No way I can leave it at that. Not when there’s so much more to tell.
So I left my house at 5 am yesterday, headed to LAX. The morning began with two bits of dumb luck: first, that the trip to Montreal is going to last five days, and thus I couldn’t use my usual roll-aboard suitcase, and so had already planned on checking my bag, and so would get to keep my toiletries; and second, that I drove myself to the airport, and thus got to listen to NPR on the way, and so knew what was going on, and so was prepared for the madness that I found when I got there.
The lines were absolutely unreal. The line of folks trying to check in outside terminal 1, for instance, stretched all the way back to, and halfway down in front of, terminal 2. Things were bad over in terminal 6, where Continental is, too. The first line wasn’t terrible for me, at least, as I got to use the super elite line to check my bag, and thus only waited about ten minutes. The line for security, however, took forever, and everybody around me was in a foul mood.
I made it upstairs, finally, where I quickly wrote the last post and headed to my gate. My plane boarded on time, and left only a few minutes late, packed completely full. And the flight was pretty much uneventful, and I got a ton of work done.
But we didn’t seem to be descending, not in the way I expected, not at the time I expected. Because heightened security wasn’t enough, apparently, there was also weather near Newark. In fact, the flight attendant told me, we’d almost gotten diverted to another airport. As it was, we did land, a mere 32 minutes late.
Of course, I had a 35-minute layover scheduled.
And my flight to Montreal was apparently the only one in the entire airport that hadn’t been delayed. I found this out when I called the elite help desk after we landed, telling the agent that I had less than five minutes to make my flight, if it was leaving on time. It was.
And the only other flight that night, the 9 pm, had been cancelled. So the soonest I could get out of Newark would be 9 am today.
I asked the agent if he could send a message to the gate, telling them that I’d be there in ten minutes. He said he would, but warned me that they might not hold the plane, no matter what. I promised to run.
And I did: with my big pink briefcase over one shoulder and my laptop case over the other, and wearing my boots with the two-inch heels, I ran, from the middle of one concourse, down the connecting corridor, to the far end of the next concourse, and down the escalator to gate 115a.
Where the door was shut, and the agent was gone.
I looked sufficiently bewildered that a woman sitting nearby said “someone will be there in a minute.” “For Montreal?” I asked, pointing at the sign which indicated that the Montreal flight was leaving, like, now.
I ran over to the next gate, and got the agent’s attention, asking about the Montreal flight. “Oh, that’s gone,” he said.
“Really?” I asked him, my desperation totally evident. “Because they called to tell them I was coming. And I ran. And the last flight tonight is cancelled.” Gasping for air inbetween sentences.
And then a miracle occurred: he picked up the phone. Dialed some number. Asked if Montreal was still there. “I’ve got a runner,” he said. And then led me over to the gate, where an agent had just re-opened the door. He asked if I could still be gotten on the plane, and led me under the rope, down the jetway, and — amazingly — right to the still-open door of my still-waiting plane.
I thanked him profusely then, but want to do so once again: god bless the gate agent at 114!
I plopped myself down in my seat, called R. to tell him I’d made the connection, if barely, and then proceeded to have the worst asthma attack I’ve ever had. I don’t have asthma, at least not under normal circumstances. But I spent the next hour-plus unable to stop coughing, and unable to catch my breath.
Aside from that, though, the flight went smoothly. I had a little bit of bourbon — to soothe the throat and calm the nerves, you know — and a nice chat with the woman across the aisle. And then we landed, and waited in the usual long passport control line, and headed into baggage claim.
Where, as you might expect, my suitcase did not greet me. A very nice guy named George, though, who works for Northwest, was there, and he helped me with the paperwork.
My belongings caught up with me about an hour ago. I spent all day today conducting interviews in the same jeans and t-shirt that I traveled in yesterday. Now I can change my clothes, and even use the toiletries that I was able to save from TSA by checking my bag.