Late for the plane, the ticket agent suggested that I go directly to the gate. I stepped off in a semi-run on the tiled floor and whoop! My boots slipped out from under me and I was on zi floo’. I made a lightening-round recovery and looked backed, suspiciously slit-eyed, at the place where I had slipped, fully expecting there to be a puddle of sunscreen there on the floor.
Nope. Clean, dry and shiny, just like the rest of the 2,000 acres of linoleum that covered the rest of the airport walking surface. (Interesting sidebar: Linoleum is the preferred surface used in break dancing as an alternative to cardboard as it provides a large, slick and durable surface.) So I slowed to a fast-paced walk, planting my weight more in the toe-heel fashion instead of heel-toe in my new boots. It was slower and more exhausting, but I didn’t want to risk another unscheduled break-dancing performance.
Then I turned left when I should have gone right, and had to double-back to make it through TSA’s security. I had no accordion with me this time, so the experience was mostly without incident. (See “Death by Accordion.”) Although they did have to run my laptop through twice. Who EVER has trouble with their laptop? Isn’t that the most benign, prosaic, unobtrusive carry-on item there is now-a-days? Apparently I-I-I have trouble with laptops. Just me. Everyone else’s laptops were fine. But somehow mine looked suspicious enough to have to run it through again. I know! Oh, I know! Next time, I’ll slap on a picture of an accordion to the front of my laptop and see if they cancel each other out. Ah-ha!
The gate was, of course, the very second to last gate in the entire series. After all, this was my flight and that it could possibly be easy—as in having the plane at the second to first gate, for example, so I wouldn’t need to walk the length of three football fields—would be incongruent with the rules of my life.
Breathless, I arrived at the gate and presented my boarding pass to the attendant. “You’re late,” he growled at me. My first inclination was to reply, “Really? I thought I was a day early.” But I held my tongue and just nodded, appearing appropriately abashed. He stared at me a moment, taking his time to visually berate every inch of me with that special gaze only mothers hold in reserve for such occasions as “breaking curfew” and “the new tattoo.”
“Tick-tock,” I thought.
Then he said, “The jetway’s still open, you’ll have to RUN!” This last word, he shouted in my direction in an overly commanding tone.
Let me ‘splain a bit ‘bout my relationship with running. Don’t worry, I won’t waller in it too long.
When I was young, I was a runner. I participated in track and was quite athletic. My specialty was sprinting. (60 meters and the Relay.) I’m built for a fast-burn. Light on my feet and very nimble, I enjoyed the sprints. The longer runs, not so much. Even into adulthood, I enjoyed a good run and it helped keep me fit. Then, “the event” happened. I haven’t written yet about “the event.” But I’m sure I will in time. Ironically, I can’t write about it as long as certain people are still alive. So, it’s basically a waiting game at the moment.
With “the event,” a terrible thing happened. I gained a lot of weight very quickly. No matter how much exercise I punished myself with, nor how little food I consumed, nor how healthily I ate, the weight continued to pile on. Because of this experience, I firmly believe that—at least for me—body composition isn’t so much about food and exercise (although, of course, they play a major role in it), but rather about what the mind is up to. What are my deepest fears? What are my truest hopes and dreams? How do I really see myself and what do I think about myself everyday? The mind creates the image, and the body follows with deadly accuracy.
Then, I tore my ACL—four times within a four-month span—until it was so severed there was nothing to do but operate. Since that operation in 2005, running has been pretty much out of the question. The operation caused irreparable damage to the hamstrings of my left leg, thus creating a running gate that looks kind of like I’m tied to another person in a three-legged race… except I go in circles. (OK, not really. But you get the idea.)
