the gate at 8:45. An impressive display of organization, and much appreciated. My brother-in-law got out on Southwest without a problem. When my later return flight to GJ was cancelled for weather, United quickly made adjustments to get me on a later departure. From the looks of it, the weather cancellation smelled like a Pilot-In-Command decision, because the ceiling and visibility hadn't improved when a fresh flight crew boarded the plane ahead of us for the re-scheduled flight. To make a long story short, we touched down at GJT less than 2 hours late. Nicely done, United and SkyWest.

Chalk it up to serendipity, the availability of options, or perhaps a realization on the part of the airline that if they didn't deal with us now, they would most certainly deal with us later. Either way, it was indicative to me of the grace under pressure that some of us can exhibit, especially in the face of tired, upset people.

On a separate note, the Grand Junction Free Press had an excellent article on its' Friday front page about a deaf Grand Junction woman's progress through Cochlear Implant surgery. The most telling line of the story talked about the choice her parents made to pursue speech therapy and oral education for her, instead of sign language. That action in and of itself is the road less traveled in Western Colorado, for several reasons including the lack of surgeons here performing the procedure. That's changing, and hopefully along with it will be the attitude toward the use of CI's, and the improvements in the education and societal integration of deaf children that this will help to bring about.

It will be very interesting to follow Lisa Young's progress. Our best wishes for a successful surgery and the opening of a new world to her.

Be careful out there this weekend.

No comments: