I had a recent work trip to Chattisgarh (my first solo trip so far away). My flight was at 6:55 in the morning, so I decided to reach by 5:45 or so. Thanks to circumstances, I reached at 6 am.
At this point of time, I wasn’t too worried. I was told to get my boarding pass from a kiosk, where grumpy/slightly amused/skeptical people were having fun playing around with the touchscreen while it refused to cooperate.When my turn finally came, I tried changing my seat to a window seat, which did not happen, so I got a printout (after banging the fidgety screen thrice), took the flimsy, badly printed “boarding pass” and then went to check in my baggage.
Next, I somehow forgot all about getting a security check. Yeah, I actually forgot that you’re supposed to go through a security checking before a flight. No kidding.
So anyway, I nonchalantly passed through this mass of people, looking for a way to the waiting area inside. Once I reached the barricade, I finally saw the security check areas.
“Oh yeah, I have to go through security! How the hell did I forget?” I admonished myself.
I scanned the place for the queue, and walked further away, as I slowly realized that the mass of people I had walked past while looking for the waiting area, was actually the queue for security.
A snakelike line…curving 10 times minimum. I took a moment to register this fact and then stood behind the last person and calculated…I had 10 minutes to get a security check done and reach the boarding gate. Enough time, right?. So I shifted along.
When the first curve in the line was reached, I was five minutes down.
Cue mild panic attack.
By the time I reached the third curve, my ten minutes were up. My flight had started boarding and I was stuck in a serpentine line which I could not skip. Even in this situation, my insane compulsion to not break the rules (and jump the line) made me keep ambling along at a snails pace.
In my mind, I now begin constructing worst-case scenarios – I imagine having to plead with the authorities at the boarding gate, grovelling before them to let me board.
Then I imagine having to tell my parents to come back to pick me up.
Then I imagine telling my office. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
In the middle of these imagined scenarios, I see some people citing their boarding time and moving ahead in the line. Its already five minutes over my boarding time…I reach a decision.
I surrender my love of order and correctness, and begin sprinting through the lines, ducking under the separating barriers. I mean, who the hell cares what these people will think of me? And I’m anyway almost 99.9% sure that I’ll never see any of them ever again. So I plow on.
Full blown panic attack right now.
I finally reach the beginning of the line. I somehow gasp out to the lady there that I’m REALLY late and can I please cut in. She decides to just stare at me for a moment, so I repeat my request. This time she nods, with a look of disapproval (which would have made me shrivel up and wish to be swallowed by the earth at any other time) and I sprint out into the security area.
And of course there are short queues here too. I again stand in line. The gentlemen in front of me are dressed in formals, with laptops. So they begin the labourious process of taking off their blazers, emptying their pockets, laying their laptops down into trays on the X-ray machine belt. When I can’t take the panic anymore, and on realizing that the ladies checking line is actually almost empty, I suddenly move ahead to the X-ray machine and look for a place to plonk my bag down on the belt. I put my bag down somehow, helped by one of the men in formals (I think I looked quite hassled at this point).
Now I join the line for checking. The security lady comes out of the cubicle and calls me in. I rush in, get onto the platform and put my arms up even before the she can say anything. She however takes her own sweet time. Finally, she stamps my boarding pass and I run out.
But of COURSE my bag is stuck on the belt. And the security guy is underequipped. Poor guy is sending the piled up bags onto the belt, checking the contents on the X-ray screen, and then stamping the tags too. Talk about multitasking.
My bag comes out FINALLY, and a millisecond after the guy stamps the tag, I’ve snatched it up and broken into an awkward run (slippery floors and slip-on sandals aren’t ideal running gear).
I run in the direction that I see people moving.
I stop abruptly. There’s a prayer room here ,and lots of people lounging around. Though its true that I’m already praying HARD, but this doesn’t seem like the place I should be right now. I look back, and suddenly remember that the boarding gates are downstairs!
Awkward run again. Go down the escalator. Sprint to the gate…and I see just one more guy before me. I almost go through the wrong gate, find the right one, give my boarding pass for inspection, get hand baggage tag checked, and then hurry out to the bus. Before I get on, I check the flight name again on the LED ticker on the side of bus. Check. Jump on.
I avoid all gaze, because I’m late and I’m so ABSOLUTELY sure that everyone is judging me. And also because eye contact with strangers is not my thing.
As my panting subsides, my heart thumps little slower, I send up silent thanks in prayer.
So, in conclusion, I ended up being one of the first people on the plane. Yeah. And certain people who had been in the security check line right in front of me (before I forged ahead like Grawp [if you do not know who’s Grawp, you’ll make me very sad]) ALSO got on soon after.
Oh well. I got on.
I made a call to my parents with an amazingly level voice, not revealing the near heart attack I just had. I however forgot to exchange seats with the person who had the window seat because of my recent excited exertions. And the guy actually slept through the whole flight! Window seats are wasted if you don’t enjoy them right?
But I did get a complementary meal which was apparently booked on my ticket (I was on one of those pay-per-meal flights) which I didn’t know about. So I had THAT going for me.
I’ll be reaching airports 3 hours before any flight from now on. Such excitement is not my thing.