I have fond memories of driving to the old plane-watching lot at Missouri Bottom Road and Lindbergh Boulevard. We would sit up on the roof of the car with lots of other families and marvel as the planes roared right over our heads. In fact, this is one of the fun things Yoli and I did together during her first trip to the U.S.
But then came the billion-dollar boondoggle, as I like to call it; or Bridgeton’s Bane, to put a Tolkien-esque spin on it. I am referring to W-1W, the runway expansion plan.
The old plane-watching lot was torn up, major roads were rerouted, and an unnecessary runway and tunnel were constructed.
Which brings us to today.
Jadzia, Ludi, and I happened to be driving in the vicinity of the airport. It was a rare moment for us — out in the car, our errands complete, and time to spare before Jadzia needed to take her nap.
As much as I deplore the expense and unnecessary-ness of the Lindbergh tunnel, I have to admit it is cool to drive through. And I know Jadzia enjoys it. So I decided to take her through it.
As we were coming out the other side, I thought “we should go plane-watching.” I had wanted to take the girls many times in the past, but it never worked out because of sleep schedules or other looming deadlines.
In fact, we did try once sitting in the airport’s new “cell phone lot,” but it has a big white fence along one side and it’s really not very well situated to see the planes taking off. Plus, it started raining. A total bust.
Anyway, I was elated with my plan. I drove down Lindbergh to the relocated Missouri Bottom Road. If you turn onto Mo Bottom, there is a gravel road immediately on the right, which goes up a small hill overlooking the runways. It’s a very nice lookout spot, and it seems to be a public area. There are no signs saying “Airport property” or “No Trespassing” or anything.
We parked the car. Ludi had fallen asleep in her car seat, but Jadzia was awake. I waited, watching the runway eagerly. But no planes took off. As the minutes ticked by, I could see Jadzia’s interest waning. I thought “maybe they are taking off the other direction today.”
At last, in the distance, I could see something shiny taxiing toward the other end of the runway. Could this be it? I saw the plane turn and point in our direction. The way it was throwing off the reflected light made it clear that this was a silvery American Airlines plane. I grabbed Jadzia and pointed out the windshield: “It’s a plane. There it goes. It’s going faster! It’s about to take off! It’s in the air! Look, it’s going right past us.”
It was very cool, but I don’t think Jadzia saw the plane until it was very close to the car. Now that I knew they were taking off and heading our way, I got her out of her car seat and we stood outside the car. We watched three planes in a row take off, and Jadzia loved it. After the fourth one, I decided it was time to get going.
And as I was about to set Jadzia on her seat, I looked across the road and noticed a police car. A police car that was now moving and heading in our direction, just like the planes had been. Oh great.
The cruiser pulled up right behind our car on the gravel road atop the hill. I finished securing Jadzia’s seat belts and stepped out. The officer was saying something, but I couldn’t make it out, so I stepped toward his car.
“You can’t park here,” he said. “This is airport property. It’s not a parking lot.”
We were already done plane-watching. But this upset me. I wasn’t so much mad at the officer, but rather at the airport leadership.
This is the same airport that, just last month, let a homeless man sneak past security checkpoints. He was found later sleeping onboard a plane.
Instead of wasting police manpower to keep people off public ground, maybe they should spend more effort beefing up security where it actually matters — inside the airport.
Anyway, we went home, and Jadzia was perfectly content. She got to go through the tunnel again.