In "The Terminal," Tom Hanks plays a character who flies to the USA from some tiny East European country that has a coup while he is in the air. The country, and therefore his passport, is no longer recognized by the United States. He cannot enter the United States, nor can he board a plane to go back home. He is stuck at the airport, not being able to come or go. I can now empathize with him, at least a bit. This morning, I took my sister Kelsey and her friend Tessa to the airport to start their monthlong backpack-across-Europe adventure. Thinking that a walk around the airport would be more helpful to Miriam than just driving straight home, we went in with her while she checked her luggage. Miriam LOVED the moving sidewalks and we went back and forth on them while Kelsey took care of everything. Then we bid her farewell as she walked through the passenger-only gate. As we walked back towards the car, we stopped at the pre-pay for parking machine. I love using this machine because the first half hour of parking is free, and turning the parking stub in here rather than driving out to the pay area makes me feel like I get a few extra minutes to stay within the free time. But I could not find my parking stub. It was in no pocket, no purse, no nothing. Hmmm. It must still be in the car. So much for saving the few minutes by using the inside machine. We walked out to the car but, you guessed it, still no stub. Now, I consider myself to be an organized person who usually knows where things are. A place for everything and everything in its place. But perhaps not. I decided that with a little girl who was already pushing naptime, I'd just pay the fee and go home. So I drove out of the parking lot and to the pay area, where the lady who helped me said it is $45 for a lost ticket. I'm all for just paying the fee when it's my fault, but GOODNESS GRACIOUS $45 seemed a bit steep for my less-than-a-half-hour stay at Salt Lake International. She told me I could go back and look for it. So I tried to. I drove around and around and around but couldn't figure out how to get back to the airport. I couldn't find the parking garage. No matter how much I drove, I couldn't get anywhere but parking lots. Once you're in, they don't let you out. It was at this time also that I remembered that although I keep a ziploc of pretzels in the car for hard times, I had just yesterday taken it inside to refill and had not put it back. I also had just cleaned out the car, so there weren't even any old stale ones on the floor. Apparantly Miriam realized this too. She was not happy, to say the least. I called my other sister Erin for moral support and thankfully she was in a position to offer it. We finally parked in the Economy Lot (row 15C, to be precise), and walked to the shuttle. The shuttle was a hit. We sat by a little boy just older than Miriam and she was back on track. After a scenic trip through the Economy Lot, we finally arrived at the Delta terminal. Whew! We climbed off the shuttle and made our way back to the alcove we had played in so happily that morning. No stub. We looked up and down the moving sidewalks. No stub. We asked all of the travelers if they had seen a stub. No stub. I asked the guy sitting at the table giving travelers bags for their 3 oz liquid containers if there had been a stub turned in. No stub. He suggested to talk to one of the parking attendants. When I told him they wanted to charge me $45, he declared it ridiculous and went to go find an extra parking stub that he could validate with his employee card. At this point in time, Miriam discovered that the windows above the moving sidewalk had sills wide enough to walk on. Oh the joy! We spend the next 15 minutes walking up and down the window sills. Since she didn't walk as fast as the moving sidewalk, I walked backwards. As long as we're hanging, I might as well get a workout in. While we were doing this, I saw Heather Jacobs, a girl I had gone to high school with and hadn't seen since high school. She and her 2 year old daughter were headed back to their home in Arizona. We had a nice chat, but she hadn't seen any extra stubs. The friendly worker came back busted. He said he had tried to get an extra parking pass, but to get the machine to work, you have to have an actual car there. He said he'd tried a few things but eventually somebody told him it wouldn't work. I hope he doesn't get fired for it, because he ended up not being able to help us and if he's gonna get fired over doing something kind but possibly a bit shady, it would be nice if he could have actually helped somebody. Us. But to no avail. By this time I felt that I had been in that landing area for hours. I knew the travelers and the workers, yet I could go nowhere. We had no tickets to fly out of the airport. We had no parking stub to drive out of the airport. We were stuck. So stuck that $45 to be able to go home was looking better and better. There was still the glimmer of hope that that dang stub was stuck in some corner of the car. So we trucked down to the Economy Lot shuttle stop and Miriam explored the wooden waiting benches. We all filed onto the shuttle, welcomed by an extremely friendly shuttle driver. He gave so many tips and hints that I felt we were on a tour of the airport parking areas. Which would have been nice an hour before when I was navigating the parking lots. We finally made it to Shuttle Stop 7 and worked our way to row 15C. I decided to go through the car one last time as Miriam realized that she had to get back into her carseat. No stub in the jockey box, no stub in the consule. Miriam started to cry as I buckled her in. No stub under the car seat, no stub in the purse. This little girl is tired and not happy about our big adventure. I unzipped a pocket in my purse I had never seen before and still no stub, but glory hallelujah, there was a bag of fruit snacks! Miriam couldn't have been happier. Even if it would have been the stub. I resigned myself to our fate and drove to the pay area. I decided to look for another parking attendant, hoping to get one that could speak clearer English. The only other worker was a lady wearing a headcovering from India or a similar country. I took a deep breath and took a chance. I told her that I'd searched for the stub both in the terminal and in the car and it was nowhere to be found. Throughout this entire exchange, I was giving Miriam fruit snacks one at a time and hoping that we wouldn't run out. The lady said that a lost ticket was a $25 charge. Apparantly, the price dropped between the hours of 9 and 10:30. Lucky, lucky me! I gave her $25, along with my drivers licence information and telephone number, and felt like I'd gotten a steal of a deal. I gave the last fruit snack to Miriam as the parking arm gloriously arose. I was one of the Children of Israel walking through the Red Sea. I was Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego walking out of the fire unscathed. I was a monarch butterfly breaking free of the confining cocoon. Free at last, free at last! As I left, the lady told me that if I found the stub I could bring it and the receipt back and for a refund. So if anybody is at the airport and sees a loose parking stub floating around, take note. There could be a reward for any information leading to the recovery of a stub that may be worth up to $22.50, depending on how long our big airport adventure actually ended up taking!