You should see how I get ready to go the airport. I am like a machine. I have gotten ready to go to the airport so many times, that now when I do it, I think it must look like watching a ballet, or maybe seeing someone really smart do long division. I get up at just the right time, and from the moment that I stand up from my bed to the second I step off my front porch towards the waiting cab, every moment is orchestrated perfectly. It is a routine that I follow exactly the same way every time, and following it means that I go out the door on time, relaxed and confident that I have all that I need. It has not always been this way, but I’ve learned, and now I’m really, really good at it.
This morning I got up and started the routine. I got out of bed and went downstairs, taking the first of my bags down with me. I put on the coffee, and went back upstairs, stopping in the bathroom to start the tub filling. That done, I took the other suitcase downstairs, leaving it unzipped on the chair in the living room (so that I can add my knitting and running shoes to it, because they are downstairs) then came back up and grabbed my travel clothes, bathed and then went downstairs dressed and ready to leave. I poured myself a coffee, and started the second phase, checking my email for anything I need to see right away, and copying down my flight info onto a post-it that I put in my bag. (The batteries never wear out on post-its.) Then I gathered up all my knitting stuff, divided it into what goes in my carry on and what goes into the suitcase for later, and confirmed that my little travel notions case was there. (The routine is perfect.) I looked at the weather, for both Toronto and Hartford, then neatly rolled up my rain jacket and put it in the suitcase- and then I moved around through the house, getting the big knitting bag I use just for flights and putting it on the chesterfield. That big bag is pre-loaded with 90% of the things I need – it’s my go bag (just like they have on Criminal Minds) and so all I have to do to be ready is add the last minute things. I do that then, checking to make sure my phone is nearby – and it is. Charging right beside the bag, just like my departure protocol says. I checked the time on it, and went into my office to call and book a taxi to arrive in 15 minutes.
I poured myself another cup of coffee, and got ready to perform the last minute routine. I brushed my teeth, looked at my hair, and tried to figure out if we will ever live in peace together, then I went downstairs, glanced at the time, and went to my office to collect my computer and it’s charger. I brought those back to the living room, and fitted them into their spots in the go bag. Reflexively, I slid my hand into the front pocket of my bag to feel my passport there.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this about me, but I’m a little obsessive about my passport. It’s the only travel item you can’t fake, do without or replace quickly. Anything else I forget, break or lose… I can come back from that, but a passport? When I’m travelling I look for it all the time, I check it often to make sure it hasn’t expired – and when I’m home I keep it in the same place all the time. The front pocket of the go bag – even if I need to take it out to book a flight – it goes right straight back into the bag. That’s its spot, that is where it lives, there is no other spot for it, so when I slid my hand into the pocket to reassure myself that the passport was there, and found nothing, the world collapsed. To my way of thinking, for one horrible second, if it wasn’t there, it was nowhere.
I immediately felt sick. Then I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. I checked the pocket again. I checked the bag. I took everything out of the bag and checked all of it and then checked the pocket again, now almost on the edge of tears. I ran to my office, and looked on my desk, because I thought maybe I had failed to put it back after Natalie booked my last flight? I ripped open my desk drawer and searched that – then I ransacked the cupboard that I keep the bag in – in case it fell out, then I thought about Natalie booking that flight and then I thought of that desk, and ran to the dining room. I rifled through the family stuff on that table becoming more and more incoherent, and then – the cab honked.
With that, I went off the deep end. I looked at the time, looked at the cab, looked at the bag and started to cry. I got on my knees, in case it fell on the floor. The office floor? I ran back there and couldn’t find it. I sprinted through the house scanning all surfaces, desperately searching. I ran upstairs and burst into our dark bedroom, then crossed the room to Joe’s side of the bed, snapped on the light and said "I NEED HELP THE CAB IS HERE AND I CAN’T FIND MY PASSPORT" and Joe snapped to attention instantly – saying "Oh s**t!" and I said "I KNOW" and then something about how he should be looking and it’s important and c’mon, and then I went over to see if it was on my dresser – under my pen or something, and it wasn’t. I turned to leave the bedroom, to maybe go search the fridge or just stand there crying and wondering how I always ruin everything and that this all started when I couldn’t learn the six times table and it had to catch up with me eventually – and then I saw it.
Not the passport… another bag I have. Another green bag with a front pocket – it is a totally different bag, but I wondered for one split second if – when that other bag had been downstairs, if I was actually absent minded enough to slide the passport into the wrong front pocket? I bent over, slipped my hand in, and connected with the soft leather of my passport case. I slid to my knees for a second, took a deep breath, and then told a very confused Joe to go back to bed.
The cab honked, for the third or maybe fourth time, and I looked at the time and realized that I was going to be late, and that cab might leave – and I bolted down the stairs and out the front door, told the cabbie I was coming, and ran back in the house. My go bag was dumped out, my routine was shattered, and I had minutes. I rammed stuff into the bag, grabbed a sock sack, shoved my phone in my back pocket and reached over to grab my suitcase off the chair.
Sadly, I’d been scrabbling round on the floor in the moment that I would usually have spent zipping the suitcase, and so as I pulled it off the chair, it tipped over and dumped the contents onto the floor. I swore, shoved it all back in, zipped, and ran.
Minutes later, speeding towards the airport, with the adrenaline abating and the ability to pull myself together returning, I started to realize that there was going to be fallout. The routine exists for a reason, and there were going to be casualties. I felt completely and totally jangled, and all the way there I realized something I’d forgotten every five minutes. My running shoes, phone charger – when I grabbed my phone, I didn’t get the charger. Earphones. I usually take those out of my knitting basket as I do the last minute stuff – odds and ends really, but important ones.
I resolved to buy headphones and a charger at the airport, infuriated really, since buying things I already have is hard on the budget, and I spent the rest of the way there trying to unscramble my life and shake the feeling that I’d lost control of the day before 7am. I sat there with this terrible feeling of foreboding coming over me. I took out my knitting (I’m still on the sleeve) and stared out the window. It was just a bad start, I told myself, just a rough beginning.
Sadly, since then I’ve realized that one of my credit cards is missing, that airport headphones are priced using the same index as gold and black market human organs, and somehow the egg and cheese sandwich I bought to take on the flight was turkey – which really isn’t vegetarian, and I didn’t notice until I unwrapped it on the plan
e. I was connecting (for reasons that are complex and ridiculous) through New York City and Philadelphia to get to Hartford, but my first flight was delayed by about 5 minutes – which turns out to be exactly the right number of minutes to make you miss a flight by about thirty seconds, even though you ran from one terminal to the other – outside, at La Guardia.
Now I’m on a flight from New York to Washington DC, which isn’t even in the direction of Massachusetts, I think – and from there I’ll still make Hartford this afternoon and everything will be fine – and the beer I’m planning on having with dinner is going to be ridiculously appreciated, and I’m sure anything I forgot can be replaced or borrowed or anything – and I do have my health – and my passport, so I’m going to spend tonight getting my zen on, because having this much stupid stuff in one day? It must mean that the rest of this trip is going to be amazing.
If it doesn’t, don’t tell me.
PS. I spilled coffee on my jeans and a surprising amount of it went right in my boot and my flight’s tray table was broken – and yes. Those two things are related.