It started at 4:30 am Tuesday morning
. My bleary-eyed husband delivered me early to the airport because I’M DONE being stressed about the things I have control over.
In I sauntered, bags checked, security frisked, and ready to board.
A full 40 minutes before departure.
I was ON IT.
Three United flights board at the same time in Santa Barbara, and I heard two of them announced, so I figured mine would board third. “Heard” would be the operative word in that sentence.
Time for a quick phone call to a friend on the east coast. Because the east coast is the only place you can call at 5 in the morning. We chatted while I watched the two flights board. Finally the third began.
That’s when I heard the gate agent say the words that began my terrible no good very bad day.
“San Francisco- now boarding”.
I hung up on my friend and ran up to the counter. “Where’s the flight to L.A.?” I asked, in my best casual non neurotic voice.
“Oh that one has finished boarding. Door is closed.”
We’ve all heard those dreaded words when we’ve been delayed, misconnected, or haven’t been able to make the 50 gate dash in the allotted two minutes we have.
But NOT when we’ve been sitting at the gate for 45 MINUTES.
“It can’t be”, I said.
“It is”, he said.
“It isn’t!” (neurotic voice in full tilt)
I then did the stupidest thing I’ve ever done next to not getting on my plane while it was boarding.
I ran back through security to the ticket counter.
Just one great decision after another.
When I got there, I realized there was nothing they could do for me. So I took my already boarded boarding pass, stripped through security again, and ran back to the gate, holding my belt in my hand.
Full body neurotic behavior. And it was only 5:45 in the morning.
At this point, I saw the soft spoken foreign-accented woman who somehow managed to board MY FLIGHT without me knowing it.
“I called you”, she said
“NO you didn’t”, I said.
“Yes I did”.
Realizing my word ping pong game was getting me nowhere with gate agents, I stopped.
“It’s not your fault”, I meekly uttered. “I just cannot believe I did something this idiotic.”
At this point she softened and gave me the first sympathetic look I received all morning.
“I’ve done it too”, she said.
“You haven’t!” I said.
My game of ping pong had evolved to a much friendlier tone, so I asked gently:
“WHAT can we do to fix this?”
Several undesirable options were offered, all ending with landing at 11pm at night.
“There’s nothing we can do to get me there earlier?”
(Translation: Your current options aren’t working for me but I am totally with you in your efforts.)
“Well…” she said, “ I can put you on a US air flight to Phoenix, with a connection of 25 minutes where you have to run out the terminal, catch a shuttle, go two terminals over to United, re-enter security, and get on a flight to Denver. If you make it, you can catch your last flight to Atlanta. But…”
I interrupted her. “Perfect.”
Then I hugged her. We were “missing flights in the terminal” buddies now.
So onto the US Air flight I ran, and before I had time to worry about how I was going to scale 13 rows when the plane landed, there was my dear friend Susan, who I’ve been trying to get on the calendar with for months.
“I had to figure out some way to spend time with you” I said, hoping she wouldn’t ask me the details.
As we made our approach into Phoenix, I explained that I’d be climbing over 13 rows to get out of the plane first if I had any hope of making my next flight.
Luckily she’d done it too.
Just before the Pavlovian bell rang, I sprinted to the door. (I know, I know, you are not supposed to do that).
Whisk, boom, curb, drive, run, frisk, and to the gate– with 5 minutes to spare.
Stress is GONE, Now let’s put the morning behind us.
Out we taxied to the runway. And then, the pilot came on.
“We are going to have to unload some fuel before we take off because we are too heavy for the storm conditions in Denver.”
(Don’t you love it when storms hit in connecting cities?)
“Should only take 30 minutes.”
No problem, I’ve got two and a half hours before my third flight.
For the next two hours, I experienced an unprecedented mishap on United where they first announced they would actually have to unload 28 passengers, then decided (after the passengers left) that they didn’t have to unload them, and we couldn’t leave the gate until all of the passengers who left had been accounted for.
We taxied back out exactly two and a half hours later.
Just in time to miss my third flight.
This can’t be happening, I thought for the twentieth time that day. And it was only 11:30 in the morning.
But here is where the miracle happens.
We landed at 1:55. My plane left at 2:04. It was 50 gates away.
I hurdled down a moving sidewalk, caught a ride on one of those “excuse me” carts, then sprinted my last 10 gates.
2:03. Gate agent still there. Door closed.
I crumpled over the counter.
“We’re closed,” she said.
“I know”, I whimpered.
Then she looked out the window and time went into slow motion as she uttered these words:
“Wait a minute, the gate is still attached. Come with me.”
She unlocked the door, and walked me onto the flight.
The one that was scheduled in my original itinerary. With my checked bag on board.
I turned and said to the girl next to me, “You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had.”
“Really?” she said, nodding off. She was, after all, a total stranger who probably didn’t give a rip.
So what, you ask, is the moral of this story?
Don’t get on the phone when you are about to board a flight.
The rest I can’t help you with.
Except maybe to quote my favorite line from “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.
“Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”