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One Terrible Morning

A few months ago I had a morning where I couldn’t catch a break. This is all 100% true with no embellishments.

One morning I needed to catch a roughly 90-minute flight to my company’s other location to visit the three men in my department who were at that location. Because this was before the British terrorist problems in mid-2006 I didn’t have to plan quite as much time as you would have to now, but I still left a few minutes later than I really wanted, and sometimes traffic can be pretty bad.

I was pleasantly surprised that traffic was flowing well and I made it all the way to the exit where I’d leave one freeway to grab the other and head toward the airport. As I exited the freeway, my small four-door sedan bottomed out on a big bump/dip that hadn’t looked like anything to avoid. Immediately the car began making a very loud grinding sound and I wasn’t able to determine where it was coming from. Plus there was nowhere to pull over. I turned on my hazard lights and discovered that when I braked the sound would momentarily subside. Annoyingly it returned as soon as I hit the gas.

Finally I got to the point where the east and west-bound routes diverged, and there was just enough space there to safely park and easily get back on my way. Exiting the car (and watching for fast-moving vehicles) I quickly inspected the car and kicked all the tires because at that point I thought maybe one of the rear brake drums had somehow come loose. Because I was in a hurry and didn’t know where to look, I didn’t see anything wrong. So I hopped back into the car and headed back on my way, only to realize that I’d accidentally headed west instead of east to the airport, with no immediate way to turn around on the divided freeway.

Making a ton of noise and beginning to worry about getting to the airport on time, I drove the full speed limit headed west (hazard lights still flashing) all the while thinking, “Please don’t let me get pulled over!” Finally after driving several miles I arrived at the toll booth, paid my money, and asked the lady there if I could turn around. She said that I might be able to, but to be extra careful. As I pulled back through the toll booth and paid the toll again (at least I was headed toward the airport now) the other lady asked, “You don’t have very far to go, do you?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because your muffler is dragging on the road!”

At least now I knew what the noise was coming from! I got up to speed and drove the rest of the way to the airport, hazards still flashing, muffler dragging and throwing off sparks, hoping I wouldn’t get pulled over. Finally I arrived at the parking garage where the un-muffled car exhaust was loudly complimenting the dragging muffler and echoing even louder in the cement structure. I’ve never had so much trouble trying to find a parking spot, but eventually I did. I decided to back in so people wouldn’t see the muffler resting on the ground.

From that part of the parking garage I could only find signs directing me to Terminal C even though I knew I needed to get to Terminal B. I headed out for C guessing (and hoping) that it wouldn’t be too hard to get to B. After schlepping my carry-on and heavy laptop bag all the way over to C I began asking people how to get to B. I had to talk to several people before I finally headed in the right direction. Time was getting really tight, so I jogged as best I could with an unsteady suitcase and finally arrived nicely lathered at Terminal B.

It became pretty quickly apparent that I was in the wrong part of Terminal B, so I had to go down the stairs, outside, across eight lanes of airport traffic, and through more doors before I was even at the ticketing counter. The line at security was a little longer than normal, but I still had 30 minutes or so before my flight left so I was still going to be able to make it.

As I had done on so many other occasions, I walked right up to the self check-in terminal and inserted my credit card. Unlike the other occasions, the computer unrelentingly denied that I had a reservation even though I had specifically confirmed just the day before with the travel agent that I was booked. I had to go back and get into line, and I was getting even more nervous. Finally I talked to a nice lady at the counter who confirmed that I had no ticket (it was later determined that my travel agent had booked a different employee with the same first name!). I had to buy a one-way ticket for $149 plus tax and then it took her some time and quite a bit of effort before she could print my boarding pass. The flight was closed since there were only 20 minutes left before the flight was scheduled to leave. At long last she succeeded.

I asked her if I was going to make it and we ran over to security where she got me right up to the front of the line and helped me get everything on the belt. I thanked her profusely and took a deep sigh of relief.

The TSA guy had me step through the metal detector, took one look at my boarding pass, and informed me that I had been “randomly” selected for the additional security screening (that’s what happens when you purchase a one-way ticket less than 30 minutes before the flight). He assured me that I’d make my flight even though it was scheduled to leave in less than 10 minutes.

I sat there helplessly as one of the TSA ladies rifled through my entire, previously carefully-packed, suitcase. She came to my toiletries, held up my several zip-loc baggies with orange-ish white powder, and yelled loudly enough for everyone in line at security to hear, “WHAT IS THIS, SIR?”

There was no option but to yell back, “IT’S METAMUCIL!” (confused look from the TSA lady) “METAMUCIL . . . FOR MY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM!!”

After what felt like an eternity she finally finished so I put myself back together and ran to my gate. Finally a spot of luck – it was the first one on the left. Oh, but the door was closed! “Is this your flight?” the gate agent asked.

“Yes!” I replied and she opened the door and sent me careening down the jetway. I plane-side checked the larger of my carry-ons and was forced to walk the length of the aisle to arrive at my seat three rows from the back while (I felt) everyone stared at me for delaying the flight. As I drank my Coke in flight, I spilled some on the light-colored pants I was wearing.

Finally I arrived at the office and went with the director of operations to the shipping dock where a bird crapped on my shirt. A few minutes later I realized that the sole was coming off my left shoe. And it still wasn’t 11:00 am! Because I’m an Eagle Scout, I had extra shoes and clothing, so I changed out of my malfunctioning wardrobe.

But I stayed a safe distance from the shipping dock after that.

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