“Hurry, we’re closing the door behind you!” the gate agent shouted as she saw me panting and red-faced pulling my roll-aboard (for years I thought it was roller board, but it turns out that’s a skateboard), in my red stilettos. She reached out to grab my extended boarding pass and we completed the scanning maneuver as gracefully as track stars passing the baton in a relay.
I burst through the airplane door being careful to step up and over from the jetway as it wasn’t quite flush with the plane. I was beaming as a very tan handsome young man smiled and cried, “You made it!” The passengers in the first six rows cheered and high-fived me as I staggered to my assigned seat, 11C. I found my aisle seat, threw my personal item in it and with wild eyes looked up at all the closed overhead bins for a place to stow my carry-on.
Out of nowhere appeared the friendly face of a flight attendant named Marianne. Together we rearranged some stuff in a not-quite-full bin and hoisted my bag up and away. I looked at Marianne, smiled and said, “I think I need a drink!”
She said, “Make it a double, you earned it!”
Whew! I tossed my other bag on the floor, plopped into my seat and kicked the soft bag under the seat in front of me. After fastening my seat belt, I sat back, relaxed, and asked myself, what the hell just happened?!
Ah, yes. Due to weather delays, I was re-routed from Columbus, Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina on a commuter flight to catch a direct flight to San Jose, California. Due to the smaller overhead bins on the small plane, all rollaboards (or rollerboards) must be stowed in the cargo compartment to be picked up upon deplaning. I put my bright red claim ticket where I could easily retrieve it. On landing, I had it clutched in my hand and was ready to make the dash to my connecting flight.
As we sat on the tarmac the Captain announced we were not cleared to proceed to the gate due to lightning storms surrounding the airport. “But don’t worry,” he said, “everybody else is sitting here, too. If you have a tight connection, get off first. If you don’t, please stay seated and allow them to deplane.”
With my red claim check in hand, I sprinted up the aisle, didn’t see any bags on the jetway and raced past thinking they must have brought them to the other end. There were no bags there either. Crazed, I caught the eye of the check-in attendant at the desk. “Hi,” I chirped. “Where are the carry-on bags? and I waived my red claim check in the air.
In a slow drawl, barely looking up from her keyboard she replied, “You supposed to get ’em back there when you got off the plane.” And she ticked her head toward the jetway.
I turned to go back in and in a strong voice, she hollered, “Stop! You’re not allowed to go back in!”
“But you said…”
“I’ll have to get it for you.”
Relieved, I held out the claim check. She ignored it and kept staring at her computer screen.
Three people stood in line and one-by-one asked where their connecting gate was. She answered each one never looking in my direction as I stood fuming at her side. To get her attention I thrust out my boarding pass, “Which gate?”
Still not looking at me she punched it in and answered, “B3.”
We were at E10 and the B section sounded far away. “Am I going to make it in time?”
She looked me in the eye and deadpan she said, “They’s boarding now.”
Gritting my teeth, in a controlled voice, I asked, “Do you think you could get my bag now?”
“Oh, no. I have to wait until everybody’s off.”
I took a deep breath. It wouldn’t be the first time I had to spend the night in an airport chair.
Finally, the last passenger walked through the door and Miss Congeniality ambled toward the jetway. Again she ignored the claim check I thrust out. “It has a yarn tassel!” was all I could get out when the metal door slammed shut.
I rolled my eyes and focused on breathing. And then, bam! The door exploded open and there stood the gate agent, correct bag in tow. I grabbed the handle, flashed her a megawatt smile and took off.
I started with a quick walk, escalated to a jog and saw other people actually running so I sped up. The loud click-clack of my heels worked well in parting the way ahead of me except on the moving walkways where the rubber muted the sound.
There are signs at these walkways; “Stationary people to the right.” I was making good progress walking briskly behind young athletic-looking young men until the third walkway. We were clipping along when the guy in front of me stopped short behind a texting teenager. I came to an abrupt halt and the guy behind me shouted, “EXCUSE ME!” which really meant move outta my damn way, I have a flight to catch. I turned around and snarled, “It’s not me, it’s her!” ticking my head toward the girl who finally woke up and moved over.
After that exchange, I took to running beside the moving belt thinking I would be faster. I trained my eyes on a guy who entered the moving belt at the same time I abruptly jagged to the left and took off running. At the end, I was panting like I had just finished a 10k race and he casually stepped off the belt ahead of me and beat me by three people. So much for that theory.
Once safely ensconced in my aisle seat, I looked around, greeted my lovely seatmate, Lillian, and marveled at the vacant center seat which we quickly filled with our stuff — reading materials, flying cushions, and sweaters. Lillian was engrossed in her Kindle so I left her alone until the incident.
What incident? you ask. Part 2 is coming soon! I promise.