Surprising the family becomes a reality

When we last left our hero Dave Steffenson (That’s me), he was
planning to find a way to surprise his family at Denver
International Airport when they came to pick him up on Christmas
Eve.
As he had expected, his father had called him to inform him that
he and his two brothers would be driving out to the airport to pick
him up, and they would either be in the baggage claim area or in
passenger pick up. We return to the action as Dave checks his watch
as his little, 12-row plane rolled into the terminal …
When we last left our hero Dave Steffenson (That’s me), he was planning to find a way to surprise his family at Denver International Airport when they came to pick him up on Christmas Eve.

As he had expected, his father had called him to inform him that he and his two brothers would be driving out to the airport to pick him up, and they would either be in the baggage claim area or in passenger pick up. We return to the action as Dave checks his watch as his little, 12-row plane rolled into the terminal …

I was surprised to find the plane coming into the terminal at 6:35 p.m., five minutes ahead of schedule. I checked my watch as I scurried off the plane and hustled down the terminal toward the train that would take me to baggage claim.

I had already told myself that I would actually pick up my bag at the baggage carousel so I could move more stealthily among the crowd at the airport. As I came down the escalator to the train, I replayed the Mission Impossible theme song in my head over and over. I thought of myself as less of a dopey journalist and more of a professional spy. I imagined myself in a movie, knowing the exact schedule of the train and being able to get on just as the doors began to close.

Unfortunately, I should’ve reset my watch. The train left right as I got off the escalator and was left by myself waiting for the next train. At least I couldn’t be spotted here.

I got on the next train and proceeded to look. There were two gorgeous girls on the train, and my mind started to wander from the mission at hand. After failing to achieve solid eye contact, I checked my watch again: 6:42 p.m. I was still ahead of schedule. I got off the train and went up the escalator. This was the first point where passengers could meet up with their family, and I quickly became nervous and headed to a corner where I could scope out the crowd. As expected, no one resembling someone from my family was there. But I couldn’t be too careful. One mistake and the gig was up.

I scurried from pole to pole, hiding behind bushes and walking behind the arrival/departure monitors. I checked the monitors and saw that my flight number was not on the computers. But other people from my flight were congregating at baggage carousel No. 2, so I went there. There was still no sign of my dad or either one of my brothers, so I tried to calm myself down and fit in with the other passengers.

As I stood there, the minutes passed by – five, 10, then 15 minutes. No bags, no family. My mind again began to wander as I looked around. I cursed myself for the rum and cokes I had on the flight that seemed to be keeping me off task. I turned on my cell phone and realized I had missed a call from my dad. That meant he was here.

I looked around and then I saw him alone and heading right toward me, but about 100 feet away. His head was turning back and forth, so I was sure he hadn’t spotted me. I darted behind a pole that had a giant bush next to it. This would work out perfect. He would walk by and I could sneak up from behind. I waited there … and waited. And waited. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I looked around the pole. My dad was about 30 feet away, looking at the baggage claim computers for my flight number. I knew it wouldn’t be there, so he would probably keep his eyes on it for some time.

I raced past the pole and jumped to the left into an open area. I was just 20 feet away from my target. I looked around the corner again, and saw him still looking up at the monitor. I went for it. As I got within 10 feet, to my horror one of my brothers peered his head past my dad and right in my direction. I hadn’t seen him. I quickly made a U-turn and went back to the open area, which turned out to be an exit out to a parking structure.

I waited for them to follow me, sure that I had been caught. But no one came. I looked around the corner again and saw my dad and my youngest brother, who is 19, turning away from the baggage monitor and heading to the larger monitors that are between carousels 1 through 3 and 4 through 6. The game was still on.

I wanted to grab them from behind and surprise them right then, but they had gotten too far away and I would surely be seen before I got there. I followed at a safe distance and hid around the corner from them at the monitors. I looked up and surveyed the scene, when the perfect plan struck me. There had been too many close calls, and I needed to take control of the situation. I pulled out my cell phone and called my dad. He asked where I was, and I responded by telling him I was at carousel No. 5, waiting for my bags. Of course I wasn’t, but from my position I could come right up behind them without fear of them looking behind them.

But then, to my surprise, my dad said, “OK, Jeff’s on his way to get you.”

What? Where was he?

Just then I saw my brother take off past me as I hid against the wall. I look around the corner and saw no sign of my dad, so I chased down my brother.

I got right behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “Excuse me, sir.” He turned around, I smiled at him and gave him a huge bear hug before he could open his mouth to say “DAVE!”

I had accomplished half my goal, but I needed my brother to help me finish the job. I asked him where my dad went, and he had no idea. He thought dad had been following him.

We walked back to the main terminal and I told Jeff to call dad up and tell him he was at baggage claim No. 5 and was still looking for me. But when he called, my dad answered, “I’m at baggage claim five, where are you guys.” So we raced back to baggage claim and I saw my dad walking around the baggage area, obviously confused since I had just told him I was there.

I used my brother as a decoy and went to the left when my brother went right. I snuck up behind my dad as he got on the cell phone to call me and find out where I was.

I tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “Excuse me, sir,” and hugged him just like I did my brother.

Then I smiled at him from under the baggage claim No. 5 sign and said, “By the way, now we have to go to baggage claim No. 2 to get my bag.”

Mission accomplished.

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