A blinking creature, graciously mute two of seven days. Your bleary eyes dance with the foggy numbers, swirling steadily, and slowly, into sharpness; the concluding result a trite and trivial matter on this lovely Saturday morning, a mere curiosity.
The flurries float, a few flakes falling onto a child’s tongue, snatched from the grey sea. The sound of brooms across the cement sidewalk becomes the scrape of shovels skittering across the ice, becomes the forlorn grunt of the weary, pondering a warmer day absent the whir of snowplows on a random rotation.
Your flight is scheduled just before midnight, around 11:30pm, and thus you hope the storm passes as forecast and sets your adventure free, without the hardships passengers are surely encountering currently.
Sitting at the airport, you are still—even though it has stopped over eight hours ago—leery about a snow delay ruining your flight plans; call it historical precedent. The plan: fly out of New York, connect in Lisbon, Portugal to Venice, Italy and take a train to a town outside Milan, Italy. There, check into lodging of some sort, wake up early the next morning, hop a train to Milan, catch another train to the airport and jump a flight to Athens, Greece. But that overnight, you see, you have not booked because you are leery about this flight taking off on time, which could cause a missed connection which could cause a missed hotel which means you paid for a hotel and didn’t get a hotel so you get to pay for a second hotel which…so you wait to ensure your flight will depart on time.
It’s now 10:40 and you are about to board. Nothing is delayed. You hear half the people complaining about their earlier flights being canceled, connections being missed and now being rebooked onto this flight. Sometimes it is good to go last. At this point, as they’ve noted you will begin boarding shortly, you book a room at a small hotel in this nice Italian town. Booked, confirmed, done.
Minutes go by, and more minutes after that. The gate crew shuffles around behind the podium, they tweak the boarding poles (word of the day: stanchions) and the ropes, they pass papers amongst themselves, they disappear into the jet bridge and re-appear behind the desk. You check the flight board, no delay. You check your phone, no delay. “Maybe they just built in extra time to the boarding process,” you think. The clock seems to be the only thing working correctly right now.
And then, you are finally boarding.
Then you sit for a while watching people board. Did you ever notice that you didn’t have to block the aisle on a large jet, in order to access the overhead?
Boarding is complete. Everyone sit down. Oh, there are mechanical issues. You wait. The pilot comes on 20 minutes later to tell you about the repair and the paperwork and this and that and how it will be more of a delay because of whatever. Waiting.
The plane finally starts getting pushed back. It stops. The jet needs to be de-iced. And, as you would assume with the way things are going, the de-icing equipment is in a land far far away. You wait.
The de-icing trucks come at some point, and then you have to wait for the actual deicing.
And then, just as the trucks speed away for their home base in Hawaii, the pilot lets you know that air traffic control has informed him of a delay for take-off.
You are the first person leaving the coach class. Business class always get to deplane first when using one exit, or at least that is how it is commonly done. What do you do about those two business class passengers who are in no rush whatever? This is a great time, if you are in business class right now, to chat to your biographer about chapters seven through ten and your thoughts; lost in the world, absent from the present.
He raises his arms to pull his bag from the overhead, he latches onto the handle and pauses. Back to the conversation, the most important thing at hand with the hand on the handle, bag sitting patiently in the overhead, waiting for that tug.
“Pull the handle, hurry up!” you mentally yell. Your mind is racing with the thoughts.
The flight attendants, clearly lacking in judgement or decision-making, seem frozen by the rules.
“But the business class passengers need to be let off first,” they are clearly thinking, eyes darting back and forth while standing in your way, because of course they can’t trust anyone in coach to be civilized.
The mob of late passengers trying to make connections which they are clearly late for could perhaps cause a stampede.
“Just wait,” the flight attendant reminds you, with that professional artificial smile tinged with uncertainty, perhaps a splash of guilt.
The crowd behind you is getting rowdy. You keep checking the time, making a mental note that you are very late for your flight, the last and only flight to Venice today. You are going to need to run, but maybe it is time for tea & crumpets in the front. You are just waiting for the gun to sound. Release the hounds!
“Will they hold my connecting flight for me? I’m quite delayed,” you again remind the flight attendant who apparently is going to let the world end before she allows anyone off the plane before business class is clear.
“They know you are coming and they will hold the plane. Don’t worry. We will let you off very soon,” she reminds you. “We just like to have the business class passengers deplane first.”
Perfect, how customary.
You are running through the Lisbon airport, scanning the departures board as you run. What gate? What terminal? What time? All these things. You are running past at such a speed you see Barcelona, Berlin, Bilbao…and the next screen you are seeing a Milan, Munich…running…next monitor is a blur…Warsaw…too far…couple lines up…Venice, final call.
Down the steps to go through immigrations, no help by airline ground-staff to expedite.
“Where are you heading?”
“Oh, you are late.”
“Will they hold the plane?”
“Just go down that line sir.”
Race into the maze of stanchions and retractable belts, duck under belts, lift belts, dodge belts. Wait for three people to be called. Wait for the wave, flip the passport on the desk, snatch the passport off the desk, and run into the connections area for a security screening. Drop the bag on the xray, pull your belt off, dump the cell phone and wallet in the basket, grab some oxygen in the lungs.
“Where are you headed?”
They mutter out some gate. Good sign. Flight must have been late, still have a chance. Heavily breathing, racing heart, curious mind dancing amongst possibilities. It’s good you’ve been to this airport before, envisioning the quickest path to the gate.
Race through security unadulterated—luckily this is not London Heathrow where they’d give you a stern 5 minute lecture about the dangers of not having a small tube of toothpaste in the ziplock bag and requiring the rescan the toothpaste in the ziplock bag.
Grab your luggage, wipe your sweat, throw the phone and wallet in the bag, passport in your pocket, start to run.
You whip your head around.
“Where are you heading?”
“Oh, Venice. Hold on.”
Seconds ticking, is it hours? Days elapsing right now?
“Sir, the boarding is complete for Venice. The plane has left. Customer Service is on your right.”
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