Friday, December 22, 2006

The Adventures of Alvina and the Airport

I know it's crazy, but I think I forgot that it was the holiday season. I forgot why I went to so many parties these past two weeks, why I was eating so many fattening goodies, receiving holiday cards, I think I forgot why I was flying home. I must have, because that's the only explanation I can think of for my brain freeze.

Yesterday was my last day in the office, and I was flying out of Newark to Los Angeles at 7:35 pm. All fine and dandy, I've taken the NJTransit to the airport plenty of times. I checked the train schedule and saw that the 6:11 pm train got me to the airport by 6:38, which was a little less than an hour before my flight. Good enough, right? But since I had the check luggage due to the whole "no liquids" thing, I thought I'd play it safe and definitely try for an earlier train. In my mind, told myself I'd leave the office at 5:45 at the latest.

5:30 pm: I've happily finished an editorial letter I've been meaning to send for over 3 weeks now. It was looking like it might not happen before the holidays, but I felt good that it was done, that despite my lack of motivation this past week, I had accomplished something.

5:35 pm: Changing my outgoing message, setting my out-of-office email message, pleased that I'm doing this all in advance. Sorting through old emails...

5:38 pm: Suddenly realize that I'm planning on leaving at 5:45 pm to catch a 7:30 pm flight in Newark. That can't be right! What am I thinking?! Plus I need to pick up a prescription before I leave. I grab my stuff, yell "Bye" to my assistant and a few other people as I rush down the hallway.

5: 41 pm: I interrupt an old man talking to the cashier at Duane Reade. She is thankful for the interruption.

5:44 pm: I run onto the D train

5:55 pm: While running down 34th Street towards Penn Station, I answer a call from my best friend and gasp, "I'll call you back! I'm trying desperately to catch my train! I mean bus! I mean plane! Ahh!!"

6:01 pm: I look at a sea of people with suitcases trying to cram onto the 6:03 train to Newark airport. Sh*t. It is ONLY NOW that I remember that it is the holiday season. Holiday travel. Long lines. I look at the line, decide I won't make it on and might as well save some money to buy a ticket in advance for the next train. I look at both the super-long ticket machine line and just-as-long ticket counter line, and get in the ticket counter line. By this time, I'm sweating profusely. I take off two layers.

6:08 pm: Get my ticket, am told to go to gate 13 NOW and run. There's another sea of people trying to get into the tunnel to board. In my experience, I know there's an entrance on the other side, and once again, I RUN.

6:11 pm: Am on train, still sweating. Cram my suitcase into a little nook and settle in. Peel off another layer. My T-shirt is drenched. I feel sorry for the people around me. Will I make it? Will I make it?

6:13ish? Train departs. I decide not to look at the time any more. I'm trying to be zen. I can't control how fast the train goes. What's the worst that can happen? I miss my flight and have to go standby during the holiday season. Have the shlep from the Upper East Side to Newark. Augh. But it could be worse, I could be flying through Denver. I'm feeling pessimistic at this point. Picturing the long airport check-in and security lines. Hope that people will be calling certain flights up to the front. Wondering how I can face my mother when I call to tell her I've missed my flight. I had missed my connection during my last trip to LA--that time was not my fault, but still, this is not the kind of person I am. I'm responsible. I don't miss flights. Then again, I wonder how many times I have to miss flights before I become the type of person that misses flights.

6:40ish? Get off the train, run toward the Airtrain. For some inexplicable reason, the only escalator is going down, so I join the rest of the people and lug my suitcase and bag up three flights of stairs. Only slightly out of breath at the top--thank goodness for the marathon. Run and get on the Airtrain. Still haven't checked the time. It's out of my control, I'm just going to go as fast as I can.

Exit at Terminal C. I see a clock as I run. 6:46 pm.

