As it was very very early the subway wasn’t running, so, I had to catch the replacement bus service, the 300A, which would take me right to the terminal. Sounds simple enough, and it was, so simple infact that I’d done it just a week before to accompany Tess to meet her flight. So I knew it wasn’t hard.
Even so I made sure to asked the driver, just in case.
“Do you go right to the airport”
Ahhhhh… and I stepped out of the blustery night and onto the most crowded four o’clock bus I’d ever seen! Standing room only. Ah well. It was like this the last time too, where everybody was going I had no idea, I couldn’t see any suitcases so they couldn’t all be flying. Maybe they were staff. About halfway through the ride we pulled up to a stop and EVERYBODY got out. “East Mall” or something. Holy mass exodus Batman. At least now I had a seat. After another couple of turns, the bus pulled up to a pretty bleak looking stop in the middle of nowhere. Strange, I thought, there’s clearly no-one for miles around, I wonder what we’re doing here. I looked to the front and could see the driver in his mirrors, looking back at me.
“This is the last stop, Buddy”
“You have to get off, this is my last stop”
“But you said you went right to the airport!”
“No I didn’t”
“Yeah, you did! I asked if you went right to the airport and you said “Yes””
“Where do you go, why don’t you go there?”
“I thought this was the 300A?”
“I go here. This is my last stop, you needed the 300A. This is the 300″
“So why did you say “Yes” when I asked you if you went right to the airport?”
“Err… I must have… misheard you”
“What?! I- So where are we now? How do I get to where I need to be before I miss my flight? Jesus!”
I knew it! I bloody knew it couldn’t all be smooth sailing, even so, a bus driver who doesn’t know his own route? That’s a little far-fetched. The driver told me that all he could do was drop me off at a place where I could catch the 300A. My flight was at seven AM and it was now five fifteen. I had forty-five minutes to get there before check-in closed and here I was being kicked off a bus at a random stop on the promise that the bus I wanted would be along any minute.The driver apologised one last time and gave me a transfer ticket. Great. Fifteen long minutes I waited at that stop until some other non-300A bus pulled up.
“You don’t go anywhere near the airport do you?”
“Nope, sorry Bud”
The doors closed and I turned away in exasperation. But they quickly opened again.
“You know, the Pearson Rocket doesn’t stop here.”
“What!? No, I was told this is where to catch it.”
“Nah, you need to be further down. Hop on I’ll take you there.”
What the hell!! I jumped on and the driver took me to another bleak stop and gave me another transfer. It was five-thirty. So many other buses stopped and picked up swathes of people who seemed to come out of nowhere to stand with me. No sign of the 300A. I toyed with the idea of hailing a taxi, but there weren’t any to hail. I was still a good twenty minutes from the airport. As another fifteen minutes leaked by, I started to feel like it wasn’t going to happen. Then I started thinking that this was so ridiculous that it was as if someone was stopping me from making that flight. Wild theories like being saved from a plane crash by a guardian angel sifted through my mind. Maybe there was very good reason for all this..or maybe there wasn’t. Either way; it started to rain. I decided there was no good reason for that. Finally the shiny golden beacon of hope that is the 300A Pearson Rocket rolled into view. Five forty six – Holy moly. I dove on and showed all of my transfers. The driver wasn’t happy about that.
“Why do you have so many?”
“I have two.”
“That’s too many”
I started to explain the story but the driver interrupted.
“This one’s from four o’clock, that’s no good”
“I don’t know what to tell you, that’s what time I caught the stupid bus that I thought was this stupid bus”
She eyed me suspiciously.
“I’m just trying to get to the airport before I miss my flight, it’s been a really long morning already”
She decided I wasn’t trying to scam the system out of three dollars and let me on, I shuffled to a seat as she was calling out the importance of getting on the right buses and having the right transfers after me. Oh. You have to get on the right bus these days. I see. The three terminals of Pearson International airport are pretty spread apart but luckily I needed Terminal One, the bus’s first stop, still, it wasn’t going to make it in fifteen minutes. Or was it? It was the most nerve-racking, finger-chomping, pants-moistening bus ride I’ve ever had. And believe me I’ve had a few of those. We rolled into the terminal at five fifty eight.
I bolted for the door.
Terminal Three. Why the hell were we at Terminal Three?! Who the hell cares about Terminal bloody Three?! Apparently half the bus.The bus turned into Terminal One at six minutes past six. There’s no way I was making that flight. I flew up to departures and found my check-in desk.
Huge queue. Two staff….and of course none of the self-check-in machines were working. I looked around for someone to help me, there were some staff from a different airline sitting idly at another desk but they told me there was nothing they could do. It was six ten when I resigned myself to the back of the queue, wishing I had a giant bowling ball to run down the aisle. I waited impatiently, trying to figure out what the best thing to do would be.
I eavesdropped in on another guy trying to get on our flight but being turned away from the desk because check-in had closed….Maybe I hadn’t heard right, …maybe he was on a different flight – Gah. Why, when I was so expectant of something going wrong and it had done so in spectacular style, was I now in complete denial about it? It was six twenty by the time I got to the desk. As I handed over my passport I braved the question.
“I think I’m too late aren’t I?”
“Unfortunately the check-in has closed for this flight, yes.”
My little heart sank into my little feet…Wow…I’ve cut it close at the airport before but I’ve never missed a flight. This was a first.
“So… er, crap! Where can I see about getting another flight?”
The flight I was on involved a connection with a four hour layover in San Francisco. So if I could make it there in time, I could still make that connecting flight.Perhaps this was still do-able. Although, now I was adding a pretty big expense to this trip, so if there weren’t any cheap ones, it looked like I would have to call it a day on the big Vegas dream. She started to tell me where I could try to find another flight but stopped mid-sentence, to peer over her desk.
“Do you only have that bag?”
“Just this one, yes”
“Oh. Well, it’s the baggage check-in that’s closed, if you only have a carry-on then you may still be able to make it”
“I can’t promise you’ll make it through security but if you run, you might have a chance”
ADRENALINE RUSH! She quickly printed out my boarding pass and handed me a customs form to fill out.
“You need to fill this out before you get to sec-“
But I was already gone, trying to fill in the form whilst flying across the polished floors. I couldn’t believe it! This trip had suddenly burst back to life from nowhere with a fortune shot straight in the heart. I skidded around a corner and careened into the back of a textbook security queue. Only this wasn’t the usual airport security. For some reason I had to go through the customs boothes that you usually get to when you land. At the front of the line there was an attendant splitting people into four lines to go through the boothes. I pissed everybody off and pushed through to speak to her.
“Hi, I’m about to miss my flight, is there anyway you can let me through next?”
“What time is your flight?”
“You have plenty of time, if you want to join the back of the line then when you get to here I’ll fast-track you through”
“Really? You think I have time?”
“You have time”
“And when I get back here, you’ll help me through?”
Nice. Looks like I was going to be ok.I pushed my way back through the line of annoyed faces. If the staff thought I was ok, I must be ok. By the time I reached the back of the line and turned around I could see the attendant swap out with somebody else. This wasn’t good news. But it couldn’t be bad news… no no, I’d had quite enough of that thank you. The queue moved fairly quickly, ten minutes and I was at the front.
“Hi, I spoke to your colleague and she said she could fast-track me through because we’re about to miss our flight.”
“I’m going to miss my flight, can you fast-track me through?”
“‘Fast-Track’? That’s not a thing. We can’t do that. You can join this line here”
Forget it. She wasn’t interested.What the hell was going on?! Ok, well at least there was only a few people in this line, maybe I could politely ask if I could skip ahead. I explained my situation to the line and amazingly most of them took pity on me. I moved forward. It was six thirty five. But before I could get to the customs officer, another uniformed man cut in line and went to have a chat. A CHAT!? AT A TIME LIKE THIS?! I was bursting at the seams, hoping from one leg to the other like I was about to pee myself again.The two guys swapped out and I went up.
The officer looked at me.
He got the gist though, took my form and stamped my passport. With all this going on it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could have any problems with Customs. They’re usually something I worry about once I’ve landed, but thinking about it now, what with my paperwork not exactly being “Customs friendly” I could have really had some problems here. So it was a gift that I didn’t even really appreciate at the time.Probably because once I was done with customs I was herded into the next line for security check.Ugggggghhhh!!!!
Suddenly my ears were pricked by the tannoy system, there’d been announcements the whole time I’d been here but this one penetrated my frequencies.It was a final boarding call for the seven o’clock to San Francisco. The call that you hear for other flights and think; “I’d hate to be the idiot who misses their flight.” Well, I was about to become that idiot, my chances of success had eroded away to the thinnest of slivers. Everything would balance on how quickly I jumped this final security hurdle.But of course I got put in the longest line, right behind an old woman who didn’t know her Sodium Monofluorophosphate from her Sodium Hydroxide and wanted to argue that her brand new tube of toothpaste was not an explosive device. And then, naturally, the X-ray scanner had a technical error. Well, I only needed one thing to go wrong and now I had two to choose from.
The line next to me had nobody in it. I thought about skipping over but imagined being turned away because it was only for people travelling to the South Sandwich Islands. Sandwich… I hadn’t had breakfast yet. I knew I had a bottle of juice somewhere but my stomach couldn’t cope with anything right now.I waited another ten minutes. Ten minutes of quiet frustration that slowly turned into exhausted realisation.There were at least three more final boarding call announcements in that time. I checked his watch and my little heart sank again. It was six fifty.
