Born to run back to New Jersey

It had been an eventful night, transporting two years worth of clothes, kitchen supplies, and toiletries from flat to flat. I’d made a point of breaking up the packing/moving over a few days so I could move more quickly and make it to the Ace for the USA-Germany game. There, I cheered on the US (no goals, but okay, we’ve moved on) and bid farewell to friends who were off for good to new places, from Singapore to Shanghai to Lebanon to Mexico City. I made it home by morning, in time to eat a wholesome McDonalds breakfast with Laura before catching a ride to the airport.

The airport was predictably frenzied that morning, with Egypt’s time falling back one hour and people scurrying around to print boarding passes and monitor flight times. Laura, for example, had discovered that her flight, which was scheduled to leave at 10:30, was actually heading off at 9:30. Oops.

Fun fact: If you’re super late to the airport, first/business class is the check-in option for you.

I was alright on time, but my connection in Munich was a mere 30 minutes – which apparently restricted the system from printing my boarding pass.

“But I’ll miss my flight if I go to a check-in counter,” I protested. “There’s no way I can get to my new gate in time to make the flight AND print the pass.”

“The system will not let me print the pass.”

This went on for a number of minutes, with the airline attendant offering me priority tags on my luggage and the promise that it would go through to Newark, but no real ability to ensure I’d make my own flight to Newark.

After an uneventful – and entertainment-less – flight, we landed in Munich and I leaped off the airplane, running through the terminal to my gate. Never have I sprinted through an airport before, in a dress no less, and with a heavy backpack crammed with my bulky laptop, Nook, and Samsung tablet, along with a 100-page Word document (my novel in progress) all burdening my gait.

As I ran, the front of my dress flying up, I found myself alongside two other airport marathoners, a woman who boldly detoured to the restrooms and a young man in a cowboy hat who was surely headed to the US as well. After I’d been making steady pace behind him for a few minutes, he turned and panted, “Dulles??”

“No,” I breathed heavily, “Newark.”

“I don’t get why they do this to us!” he gasped before lumbering onward. My gate lay behind two (TWO!) security checkpoints. At the first, I arrived panting and smelly. With a deep breath, I cried out, “Can I get in front of anyone? My flight is leaving right now!”

The queue parted, probably as a result of my perceived insanity; the growing concern for my mental stability must have mounted as I hastily stripped myself of bracelets and a watch, tangling my arms in the backpack straps as I struggled to remove my electronics, hair plastered to my face.

Again, I picked up the pace and ran toward the line for boarding passes. Thinking first/business would be quicker, I jumped into line behind an annoyingly peppy German-looking family. I stood behind them panting loudly, sweat pooling on my forehead. Their young daughter eyed me cautiously, as if viewing an asthmatic hunchback released from his tower. To my left was my gate, cruelly located just beyond a glass partition so I could watch the throng of cool, collected passengers with boarding passes easily disappear into the boarding ramp. Panicked, I tried to calm myself. What if they wouldn’t give me a boarding pass? What if they sent me to the transfer desk and I missed my flight? What would happen to my giant suitcase in Newark, lazily circling and re-circling the carousel conveyor? What would security do with an uncollected bag arriving from the Middle East?

At last, the family made it through and I managed to gasp out that my flight was boarding and I had no pass. The man tapped irritably at his laptop, citing a slow connection as the problem, before providing me with a handwritten post-it – A POST-IT! – on my passport that literally had a zero and a squiggle penned on it and sent me through to the desk.

Again, I found myself in a line to pass through yet another security post. Again, I asked if I could pass in front of the string of unhurried passengers. They regarded me with a mixture of bewilderment and scorn before saying, “I think we’re all on that flight” and wagging their passports, all stuffed with coveted boarding passes. I wanted to scream out, “But you have boarding passes! I have a post-it!” Luckily, an older, uniformed man standing nearby approached me and asked if I was a US citizen. I told him I was, and he kindly escorted me around the checkpoint and through to the gate. (Intriguing.)

As I ran/limped toward the gate, I realized that I had become the crazy passenger that I’ve blogged about in the past, wide-eyed, unstable men and women whose sanity is questionable at best and who immediately launch into detailed stories of their travel hassle, crazy spiritual beliefs, and disdain toward flight attendants and pilots alike as soon as they sit down, contents of their bag spilling out on the floor.

I reached the desk and shoved my post-it at the airline attendants. Normally when I reach the desk, I coyly ask for a seat in first class, flashing a smile and tossing my neatly groomed hair over my shoulder. Now, wiping my sweaty palms on the counter and nervously eyeing the boarding lane through sweaty eyelashes, I could only hope they might overlook the possibility that I might be a lunatic and grant me a seat anywhere. Beside me, the meticulous, sunkissed German family serenely attempted to negotiate a first class upgrade.

I was given 54D, a seat three rows in front of the restroom and located in a bizarre, three-seat row among a plane of four-seat rows. Looking ahead, I could see through the cracks in all the other seats and I had the option of choosing the television screen to my left or right to lean toward to watch a film. Exhaling as I sat down, I attempted to text my sister that I had made my connection and to please retrieve me from the airport – but to no avail.

Reluctantly, I turned to the man sitting two seats away from me, who had smiled sympathetically when I’d rushed in a minute earlier. Breaking all of my air travel etiquette rules, I asked to borrow his phone to text my sister, did so hurriedly, and then waited for the plane to take off – which it did, without any rush, twenty minutes later.

In the end, it was a relaxing flight on which I ordered many a beer and viewed many a newly released film, chatting intermittently to my seatmate, Cornelius. In Newark, I was speedily and warmly shuffled through passport control. I grabbed my tattered suitcase from the carousel where it was happily rotating among its companions, and found my sister waiting reliably outside the gates.

Leaving the cool, white lights of the airport and feeling the warm breeze of a humid New Jersey June, I felt instantly at home. It was a calming end to a harried day, one I hope won’t be repeated anytime soon.

For all you weary, rushed travelers out there, I promise I’ll try not to judge you so quickly next time – though I still think you’re fair game for a blog post.

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