Like clockwork, thousands of travelers descended on Lindbergh Field on Thanksgiving Eve, unofficially inaugurating the 1987 holiday season.
By the end of the day, airport officials expected 35,000 travelers--about 50% more than usual--to pass through the busy facility, many of them forced to dance a quick curbside two-step as they exited idling cars, luggage in hand, hugged friends and loved ones on the sidewalk, then raced into the terminal.
It was a scene repeated throughout the day, as the ebb and flow of departing and arriving flights caused large traffic jams at the airport and along Harbor Drive.
For some such as Darcy Broben, 18, and her friend Katy Nork, 19, the anticipation of crowds forced them to arrive 90 minutes early for their flight to San Francisco.
The two San Diego State University freshmen, though, were sitting in the terminal, bored expressions painted across their faces. They had planned too well. The crowds, at least at mid-morning, had failed to materialize.
"My parents bought my plane ticket--that's why I'm here today," said Broben, whose final destination was her family home in Concord, where a Thanksgiving feast awaited her today.
"We got here early because we thought it was going to be crowded," she said. There were scores of other SDSU students at Lindbergh Field. Jason Jaffee, a freshman bound for Oakland, said the dorms at the university closed at 4 p.m. Wednesday and aren't scheduled to open again until 4 p.m. Sunday.
"So even if we wanted to, we couldn't leave tomorrow morning," Jaffee's traveling companion and fellow student, Charles Fiori, said.
For others, such as Dwayne Seelig and Jose Urzua, both 18, Wednesday was a time of pure excitement and anticipation.
Not only were the two young men happy about their trip to their homes in San Antonio, Tex., but for the first time in 11 weeks, they were back among civilians.
Just that morning, the two Marines had graduated from boot camp, and they were looking forward to the next 10 days of freedom.
"We just got out this morning and this is our first taste of civilian life again," said a smiling Seelig as he munched on a candy bar in an airport snack bar/newsstand. How did it feel not to have to do daily five-mile runs and also go home for Thanksgiving? "It feels great," said an unabashed Urzua, mustering his special brand of teen-age enthusiasm.
By late afternoon, the real crunch at Lindbergh began, as the first large wave of fully booked flights from the East and Midwest arrived. Parking in all of the airport's lots was at a premium, and Harbor Police, who patrol the airport, advised motorists to expect lengthy delays. The long waits were worsened by an air traffic problem at the Palmdale Airport that caused delays of more than two hours on flights throughout the West, including San Diego.
"It's backed up to Laurel Street," said Harbor Police Officer Gary Leeson, describing the traffic tie-up that extended several blocks south of Lindbergh's two terminals.
No Scuffed Shoes
More travelers, though, don't necessarily equate to more business. At least not for Roy Bosinger, who works part time at a sidewalk shoeshine stand near the PSA counter.
Although he clearly noticed that more people were descending on Lindbergh Field by early afternoon, it seemed that many of them avoided wearing leather around their feet.
"My business right now is pretty normal . . . people these days travel with their jogging shoes. They don't dress up anymore," lamented Bosinger.
But for all of the hustle and bustle, the horn honking, the harried sprints through the terminals by late passengers, Lindbergh Field was just a quiet, peaceful--almost sleepy--place for Paul Toltz.
Toltz is more used to the outright gridlock of Stapleton airport in Denver, where he lived until a week ago, when he moved into Rancho Santa Fe.
Toltz, who said he is in the "glass business," was waiting for his son to arrive from Chicago, and, conditioned as he was to the holiday madness at Stapleton, had come prepared for a familiar round of jostling and frustration. To his amazement, he found Lindbergh more of a pussycat than a tiger.
"We heard it was going to be wild . . . just like Denver," Toltz said as he waited in the sunshine while Bosinger shined his shoes. He had no problem parking, his son's flight was delayed, but not by much, and he seemed thoroughly contented, sort of like a man drawing into a straight flush.
"This is a real pleasure," he said, "to be at this airport."