Game over. I knew that I’d gotten my hopes up for nothing. The Vegas dream, foiled by a little old lady. The security officer called me forward regardless.I gave her my boarding card.
“I think I’ve missed my flight”
She perused the document.
“Yeah, this flight is about to go, have they called your name?”
“My name? No, but I’ve heard the final boarding call several times already.”
“I see. But they haven’t called your name?”
“Then you still have time.”
Was she joking? The flight was scheduled to leave in eight minutes, there’s no way they were still letting people on!
“We can still get you through, so long as you don’t have anything you shouldn’t in your bag”
Unbelievable! I didn’t want to get my hopes up again, this was getting ludicrous. My bag disappeared into the x-ray and I was called through the scanner. Amazingly nothing bleeped! I raced to gather my stuff, bundling as much into my pockets as I could.
“Is this your bag, sir?”
A big burly officer held up my bag.
“Ahh, yeah it is, thank you”
I went to grab it but the officer moved.
“Looks like there’s something in there that shouldn’t be so we’re going to have a look inside, ok?”
No!!! It’s NOT BLOODY OK!! What the hell could I possibly have in my bag after all this? I was fumin’.
The officer reached in – The tannoy bleeped;
“This is the final boarding call for passenger Smay-lee”
Oh SHIT!! That was it. The officer slowly pulled out a bottle of apple juice. Ah SHIT!!
“You can’t take this through”
“Fine, ok, sorry, dump it”
He threw it away and zipped up the bag.
“Ok you’re good to go”
“Which way is gate 169?”
“Err, it’s straight down that escalator… or is it to the left?”
Too late, I wasn’t hanging around. I bolted for the nearest escalator and skated down the handrail whilst trying to put my shoes on. BOOM! I hit the floor running.
“Final boarding call for passenger Smily”
AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! I flew past Gate 161. I prayed that I didn’t trip. Gate 163. I was heading in the right direction. I’m not exactly the most graceful runner and I’m sure watching me careen down the moving walkway, dodging businessmen and jumping over children, whilst trying to re-dress myself, is quite a sight.But I didn’t have time to dwell on that. Up ahead I could see two attendants at the desk of an empty gate. One was just shutting the doors. The second looked up and saw the approaching bedlam. I was a bumbling mess. The second attendant ran out into the middle of the gate and started waving frantically at me.
“Quick! We’re shutting the doors”
She jogged along side me and scanned my boarding pass. I entered the airbridge and kept running. The doors all closed behind me. I couldn’t believe I’d made it! If someone or something was trying to keep me from getting on the flight, they’d done pretty much everything they could possibly do but they hadn’t broken my spirit. Three times I’d pretty much given up ever getting this far, but somehow here I was, slow-motion running through an airbridge to glory.
If this plane went down, it would be my own damn fault that I was going down with it. As I rounded the final corner, the aircraft door came into sight along with a smiling flight attendant, but her face crumpled as the handle snapped on my bag sending the contents spilling all over the floor. panties. everywhere. Sheesh! What the hell is going on? This question throbbed inside my head as I frantically scooped my underwear up off the carpet. I finally made it inside the aircraft. The smiling flight attendant greeted me.
“Glad you could make it!”
“So am I!”
She closed the cabin door as I made my way down the aisle, past a sea of impatient faces. All eyes were on me. I was that idiot. I checked my ticket. Seat 28F. All the way to the back – typical. I was greeted by another flight attendant.
“Can I help you find your seat?”
“Yeah please, I’m in 28F”
She looked at me, then up at the seat numbers. I followed her gaze up to row 24, across 25 and then to the last row, 26. The last row was 26.
“Sorry what was the seat number?”
I re-checked the ticket.
“It says I’m in… 28F”
She looked at me and said something that made my little heart sink one last time.
“Not on this flight you’re not”
WHAAAAATTT…..Her words were harsh, but she was right; That seat did not exist on that aircraft. She took the ticked and examined it.
“This is your connecting flight”
*THE BIGGEST EXHALE IN THE WORLD EVER*
Sheeeeeesh! I found the right ticket, 13F, back towards the front and of course a middle seat. Sweating and out of breath I shuffled down the aisle as the plane was starting to taxi around the runways. That shows just how close I’d cut it, I wasn’t even in my seat and the plane was heading for the runway. Unbelievable. Once I’d sat down I thought about the morning I’d just survived. What the hell happened!?
Three times I was sure we were not going to make it and, somehow, three times I was wrong. Well. I didn’t need to think about it any longer, there I was, sat sitting, in the right seat, on the right flight, exhausted but ready for the adventure that lay ahead and it was still only seven o’clock!