Thursday, 23 March 2006

If you ever end up at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, be sure to rent a car. Especially if you fly into Terminal B (which is pretty much every flight that's not American Airlines (which is the airline that RULES the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex)).

Board the bus that delivers you to the rental car complex, and if you're lucky, it is there that you will meet Stewart.

Stewart is to rental car shuttle bus driving as Texas is to the rest of the United States - one great-big personality. From the second you meet him, it's apparent that Stewart is here to welcome you to the place where Everything Is Bigger™. He doesn't have a think drawl, but you can tell where he's from, if in no other way, by his personality, which is Big and Friendly.

I boarded the bus for my ride from the B terminal to the Avis desk, along with some other people and a whole slew of college-age guys sporting "North Carolina State Ultimate" garb. Who knew Ultimate (a game played with a flying disc and seven men on the field (and often incorrectly called Frisbee™ Football)) was a college sport? Well, it is.

Anyhow, Stewart saw the jerseys, too. After launching into a friendly and boisterous rendition of Helpful Hints for Visitors to DFW (which was very useful, BTW), he started a friendly over-the-loudspeaker conversation with the Ultimate guys and the rest of the passengers. He asked if they thought they'd be champions (and they said yes, of course). "Hey," asked Stewart, "do you want to hear a true story about the man who was perhaps the greatest sharpshooter ever?" Everyone (of course) said yes, and so he started to tell the story, which was approximately seven minutes long (and which, he explained, also happens to the the amount of time it takes to drive from B terminal to the rental car facility). It was clear that Stewart has a knack for telling stories and captivating an audience.

So - about seven minutes later, we got to the rental car terminal and as I stood up to get off the bus, I realized (seriously) that I'd completely forgotten to go to the baggage claim to get my suitcase when I got off my flight. I guess umpteen hours of flying and time zone changes incurred while crossing the Atlantic twice had baked my brain or something. I told Stewart what I'd done and laughed at myself, and he smiled and looked a bit concerned about me having to go back for my bag. Maybe he thought I had to be somewhere or something. No big deal, I told him - I'd just stay on the bus and ride back around and get my bag at the terminal. He looked a bit pained when he had to tell me he wished he could do that, but that I would have to go up to the upper deck and take the out-bound bus from up there. That last time he tried to return someone to the terminal on his bus, he'd gotten into some trouble.

Not a problem, I told him, and thanked him. He told me where to go and I located the upper deck access and then rode the bus back to Terminal B. I retrieved my bag after some searching and speaking with the United baggage office, then went back out to the curb to catch one of the buses back to the Avis desk.

Along came one of the buses, and off came a zillion people. When I climbed on, there was Stewart, smile on his face. We were the only people on the bus. "NOW," he exclaimed, "now you're ready for a rental car!" I laughed and agreed. "You want to hear a story?" he asked. "Yeah, but not the one about the sharpshooter," I said. He laughed and turned to me. "I have a repertoire, you know," he said. "Three stories. They're all about seven minutes long." And then he told me the story of Goldsmith Mare, perhaps the greatest race horse that ever lived. If you want to know the details, you can either Google for it or you can fly to DFW Terminal B and jump on the bus to go to the Avis counter. Maybe you'll be lucky enough (as I was twice in a row) to get Stewart as your driver.

My point is, EVERY airport should have people like Stewart. Hell, I'd fly to Texas and rent a car once a year or so, just to enjoy the seven-minute ride on the bus, along with a good seven-minute story and a smile.

Welcome to Texas. Thanks, Stewart.

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