I also met a new friend! His name is Chron’k. Last name, Payne. He moved in right after the surgery to keep me company and hasn’t moved out! Dude! Get a job. He’s old enough now to be on his own, but is just so attached to me! Who says I’ve never slept with a guy? Chron’k sleeps with me EVERY night! I’ve tried to find him other places to live but no one else wants him, really. Poor guy. I will admit—though somewhat reluctantly—that I’ve learned quite a lot from him. Oh yeah, he teaches me new things every day… still. His specialty has been to tutor me in patience. I guess I needed to learn that skill. And maybe once I’ve mastered it, that’s probably when he’ll move on, right?
And I’m still trying to run. Lately, I’ve been venturing more and more into little runs hither and yon. My goal is to relearn the “single runner’s gate” and build up to a 5K run, then a 10K,… maybe even a half-marathon? (As I mentioned, I’m not built for long-distance running.) But for now, Chron’k and I are working on it together.
So when Mr. Hoity-Toity-Snooty-pants commands me to “RUN,” I bristle. But I do run, trying not to appear like a semi-lame hippo charging up a hill. Half way up the jet bridge, he shouts again in my direction, “STOP! Stop. Never mind. They just retracted the bridge.” It felt like I’d been cut off in the middle of a monologue: “Nope. Not workin’ for me. Thanks for coming. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”
Now, two things bother me about this. Okay, three. One, if Mr. Superior-Haughty-shorts hadn’t taken his own sweet time to run his dagger-sharp accusatory eyes all over me, I would have made it. Two, if I had done just one thing differently in the entire line of domino-effect-things-I-had-done-to-get-there (i.e.; not tripped, ran instead of walked, not gone the wrong way, hadn’t had the delay in security, driven faster to get there, started the day 30 seconds earlier, etc.), I would have made it. Three, and perhaps this is what really rankles me: As I stand here by the check-in counter, I can see the plane through the window. The stairs to the plane are down with crew walking all around it. There’s a door right in front of me and the plane is not 50 feet away!
So I say to Mr. Imperious-Smarty-trousers, “The steps are still down. Can’t I just walk out there and board the plane?”
“No, you can’t do that.”
“Why not,” I ask?
“You just can’t,” he says, and gives me another look of deepest loathing. “You’ll have to wait for the next plane which will leave in…” He types. “Five hours, forty-minutes from now.”
I’m finding it so very difficult, at this moment, to like this man. I can definitely say that, “I am not a fan,” and he is doing a poor job of representing his company. I argue with the Docker-clad-solid-steel-wall for another minute, then walk away.
As I stand in the middle of the airport aisle, travelers breezing past me on every side, I turn and stare at the still open plane with the embarking door open and the stairs down. “This is insane,” I think. “Why? Why will they not let me on this plane?” I marched back to the counter where Mr. Disdain had been replaced by Ms. Pleasantly-How-Can-I-Help-You-Today? Keeping my attention on the still open plane door, I explained my situation and asked again, “Couldn’t I just walk up those steps to my open seat?”
“No. I’m sorry you can’t.” But she didn’t stop there, preventing the need for me to even ask the burning question, “Why?”
“They’ve already weighted the plane and federal regulations prevent us from adding anything to it after that’s been done.”
She said the magic word, “weight.” I’d be adding weight to an already weighted plane. All the wind fell out of my sails and I deflated right there like a failed souffle. Seeing my dismay, she immediately offered two other alternatives leaving in the next 20 minutes going to nearby airports. Wow! What a contrast! I brightened and chose one. She made the arrangements and sent me on my way, a satisfied customer.
It requires so little to make others happy. Well, usually. I knew I was late for my plane and I knew it was my fault. I knew I was in the wrong. I didn’t need to be reminded about it from the likes of Mr. Pompass. What I didn’t realize—but figured out rather quickly once I started talking with Ms. Helpful-and-Respects-Me-Sufficiently—was that I wanted to be treated like an adult: an equal. Something he completely missed and which she completely got. Such a small thing, it was. And it made a world of difference.
Have you ever had an experience like this? Please share in the comments! (Or you can e-mail me: ImaCrab2012@gmail.com.) I’d love to hear your stories!