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Malted in Minneapolis

Stories from an Airport Bar

I hit the ground in Minneapolis sure I would never get on another plane in my life (as I do after most every flight). I was planning on calling my friend KT who lives there, and posting up for the weekend in the twin cities and taking a greyhound the rest of the way back to Syracuse.

But then, as if a moth to a light, I am drawn to a beautiful airport bar. There is a woman from London playing a ukulele on the stage, and I find a seat right on the corner of the bar and order a Lil Sumpin. The bartender calls me by my name from my credit card, and keeps my glass filled for the entire two hours layover.

I get out my laptop, and begin charging my phone. Suddenly a middle aged Canadian man from Vancouver slides into the seat next to me in a rush.

“Do you have fireball?” he asks the bartender with focused eyes.

No, they don’t. And they don’t have his second choice either. He’s left with a shot of whiskey which he downs immediately, and a large glass of red wine which he settles down with and introduces himself to me.

Turns out he flies once a month to visit his kids in Canada- and is a practicing facial surgeon in Idaho. He’s very pleasant- we get into a politics a little bit, however when the word “fucking hell” slips out of my mouth in my common parlance, he suddenly seems unsettled and I apologize.

The airport bar is a strange cross section of humanity- in that most every bar that I frequent- fucking hell is a perfectly acceptable exclamation. However- here there is a mix of the very wealthy and the very poor- and I realize the culture clash and class division immediately in my tipsy haze. The surgeon turns to the woman on the other side of him, and invites her into the conversation as I have proven myself to be foul mouthed and most probably a nobody.

The woman works for a bank- and is on her way to Portland, Oregon where she is meeting her girlfriend and starting a new life there. She definitely doesn’t want to talk- and you can tell she is lost in her own thoughts a bit. She’s from the Detroit area, and we talk about the city a bit.

The surgeon slams back the rest of his wine, and shakes each of our hands and says safe travels. A minute later- a middle aged woman walks up and asks if the surgeon’s old seat is empty. We say yes- and she orders a tuna melt and introduces herself.

She is a lawyer- and works for a hunger action nonprofit which seeks to address hunger and obesity with sustainability practices and information on healthy diets. I don’t know any of this yet though- but it comes up as I am prompted to tell about my time in Barrow, Alaska and the obesity and cancer rates due to the invasion of American food into the local peoples’ diets. She tells me this is exactly what she does in the DC area- and also she visits Alaska once a year.

I tell her I wanted to be a lawyer- but I was scared I would have to sell my soul to the corporate agenda. I tell her it’s so inspiring that she is a lawyer who is able to have a progressive agenda and not back down. She tells me that’s why most lawyers get a degree.

The ukulele singer finishes her act, and is leaving the stage. The woman of action eating the tuna melt that I am sitting next to stops the musician on her way out, and asks about her life. The musician is from London, and soon we are talking about how her boyfriend is a Mormon and she’s considering taking him up on the religion and moving to Minnesota for good.

To me, airports feels similar to the Catholic idea of purgatory that I learned in CCD. I feel like we’re all dead people walking- and some of us are handling it better than others.

Everyone has left- and I finish my pint and head off as it’s now time to catch my flight back to Syracuse. I walk off to the terminal and get there before boarding has begun. Not finding a place to sit- I wander off back where I came from- and run into the bartender. He’s holding my leather jacket and notebook.

“Anne! Here you go.”

It’s at this point that I realize I am Malted in Minneapolis.

I get on the plane, and have a fairly pleasant flight sitting next to a girl my age coming back from a conference. I try making conversation with her- but then finally get the message. I am intoxicated- and everyone else is either responsible or anxious- and I need to quiet down and settle in for the ride.

Maybe next time I should opt for a xanax. But I know that I would never have met this cross section of humanity at the airport bar without the buzz.

Originally published at

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz



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