I’m in Ireland and it is beautiful and everything is going really well, which is obviously a relief and also a damn good thing because right before we left, I almost had a nervous breakdown.
Now I don’t know about you, but personally I believe that there are two types of people in the world: the ones who get to the airport for an international flight a few hours ahead of time and those are who placed on this earth to torture me.
This was the first flight for me and this guy I’ve been seeing (I mean our first flight together; I didn’t walk over here from the Soviet Union in the 70s, you know) so I was really hoping that he fell into the former “let’s get to the airport on time” category. And for a while there, it seemed promising.
“Our flight is at 6:30 tomorrow evening,” he told me the night before. “So I’ll pick you up at 3, 3:30.”
I worried that 3:30 am was a tad too early. But “better safe than sorry” is my motto and favorite cross-stich pillow. Besides, there are a lot of fun things to do at the airport, like go through the security line multiple times to see which screener has the nicest touch. Don’t knock it until you try it.
“So we’ll have breakfast at the airport?” I asked and there was an awful silence on the other end of the call, followed by an explanation that if he picked me up at 3:30 pm, we’d have enough time to walk to the airport. Just for future information, telling me that I have enough time to walk somewhere is never comforting. Because even if it were true, would I have enough time to walk there while dragging my suitcase and checking every five seconds to make sure I still had my passport/boarding pass/euros/faculties. I don’t think so.
To make a long story slightly lengthier and more draining, I got picked up at 3:45 (pm!) and then as we drove off to the airport, one of us who Shall Not Be Named realized that s/he forgot something so we had to circle the block and come back to pick it up. It is so handy that there is absolutely no traffic in NYC on a Friday afternoon, so circling the block is not at all like circling the seventh through twelfth rings of Hades. But then, by 4:15 or so, we were definitely off and zooming.
Except one of us had to stop off at some store and order a soufflé or something. I don’t want to be dramatic, but by this point I was cursing myself for not ordering one of those Life Alert ™ bracelets that I could press and be airlifted immediately to safety and/or JFK International Airport. Of course I’m still at the stage in the relationship where I’m trying out this fake “easy-going” personality because I understand that some weirdos like to have relationships with people who don’t stab them in the eye due to timing issues, so I sat back in the airport car and smiled in a way that I hoped was more demure than maniacal.
But by 4:45, we were definitely on our way. Unfortunately the AroundMe app didn’t indicate that there was a psychiatric unit en route to JFK so I didn’t think that I would get the attention and care that I so richly deserved. I tried to sit still, while rocking softly in what I considered a soothing fashion. It was after 5, I knew the gate closed at 5:20 and I was staring at a Missed Flight situation.
Although I personally have never missed a flight, due to my inherent goodness and knowledge of how time works, I firmly believe that the worst thing about the Missed Flight experience isn’t missing the flight, but all the stuff that comes along with it, including but not limited to, having to have contact with ticket agents, getting on the next flight and assigning blame for whose fault it was that the Missed Flight situation happened in the first place. (Fortunately, I had that last part all worked out. The moment I found out that I was being picked up at 3:30 for a 6:20 flight.)
And then I start to think. Because although a Missed Flight is bad, it does come with a silver lining. And the silver lining is that if we miss this very first flight we take together, then for the rest of the relationship I will have the Upper Airport Hand. This means that when we have a flight, he will turn to me for wisdom and guidance as to what time to depart. I hold on to this silver lining. I may miss the flight, I may never see Ireland, but I will get the Upper Airport Hand. And wouldn’t that all be worth it?
Unfortunately for me, things weren’t that easy. We get to curbside check-in and I race forward with my bags. The curbside check-in operator informs me that in addition to the $20 per bag fee, there is an addition $2 per bag convenience fee and that gratuities are optional but highly appreciated. I pay readily and happily. Or as happily as one can do these things while staving off a complete disintegration of one’s nervous system.
I was successfully checked in, but the guy I was traveling with was not so lucky. By the time he meandered with his bags, curbside check-in was closed. Closed, I say. Instead of committing suicide as any normal person would be tempted to, he took this as a bit of good news.
“Score!” he said. “I saved $2!” and proceeded to check-in inside, like an animal.
The rest of the airport process was a blur, there was a Soviet-era breadline-inspired security line and then our gate was somewhere near the Galapagos Islands in the airport scheme of things and by the time we completed our passage there, I was exhausted.
“Want to get a drink?” he asked me, motioning to the bar. I don’t understand questions like that. Because on the one hand, yes, I would like a drink or a dozen to take the fucking edge off. But on the other, the plane is boarding, there are people online walking onto the plane, taking their seats and reviewing the safety manual. And I’d like to join them.
Eventually he finished his drink and we boarded the plane. As I exhaled into my seat and buckled my seatbelt I felt a spasm in my shoulder. Whether it was from carrying my bag, the stress of the pre-flight ordeal or the onset of Ebola, I did not know. What I did know was that we did not miss our flight to Ireland. And that I was silver liningless.
Oh, and here’s his version of what happened:
I am in Ireland enjoying a wonderful summer break with the love of my life.
We arrived on Saturday morning after an overnight flight from New York.
I can’t believe how perfectly everything fell into place.
My adult son who travelled with us organized a car service to pick him up in New Jersey and then pick me up in midtown Manhattan. I didn’t wait for him to arrive; I brought my bags down and waited at the kerb. I was no more than a minute downstairs when he swooshed up and the driver carefully placed my bags in the back. Onward to pick up my beloved!
The driver deftly dodged the heavy Westside traffic and got us speedily to pickup number three. There’s my angel! She also had the foresight to bring her bags downstairs! We were on our way in record time but I realized that I had forgotten my prescription eye drops.
Not to worry, my princess said; I have some that you left at my place. In no time at all we were on our way again as she had organized one of her kids to bring them kerbside for a speedy drive by.
She is wonderful; what great time management! Why can’t the government work like this?
Onward to JFK where we pulled in right in front of the entrance to the airline desk. The wonders of kerbside check in!
Nobody ahead of us; no wait, no line.
She was the only one of our group to get kerbside check in; my son and I were directed to the inside desk where we were processed without delay!
On to security, the bane of every traveller. Six people in front of us. How can this be? The gods of travel have visited great favors on us! Security screening; two and a half minutes. A post 9/11 miracle indeed.
We arrive at the boarding gate and find that boarding has commenced. Luckily there was a bar adjacent to our gate so I suggested to my cherished darling that we take a seat and have a drink until the line shrunk. She just nodded; I led her to the bar. I enquired what she would like to drink. She shook her head. Poor dear; she is speechless over the superb choreography that I have demonstrated so far on this trip! One drink later we walked to the desk and proceeded to the jetway, which is the covered bridge from the terminal building to the aircraft door.
Oh no! Disaster. There was a line of people on the jetway waiting to take their seats. It took us four minutes to get to the door!
My son had been assigned a seat across from my beloved so I pleaded with him to swap with me.
Luckily he did so the vacation was off to a great start due to my canny and careful time management!