Friday, March 15, 2013

Be On Time

"When we go to the airport,  if they're
not closing the door behind my sweaty,
hyperventilating body,  I feel I've
been there too long."
~Greg Kinnear

"What time," Mike asked me while we were driving somewhere yesterday, "do we have to be at the airport on the 27th?"  I rolled my eyes because he knew the answer, and if he didn't, he sure as heck should have.

"The flight leaves at 9:40, so between 6:30 and 7:00," I replied. "And, preferably closer to 6:30."

I won't bore you with the rest of the conversation, but suffice to say that we will be at the airport by 6:45 PM on the 27th.  International flights require a little more check-in time, and I don't like chancing anything.  In addition, I don't want to stress like I did when we flew to Italy in 2010 (You knew there was a story there, didn't you?).

September, 2010

We decided to fly to Italy from Miami, combining a trip to see Jason with the European portion. The cost of flying out of Miami was also quite a bit less expensive, and we were able to leave the dogs with Jason and Bean while we were gone.  Decision made, we trekked east to Florida.

On the day of our flight, I urged Mike to leave around noon or a little after.  Mike, who had driven this route only one other time (and that was from Jason's apartment in southeast Ft. Myers), miscalculated the 170-mile distance from Jason’s house in Cape Coral to Miami and decided that leaving around 2:15 was fine.  It took almost 45 minutes just to get to I-75, so I started to stress.

We were speeding . . . flying . . . racing along Alligator Alley.  There was no way we were going to  arrive three hours in advance of our 6:20 flight as Alitalia requests.  #3%%!  We’d would have been lucky to arrive one hour in advance.

“We’ll get there for the flight,” my confident husband informed me.  “But, if we miss it, we can always leave tomorrow.” I said nothing.   Except for two frantic calls to Alitalia to explain where we were and that we were going to be a little late checking in, I stayed quiet for most of the trip and alternated silent prayers and curses as we zoomed by the marshes, canals and wildlife.

If you've ever had the misfortune of flying to Miami, you probably know that the airport is in a weird location in the middle of freeways, heavily traveled city streets, and canals. Getting to it is not easy, and finding a gas station anywhere hear the rental car agencies is next-to-impossible.  So, as we streaked down the freeway exit and wove through lanes of traffic, we made the decision to forget about a fill-up.

A little after 5 pm, we screeched into the rental car lot, threw the keys to the rental agent and advised him to “Bill us!” We bolted for the shuttle bus, heaved our suitcases and selves aboard it just before the driver closed the doors, and begged her to hurry.

"What airline and time y'all leavin'?" she asked bemusedly.

"Alitalia at 6:20," I think I puffed in reply.

"Woo-ee! Y'all are late late late!"  Had I not been so out of breath and worried that a confrontation would have delayed us further, I would have strangled her.  Instead, I remained silent.

After a brief check-in with a an impatient ticket agent, we rushed through a mercifully short security line. Navigating around passengers who decided it was time for leisurely strolls down the concourse, we sprinted to our gate which was, of course, the gate furthest from security.  The gate agents began loading almost immediately after we arrived. We were in the first boarding group, but other passengers, afraid that the plane would take off before they could get on, steamrolled over us. They pushed ahead, blocking the plane’s aisles with their carry-ons, various possessions and chatting selves.  

"Can you carry on your conversation without blocking the aisle?" I sneered at an old dude who was leaning on a seat midway up the aisle. I don't think he understood what I said to him as he was speaking in another language, but I'm sure he knew by my tone of voice to get out of my way. Of course, he could also have been a bit scared by the glazed look in my eyes and the way my hair was standing on end. Whatever it was, though, he moved out of the aisle and plopped into his seat rather quickly.

When we eventually arrived at our row, I realized that those were not the seats I'd chosen two months before.  Our tardiness caused us to lose our pre-chosen seats to someone (the talker, I believe) who checked in on time.  We were stuck in the ghetto of the plane — the last row —in seats that occupied that noisy niche in front of the rest rooms and plane galley and, worse, that didn't recline.  

“I told you we’d make it,” Mike said as I fell into my seat.  Jittery, disoriented, hyperventilating and not happy about spending the next eleven hours in a straight-jacket seat stuffed in the back of a metal tube hurtling through the skies, I said nothing.

And *that* was when Mike asked a flight attendant to snap the photo at the top of this post.

Of course, the photo I shot the next morning is even scarier.  Come to think of it, I better delete it before it terrorizes some poor child.

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