I stared Alroy straight in the eyes, holding his gaze and said, “You have to know, I’m NEVER that person that arrives at the desk last minute trying to squeeze in the queue and dash through the security, pushing in line. I have never, never, missed a plane or even been late for one in 50 years. 50! And boy, do I travel the world!” I stared him down, just a tad out of breath, grinning and not-so-silently begging.
He says, “the gates closed 15 minutes ago, mam, I can’t let you on,” as I inelegantly flung my case on the scale and he then had to continue as he glanced at his screen…. “And your bag is overweight, so you have to go and pay the fee – it’s too late.”
Somewhat deflated, I chimed back – “oh god, isn’t there ANYTHING you can do for me?”
“Well, maybe I can just call through and check with them – maybe?”
“Yes, please please pleaaaaase …….”
My eyes beady and heart somewhat lighter with his words of possibility.
“But your bag is still overweight.”
“Can’t we just let it through?”
He picked up the phone, “I have a VERY late passenger, she was checked in online, but her bag is overweight, is there any chance I can let her through?”
In the meantime, he is furiously (but not fast enough for me) filling out the overweight slip for me to go and pay. This is non-negotiable no matter how big my grin.
You also need to understand this. My motto is LIVE LIGHT LIVE LARGE, and yet somehow my suitcase managed to be 23.8 kilograms….on a 20kg allowance. Don’t even get me started on my hand luggage. I swear I need a new suitcase as this current one weighs 6 kgs EMPTY! Daft beyond daft, but it was a gift, so it makes my heart happy. Go figure. LIVE LIGHT, TRAVEL HEAVY!
Let me backtrack a little bit to how I even arrived so late at the gate….it never usually takes more than 40 to 50 minutes to get to Cape Town International from Houtbay in the middle of the day. I am not talking rush hour commuter traffic time. MIDDAY! Yet, as we get in the car, leave the bay and start climbing up over Constantia Nek, we realized there was a bit of a problem up ahead towards the circle at the top of the hill. I whipped out maps on my phone – damn! Red, red, red, everywhere. 38 minutes just to Constantia. Crawl, crawl, crawl. We banter back and forth about whether it’s even viable to hit the wheel and U-turn to go via Seapoint, but we are already at the point of no–return.
It took 40 minutes just to get to the top of the hill to the La Parada circle. Oops. More like DAMN! So I’m sweating a little bit. Actually sweating a lot, cursing a few people. Not to mention God followed by the Hout Bay road maintenance at the top of my list. Flashing through my brain is the thought that this is going to be the first flight that I ever missed. EVER! I have also been away from Naldo for six weeks while on a Greek trip, and this was my last little leg, just a two-hour flight to be in his arms and kissing his delicious lips once again. So while I know I am going to do whatever I can to make the flight, I also have to just sit back and relax and go, you know what – this is out of my hands. There is absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing I can do. But I also know I am going to give it my very best shot!
So by the time we were nearing to the top of the hill, Sarah says, “If you went left down the fork to Newlands, that might be much quicker,” because we were going right at the fork. We planned that I would go with her to Constantia, where her lunch meeting was (also now 45 min late) she would throw me out, and I would put myself into an Uber taxi and do the last little leg on my own to the airport. So as I call up the Uber app, agreeing it’s much better to jump ship in the middle of the road at the traffic circle, my phone’s bleeps back “insufficient funds.” Huh? What do you mean insufficient funds? I only have one account logged with Uber, I don’t have cash with me, that account has money in it, it has to work – I press confirm again. Uber bleeps again, insufficient funds. I look at Sarah with a feeling of annoyance and simultaneous shame creeping over my face – bouncing between is this a system fault vs. what IF there is no money in that account?
Regardless, somehow, right now, I can’t book myself an Uber! I feel 12. I’m now questioning if there’s a problem with that bank account and my head is racing 5 million times ahead of me…
If it’s saying insufficient funds, is there a problem with my card or has it been fraudulently hacked and money phished, or have we been working so hard this past week that I haven’t been cognizant of my spending? Surely not! Because you see now, if I’m too late for the plane it means I’m going to have to rebook a flight and then it means I don’t have enough money in this account. What the Hell’s going on? What am I going to do? And all sorts of old shameful patterning came flooding into my psyche.
