The first thing we saw after exiting the rental car shuttle bus and entering the doors at the Denver International Airport terminal was a long line of people with their carryon luggage. The line stretched to the left and to the right as far as we could see. It wasn’t clear what they were in line waiting for, or whether we should join them.
Well, as it turned out, at least they weren’t in line to check in with Southwest Airlines. We managed our way through that quickly. But when we approached the entrance to security, we could see long lines of people snaking out from the official switchbacks and randomly wrapping around the terminal.
We split up since I had a TSA PreCheck clearance and Chad didn’t. As it turned out, PreCheck status didn’t help much. Both classifications had long lines that stretched far away around corners. We both went looking for the tail end of our respective lines.
Because there were lines of people everywhere it was impossible to be sure where each line ended up. I stood in a long line for Clear for several minutes before realizing I was in the wrong place. A uniform came walking by and about a dozen of us jumped out at the same time to ask, “Where is the TSA PreCheck line?”
She gathered us up and said, “All of you stick with me. We’re going to find the end of your line.”
She took us from one end of the terminal to the other, I don’t remember if it was North to South or South to North. By now I was completely disoriented. But she finally found us a spot and assured us we were now in the right place. None of us were convinced, but we didn’t know where else to go.
This new line took us out the sliding glass door to the sidewalk outside, went about fifty yards down the sidewalk, then reversed itself and went all the way back to the same door and back into the terminal.
I received a text from Chad: “I just found the end of my line. I may not make it.”
I texted back: “We may not make it together. I just finished my first switchback outside on the sidewalk. At least we’re not in France where they don’t believe in lines. They just mob the entrance.”
Once back inside, it was only a couple of minutes before we could see the TSA screeners and, most importantly, a giant PreCheck sign. Not only were we in the right line, but we were almost to glory.
For ID screening we could choose from among six different stations. The woman next to me asked, “Which one do you think is the fastest?”
I told her, “It’s always the other one.”
After my ID proved satisfactory, I made my way over to the left-hand side where TSA had full-body scanners. I have enough replacement parts in my body to set off the regular metal detectors. As I walked up, the guard asked, “Do you have any internal metal?”
“Yes, I do.”
He motioned me on past toward the full-body scanner. When I started to step inside, another guard asked, “Sir, are you bionic?”
“Yes, I am. Would you like to see me fly through?”
“No sir, it only works if you stand still with your arms over your head.”
I texted Chad, “I’m through security, headed to the train station.”
He texted back, “The drug dog like me so I was escorted through and completely checked. I shouldn’t have packed those M&Ms.”
“See you at the gate.”
Chad got to gate C51 a few minutes before I did. We were just in time to hear there were 143 passengers for 143 seats. The airplane would be completely full.
We didn’t care. We made it to the gate, and we’d see our wives in a few hours. It took about fifty minutes from the time we walked into the terminal until we arrived at our gate. That’s a long time, but I thought it would be two hours when I first saw all those lines of people. Fifty minutes seemed short.
It occurred to me that most people were acceptably patient as long as they knew for certain they were in the right line. The uncertainty of thinking you might be in the wrong line was more stressful than the actual waiting. It reminded me of registering for classes at college. You thought you were in line for Engineering Physics only to discover, after 30 minutes of waiting, you were in line for Interpretive Dance.