Long snaking lines to check in. Damn that liquid bomb threat! I never used to check luggage. Should I toss out my liquids and check in electronically? Do I even have time for that? But I need my lotions, I need my contact solution, my prescription toothpaste, my shampoo. I get in line, looking for someone I can plead my case with. Commiserate with the woman behind me whose flight was scheduled to leave at 7:05, but was delayed 55 minutes. She isn't sure if she's too late to check in. The man she's with is looking into it. I'm kicking myself most because I know it's all my fault. The trains all lined up for me, I am not unlucky; I'm just an idiot.

I have about 15 minutes to make it to the front of the line. Will I make it? Should I be an aggressive bitch and cut in line? 5 minutes later, I've gone one row in the 4-row snake. Doesn't look good.

And then, from the heavens, I am saved.

"blah blah lines..." says an announcement.

"Skycab!" the woman says.

"Holy sh*t!!" I'm off again, trying to beat all the other desperate passengers who heard the same thing. Out the doors, into a line, I'm second in line! Look at my cellphone. 7 pm. I have 5 minutes before the 30-minute check-in cut-off. Have I actually made it? I'm am so happy for the Skycab. I am so happy I'm not one of the desperate passengers behind me offering to bribe the Skycab to check her in.

7:02 pm. 3 minutes to spare! I'm handing the kind man a $5 tip to take care of my tiny rolling suitcase, and am running for security, praying that my luggage makes it on, too.

7:05pm: After going to two different wrong security lines, they push me through the shorter line.

7:10: I'm through! It's at this point that I realize I've made it. I stop to pee. I stop to buy a banana. I stroll up to my gate--there are still a few people boarding, but it looks pretty empty. I cram the rest of the banana in my mouth, throw away the peel, and get in line just as they announce the final boarding call and the standby passengers for the flight.

I'm tempted to high five the flight attendants and yell gleefully, I MADE IT! An overwhelming gratefulness and peace comes over me. Disaster averted.

7:15 pm. I'm seated at the window seat. I hope I don't smell too bad. The plane is hot.

7:25 pm: An announcement--all passengers are on board, but not the luggage, and they aren't going anywhere without the luggage. I look out the window and watch as they load the bags, and hey, there's mine! It made it on, life is good.

A brief thought goes through my mind--what if this plane crashes? I rushed to make a flight that resulted in my death. I shake the thought from my mind.

It was exciting, it was an adventure. It's the ol' "It's the hard that makes it great" line. And you know what? Fine, the marathon was great. All the drama with relationships will make it great when I find the right person. Actually making it on the flight was great. But I'm tired of hard for now. I'll settle for "fine" and "good" for a while. Give me easy for a bit, please.


Anonymous said...

WHEW! So glad you made it! :) Enjoy and relax now! Happy holidays!

lisa greenwald said...

I have to say, I was on the edge of my seat reading that post.

saramoohead said...

Tee hee! This panicked airport feeling can't be that new for you. I remember a certain trip I was taking to see my long-distance then-boyfriend in England. I was at the check in desk with plenty of time to spare when I realized that I had forgotten my passport. What an IDIOT! I didn't have enough time to go back to Queens and get it myself. But who could I call up and beg for help? Trusty Alvina to the rescue! She took a cab to my apartment, and luckily my roommate was there to let her in. She grabbed my passport and then high-tailed it to Newark to give me my passport with something like 5 minutes to spare. Alvina is THE MASTER of last minute flight-getting -- definitely not one of those people who misses flights.

alvinaling said...

Oh, Sara--you were in my dream a few nights ago. I miss you! And thank you for always reminding me of this good deed done. You're right, now THAT was an adventure! (and I took the subway to Queens, and then a car to Newark).

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! What a trip! And I thought my worried trip to Chicago the other day was leaving little time to spare. I was feeling much like you--peeling layers, etc.--but it involved riding a train from 3 hours west of Chicago, hauling three suitcases 20 minutes across the city to the blue line (Christmas Day; couldn't find a cab on the city streets to save my life), hoping that I caught a train in time to get there for boarding.

Of course, then there was the arrival a week or so before that, dragging three suitcases on the El to my old roommate's house, when I realized that the wheel had fallen off my big suitcase. Chicago is BIG, and like New York, often has escalators going the wrong way, if at all. No wonder I lost a wheel somewhere!