“If that mad man wins the presidency, I’m moving to Europe,” Marjorie told me over a plate of dim sum in Boston’s Chinatown. Very pregnant and trying to manage her rambunctious two-year-old, she showed no sign of hyperbole. I, too, had given thought to leaving the U.S. if Trump were to win, but I still couldn’t wrap my mind around his victory being more than a dystopian fantasy. I had, however, underwritten the cost of new passports for my children and grandchildren and had given some thought to Canada—after all, I had family there from my father’s side. Damn, Canada is cold in the winter. I hoped it wouldn’t come to that!
But it did. Trump won; my niece, seven months pregnant, packed up her home and moved with her husband to Denmark. I stayed in the States, groaning under the weight of my political angst, but doing little about it. I decided that the first stop on my journey around the world would be a visit with Marjorie, who had become a heroine to me.
My plane arrived late to Iceland’s Reykjavik airport. I ran past the counter selling fresh smoked salmon, which I had been craving for weeks, and hurried on to my gate. To my delight, the plane to Copenhagen was delayed (thanks be to the travel gods), and I went back to buy a fresh bagel and salmon sandwich . . . only to find the gate closed upon my return. The counter agent told me that, if I ran, I could catch another flight to Denmark at a different gate. Once at the new gate, I was sent back to the original gate and, already out of breath, I began running in the reverse direction, hearing, “Passenger Garrison, please return to gate 51D.” I waved to the agents at the help desk as I ran by. The delayed flight was not a good omen from the travel gods, after all.
Now here I must interject a non-sequitur into the story, because there is an important reason that I was able to make the flight. European, and in fact most airports outside the U.S., have two crucial amenities: no charge for carts, and an excess of small complimentary handcarts for carry-on luggage once you pass through security. If I had had to lug my carry-on, bulging with squishies and gifts for friends, without the aid of a push cart, while racing up and down through three terminals in Reykjavik, I would have gone to the hospital, not to Denmark. Fast forward to 2022. Has anything changed at America’s airports? We wear masks—carts are still not free and America is still not hospitable.