Sunday, July 08, 2007


I am sitting in the Charlotte airport waiting. Again. It's like I'm playing a game whose rules I do not know, and so time after time, I am the loser. The travel loser. It's like in the boardgame Life, my little car is empty traveling down that little trail on the board, no spouse, no children, cause I just can't figure out how the damn game works. I'm sitting writing in the "special assistance passenger" chairs, because well, I anticipate that after this, my umpteenth delayed/maimed/injured/recked/destroyed flight, I might need special assistance.

I have 28% of my battery power left in my computer and there are no outlets in sight.

Flash back to last Sunday to get the full story- I am taking a short domestic flight to my little family vacation, albeit with a connection, my godparents have dropped me off at the newark airport and I think, "Gosh, maybe this time, just maybe, it'll go smoothly. After all (I perfectly logically reason), my dad took care of the reservations and that somehow means it’ll be fine.” Right?

My flight to Florida was Newark to Charlotte and then (40 minutes later) Charlotte to Ft. Myers. Ok, we can do this. 40 minutes, no big deal. Fun in the sun await me. The clocking ticking by and our 10:45 Newark departure time passes and we still have not boarded. Ok, we still got this, all I need is 10 minutes, I can make the connection (Look at me, ever the athlete, trying to give myself a pep talk before the big event). Tick tock tick tock, the time goes by, we board the plane, but are unable to leave, just putzing around for, as usual, no apparent reason. Maintenance, paperwork, blah blah blah. There’s always a reason. And really, leaving 35 minutes late these days seems like a blessing. Except for the fact that I have a connecting flight to make.

And you know, flying under these conditions- not so fun. I try as hard as I can to fight the twisting knot of anxiety that is settling itself firmly in my stomach. I try to reassure myself with the “there will always be another flight even if I miss my connection” gimmick. Ha. By mid-flight I have read the entire Sunday New York Times cover to cover. No joke.

We land. Why in the world does it take so long once a plane lands to get to the gate, to hook up that little jetway doohickey, and let us off this ancient piece of metal? Furthermore, I am in Row 16. The little announcements they make about “please let people off who have tight connections” I think is really just a farce of a courtesy. But in this case, I used audible and forceful “EXCUSE ME’s” to get as far up as I can possibly manage before that little jetway door opens. And I run across the terminal.

And you know what I see out those big gynormous airport terminal windows that invariably have a smudges from children’s faces that have smooshed against them watching planes fly away? My plane! Hooray! Hallelujah!

Oh but no. I see my plane pulling away from the jetway. I swear to you it is straight out of a Michelle Pfiffer movie or something, and I am waiting for the camera to zoom in on my sad little face and focus in as one tiny little tear drops down one tiny little pale cheek.

BUT I HAD FIVE MINUTES!! I think to myself.

But, but but.

I gather myself together, refusing to cry, because I know that it’s not my fault, I shouldn’t be upset about uncontrollables, I should be ABOVE this, right?

I walk to the “customer service” desk, talk to the man who informs me that I am already booked on a flight that is leaving 2 hours from now. I ask him as politely as I can if there is a flight any sooner than that. He looks at me with the condescension that only a man who deals with angry travelers all day can pull off and replies, “It’s TWO hours.” Right.

So I wait. I call my friend Lisa who lives in Charlotte and comment to her that I never would’ve guessed her skyline was so big. To which she replies that she’ll be at the airport in 10 minutes. So, my little 2 hour wait turned out to be alright. But still. It’s the principle, goshdangit.

Flash forward to now. So in case it’s not already been made crystal clear, I don’t like being in airports any longer than is absolutely necessary. I don’t check bags. I don’t do connecting flights. My average time to arrival at an airport before the flight is 45 minutes. 70 minutes for an international flight. That would be the AVERAGE. Now, add in the fact that I’m traveling with my family- their golf bags, their anxieties, their rental car, and their flight that leaves an hour before mine, and Houston, we have a problem. But, you know, this is fine, it’s ok, I can just chill with my parentals, eat a mushy sandwich, and at long last check my email (Comcast screwed up our internet at the condo and we had no internet. All week.).

I see that there is a flight for Charlotte leaving at 1:24 (it’s currently 1:10 and my parents flight is at 2:10, mine at 3:00), and just our of curiosity I check if there are any seats… One. One middle seat. Not in first class (my dad’s hard earned miles at work). And there is no earlier flight from Charlotte to New York. Alright, thanks for the offer, but no thanks.

We board, a little late, but no big deal. We sit on the flight. And sit. You’ll never guess what it is this time. A bird hit the plane as it had come into Ft. Myers, and so they need maintenance to check the windshield before we leave for Charlotte. Seriously?? Oh but they don’t have maintenance people at the Ft. Myers airport. I’m sorry, this is an INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT and you have no maintenance people? There is something seriously wrong with this equation. They are contracted, so as I understand it there is like one dude who may or may not be around, and who may or may not be working on some other plane, so we just have to take a number and wait in line. And 55 minutes after our scheduled departure (my layover in Charlotte was supposed to be one hour), we get the go-ahead from the maintenance-man, and we’re off. It feels like déjà vu all over again. The anxiety, the frustration, the feeling of helplessness.

We land. Fortunately this time around I’m in Row 3, but unfortunately this time my connecting flight is in an entirely different terminal, just to spice things up a bit. I have 10 minutes before my flight leaves and come hell or high water, I will not miss that flight. So I run. In my long sleeve shirt, skirt, and flip flops. Carrying my computer bag and pulling my luggage. I am “that girl” running through the airport, frenzied, anxious, flailing about. I run past the lovely rocking chairs that are unique to Charlotte, watching people relaxing and rocking. I hate them.

I get to my gate and see people standing in line to board. HALLELUJAH!

Only I feel like my left lung has collapsed and that I am in the Sahara Desert as dry as my mouth is. But it’s ok. The pain and agony is worth it because despite the airline’s best efforts, I made my flight!

So why, you may ask, is she sitting in the Special Assistance seats waiting in Charlotte? Again? Well that would be because, oh right, they decided to stop boarding the plane just as I arrive. Mechanical issue. We need to wait for the maintenance man.

And around and around we go.

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