Have you ever been in the dire situation when you go to pay for groceries, or you can’t put in electricity, or you go online to pay something, and you realize there isn’t quite enough money in your account? The account always screams back at you “insufficient funds” or something bounces and you know it’s going to cost you another 150 in fees for that bounced debit order? I’ve worked so flipping hard on my financial slice of life to be in a very different place now, but that old patterning just came and hit me as my solar plexus tightened up and my breath constricted, eyes watery.
Oh God, what if I’m stuck at the ticket sales trying to get on a later flight and I have no funds…
Sarah called up an Uber on her app and threw me out at the circle. Ok, maybe she really did stop the car and let me get out as I hurriedly snapped a screenshot of the confirmed Uber – I needed the right number plates, so I didn’t get into some unsuspecting driver’s car and bellow, “airport now.” But the right number plates driven by Excellency pulled up, and while throwing suitcases into the car, I said, “You don’t understand. This is a bit of an emergency for me. How fast can you legally get me to Cape Town International?”
He said 25, maps said 33, I suggested 20. We made it in 21!
In my head, because I never cut it that fine and it’s irrelevant to me usually, I somehow thought that the gates closed just 30 minutes before take off. I also figure that while I’m in the Uber I can somehow get onto my bank account and just check what is going on because I am sure there’s money in that card or I can move money around etc. etc. – but of course the laptop is in the boot, and my phone and passwords are not all connected and I cannot for the life of me access my bank online.
So there is nothing to do but try and not bite my nails and hand it over! It’s all up to the Gods actually – I started doing my own little form of a clearing prayer, seeing a beautiful light traveling out in front of me, moving effortlessly through the traffic, going to the check-in, security and plane and saying to myself, “it’s all going to be ok, and I really think I’m going to get on this plane, but let’s see how the cards fall today”. I’ve always learned in life that if you don’t get on a plane or catch that taxi or you don’t nab that last train, there’s a much bigger reason why. And I also know not to question that too much. Yet my head, my ego, every sense of me wanted to be on that plane to arrive in Johannesburg at 4.35. Excellency is driving at the speed of legal light, and I realize I might have a chance…. 21 minutes it is!
I run through departures to where I “know” Kulula’s check-in is situated, only to find I have run past it. Has it moved? Damn, I hate it when “more haste, less speed” proves to be true.
And so started my interaction with Alroy. It is definitely the first time I have run straight AT the check-in counters under those barriers that guide the queue. I just flew under them with bags in tow – big eyes looking at me from check-in staff. They sensed I was serious! Alroy soon tells me I can perhaps, probably, maybe definitely get on the plane, but my bag might not. Who cares? I start running to pay for the overweight baggage like it’s now a game of The Amazing Race…”Kate, wait, come back you need the slip” …I did the whole reverse trip even faster when running to pay for over-weight baggage, only to receive a clapping ovation from the staff as I got back to the check-in lightning speed. Perhaps I should enter the TV show race next year? Of course, with a little prayer, as she slipped the same gold card in the machine, I was quite incredulous when it just happened to work. So much for insufficient funds. Part of me expected to see the DECLINED line on the card machine.
Miraculously when I charge back to Alroy, he says, “Ok, I have made a plan, and now you just have to take your bag to the FRAGILE check-in.” I understand COLLECT your bag at fragile – assuming he means that it will come OFF the plane and be at the side of the conveyor belt in JHB. Those Gods are smiling again ….
“No,” he says, as my bag doesn’t disappear down the magical rabbit hole.
“Do you know where fragile and oversized bags is? You have to take it there now.”I hear the word SPRINT because of course, FRAGILE is at the farthest end of this terminal.
He says, speaking faster than me now, as I sense he is in for the long haul with me. “You go check it in, then I’ll meet you back at security and escort you through to the gate.”
Great stuff, because escort = faster.
But first, it’s a case of ‘run rabbit, run rabbit, run run run’! A song my Nan used to sing to me, is playing in stereo in my ears. You can see me, can’t you? Silver hair and silver handbag strung over my shoulder, heavy red suitcase on wheels for check-in, PLUS my hand luggage and we are flying through the terminal… I was like a little mountain goat and cheetah all in one. Really, the whole terminal should have been clapping and parting like the red sea. I also remember the inspirational talk given by Marie Forleo, titled everything is figureoutable – detailing her airport dash to save her marriage.
