It’s not my last assignment of the year but I was looking forward to the Florida Keys the most. I arrived at the airport at 4:45 am and the line up to check into Delta was gigantic. Hundreds of people lined up at least 500 feet long!! Electronic check-in kiosks were frozen and the Delta attendants were in chaos, totally unprepared for the regularly scheduled American Thanksgiving rush.
I asked about the line and was told yes, I was in the right line. Against my better judgment I walked all the way to the end as instructed. After 20 minutes I asked about my flight nervous that I wouldn’t make it. The running attendant waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. I worked my way to the front of the line to the angry comments of other passengers all panicked about their own flights. I felt I wasn’t alone so went back to my place in line.
Another 20 minutes passes and I asked again. This time I got a shrug. I got back in line. Then they called a flight that was half an hour after mine. I asked again about my flight and got another shrug. So I switched to “bitch” mode and pushed my way to the front of the line. That’s when I was told I missed my flight and to get into yet another line of others who had also missed their flight. Usually misery loves company but I’m not feeling any camaraderie or comfort. Finally, I got to an attendant who insisted the flight was called many times. So how do you argue with someone whose job it is to tow the company line instead of talk to you? I was rebooked in an efficient (or inefficient, whichever you want) 15 minutes and sent on my way.
Missing a flight is like filling the champagne glass too fast and furious. There’s always some of the effervescence that spills over and falls away. I guess I was the spillage in Delta’s ‘too much to handle’ scenario.
So to put it into perspective, I’m travelling for work and a group of my colleagues are now on the plane wondering where I am. I have no phone with me (a story for another day) and I can only guess how angry the group leader is. It’s actually his job to shepherd a group of journalists through an international experience and I was now the black sheep that couldn’t be trusted. This is the equivalent to missing the first day of the best job ever!
To make matters worse, it’s my first plane I’ve ever missed and I didn’t realize it comes with so much humiliation. I even made a Corfu flight weeks earlier when I found myself entangled in the Berlin Marathon. I naively assumed the Berlin Marathon was a high school production when it was actually the equivalent to the Boston Marathon. I drove for hours trying to get out of the marathon loop, running up against barrier after barrier. The only way out was a tunnel that I found by being squeezed that way by literally millions of other cars all desperate to escape. When I finally arrived at the airport, I paid the car rental attendant 50 Euros to park the car, forgo the inspection and sign off for me. I ran with all my might to the waiting plane. Amazingly, they let me on.
But this is not the European Union, this American culture and I’m a typical suspect travelling down to a warmer climate eagerly wanting to sink my teeth into a juicy Key Lime Pie.
Not too long ago I lived in a border town and was acutely aware of the comings and goings of Americans. On long weekends like this Thanksgiving weekend they would flood our pretty little towns, fill our restaurants, pour into little shops until they were bulging and fill our otherwise deserted streets with annoying driving habits. They came for the beauty, some for fun, others for respite of rest and relaxation. Now that I live in Toronto, a few hundred extra Americans in the city of a few million goes relatively unnoticed. It strikes me as somewhat liberating that my life now goes on uninterrupted by the habits of another country. On the other hand, if they were swarming my world, I would have noticed and left more time for the airport.
If you’re wondering if the group leader called when they landed in Atlanta (on route to Key West), yes he did. Was he forgiving? Well, not really but I did sense he was as relieved that I was on the next flight as he was angry of my novice screw up.
Now that I’m back home I pick up my Sunday morning ritual so easily. I walk to the Brick Street Bakery in the Distillery District for a chocolate brioche and cup of hot chocolate from Soma. I’m killing time before the next flight out and this time I’m leaving myself 3 hours before my flight.