Early Morning Airport Run

by Andrew Patterson

I woke at 3am, shot out of bed and rushed to a hotel downtown. Biking through the streets, somewhere between sleep and a waking state (much like the city itself), I saw few pedestrians and even fewer cars. I’ve taken a job driving for our film festival: spending too much time idling in valet parking, snacking on fruit at the airport and making small talk with delegates. Working ten to twelve hours a day, my life is starting and stopping at all hours.

Today is my last day. My first airport run begins at 4am, with four passengers going from the Delta Hotel in downtown Halifax to the Stanfield International Airport. I am out front of the hotel, with van keys in hand, chatting with the Transport Coordinator (whose been up longer than any of the drivers, clucking non-stop on the radio from the dispatch room). He smokes, agitated, and carefully adjusts the antenna atop my vehicle. It’s cool outside and everything is black and blue.

My passengers arrive promptly, which only seems to happen when the pick-up time is before 5am. The desperation hours. We exchange courteous ‘hellos’, I help them with their bags and we all amble into the rental vehicle. Have they been up all night? Will they stay awake for this drive and nap on the long flight home?

I turn the key. The ruby red lights flash in the dashboard and the new motor begins it’s gentle humming. The CD player begins to load an MP3 CD I’ve made to help the time pass. I’ve been feeling neglectful of new releases, so it’s mostly full of albums from 2011 that I’ve yet to hear: Girls, Quaker Parents, Pure X, The Field, etc. I have, of course, included some fail-safes in consideration of my passengers.

For early-early mornings such as this one, I have included Julianna Barwick‘s album The Magic Place. The first few bars of the serene opener Envelop float through the stereo as we turn north on to Barrington Street, leaving the hotel parking lot. One of the women in the back, Jennifer, swallows a sip of her coffee and says, ‘Whatever this song is, it’s perfect.’

Surprised, I reply placidly ‘It’s about the only thing I can listen to at this time of day.’

Weaving quietly through the twilit city, the click of the turning signal seems overly obtrusive. We pass from the green and red of the stoplights, out into the dulled orange of the overhead lights of Highway 102. The entire half-hour trip is spent wordless.

When I pull in front of the domestic departures, David, in shotgun, rubs his cheek gently and reveals a British accent: “That was so peaceful, it’s as though we were in a trance.”

As I lift the luggage from the trunk, one of my passenger’s asks “Who was that singing?” as she straightens her wool knit hat.

Julianna Barwick” I reply.

 She repeats the name several times to herself.

“You should write it down” I insist.

“I will, I will.” she responds thoughtfully. “I teach yoga and I’d love to use it in one of my classes.”