Oh shit – as I get back to security, Alroy isn’t even there yet. I thought he knew by now how fast this butt of mine can move. I look frantically back over to Kulula check-in, and he sees me, waves frantically and comes hurtling towards me! But now I realize the next hiccup – the security queue. Nope, this is me being escorted remember; so we sidetrack off to another little gate, he tells me to jump the queue at the X-ray machines as he goes and verifies my boarding pass. I apologetically say to the folk in the line, “I’m so sorry, he’s asking me to push in.”
As I’m puffing and removing my laptop, I suddenly remember what is IN my hand luggage. All the beautiful duty-free gifts that I bought at Athens airport – a full liter of Cretan olive oil, olives, rich creams, and shower gel – aka LIQUIDS. LIQUIDS! I had intended to shrink wrap them and send them as excess paid luggage, but well, here I was, going through security. BREATHE. I see the nose of my purple bag tortoise its’ head out the X-ray machine, then stop, and reverse, come out again, and reverse and I think…
Either they are going to confiscate all my delicious liquid goodies, or it’s going to take another 5 minutes I don’t have, for them to check my bag. My heart sinks. Alroy, already through the staff security, is waiting for me as if he’s ready to receive the baton in a relay race. He knows he’s going to be running with me! He’s poised and waiting…
On the 3rd sighting, my bag comes out, and no one stops me as I throw my laptop back in the suitcase and we hurtle off down the ramp. Of course the gate – I don’t even know the number as I am just following him, is at the very FAR end of the departures. He says, “Yoh, I can’t believe how fast you run.” He’s half my age! Maybe even younger! And fit! Not an ounce of fat oozing out of his tight Kulula uniform!
Understand this. I’m a walker – both in name and passion. I’m a Yogi, and I’m a swimmer. I am NOT a runner. Once in my life, I trained for, and did the Spar 10km race just for the hell of a goal to attempt running, and while I loved it, I later injured my back quite severely. But today, I ran like a little silver crested Cheetah. Well, I probably looked more like a huffing, puffing, baby elephant, but I ran through that airport on FIRE I tell ya, on fire! I probably ran the length of Cape Town airport about three times in the space of 12 minutes. As we get down to the gate, he says, “oh look, there’s been a delay. They haven’t even started boarding yet”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I just wheezed, trying to catch my breath.
While my heart is relieved, my asthmatic chest is really not happy and I have sweated as much as in a Bikram class, – not just little beads of sweat to match my elegant outfit – hell no – a tsunami of menopausal sweat mixed with crazy, running woman sweat. Sorry to the lovely lady who sat next to me on the flight!
And he is about to leave me there, his crazy, woman package delivered, he says, “there you go, you have made your flight – but maybe I can get you to the front of the queue.” You know where the ones with babies and in wheelchairs are? I gave him that Bambi eyed look – I think my sheer tenacity spoke to his heart, and God knows what he told the gate staff, but I was the second one on the plane. I slept solidly for two hours and as the plane doors open the lady next to me says she has a long time to wait for her next plane, and so she is happy to let me out of my window seat. I smile at her and say ” I can just climb over you, then you don’t have to move” and with that, I hopped onto my seat and gazelle-like jumped over her. Her reply ‘it’s nice to be so agile”. Indeed it is.
My big red suitcase was first off the line at OR Tambo and all was right in my world again as I go up to the departure level for my usual meeting pick up, and as I walk out, Mr. luscious lips pulls up. The rest is censored….
My point dear reader – I handed it over to the Gods, the staff and all powers that be, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I gave it horns to ensure I was not ever left thinking- “I wonder if I could have made that flight?” I could have, and I darn well did! And of course, that bank card and account were just 100% dandy! Just a regular day in my life! I think I will go back to attempting to live up to LIVE LIGHT LIVE LARGE again.
I would love to hear YOUR story of that near miss! A plane, train or ferry. Drop me a comment below or on firstname.lastname@example.org – yes that does come STRAIGHT to me!
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