I hear there’s this concept of making mistakes and learning from them so you don’t mess up again, and an understanding of that sounds like it could be highly applicable to my life. Last year, I missed my flight from Hartford to Austin for spending too long at a tea shop and for trusting Lyft. This year, I missed a flight under admittedly different but just as idiotic circumstances.
My mom and I spent much of winter break traveling around South America, and by the 21st, we’d had enough excitement to crave the soul-crushing humdrum of our real lives. We were scheduled to fly from Santiago, Chile 9PM, arrive in Miami, fly to Dallas, and drive from there to Austin on my first day of school.
We made it into Miami at 4AM as scheduled and hunkered down at a charging station two gates away from where we were to board at 9:15. My mom and I usually board right when our names are called over the intercom to minimize our time spent breathing airplane air, so even though our backs would be facing the gate, we seemed close enough to hear announcements.
My favorite thing about airports is that the environment practically forces productivity because I would actually prefer anything, including work, to remembering that I am in an airport. So the time flew by as I worked on a chapter of my thesis and ate a couple alfajores (South American dulce de leche cookie sandwiches.)
At 9:05, I looked up.
Me: Mom. Isn’t our flight at 9:15?
We swept all our things together and bolted toward the gate. No one was behind the desk. A man leaning against the front watched our approach and, in a voice devoid of hope, told us it was gone.
Us: We didn’t hear our names.
American Airlines Man: We don’t ever call names.
We’d flown with AA more times than we could count, but sure. It was still our fault, though how we’d missed a connecting flight with FIVE HOURS in between was beyond me. We dejectedly went to standby (i.e. get on the waiting list and hope other people miss their flights) for another flight to Dallas at 11.
9:20. We race to the other flight’s gate and get on the list as #5 and 7, somehow. I worry that one of us will make the cut and not the other.
9:25. I try to find others sharing our predicament by the level of misery present in their features. Unfortunately everyone looks like he either was just run over by a train or is expecting one to shortly.
9:50. At this moment we don’t love ourselves enough to buy food. I take stock of our inventory: ten alfajores and a stick of white chocolate Toblerone.
10:11. Still worrying that because Mom and I are #7 and #5, one of us will make the cut and not the other. I weigh the pros and cons of every man for himself.
10:20. Didn’t have to worry. No passenger on the standby list makes it onto the plane. AA has some policy wherein employees on standby can fly for free and have priority over waiting passengers.
10:28. My body is now like 10% alfajor.
10:30. We are directed to another standby for a flight at 1.
10:40. We split up. Mom goes to the front desk to ask about the likelihood of getting off standby. I wait in line at customer service.
10:45. The lady behind me says American Airlines ranks 9th in overall airlines. Out of how many, I ask. She says nine.
11:01. The AA front desk man, while talking to Mom, picks up his mic and broadcasts “If you’re on standby, you don’t need to ask me if you can get on every five minutes. We’ll call you.” to the whole gate.
11:03. We ask for the likelihood we’ll get off this standby. AA customer service lady probably could check but won’t say. Mom says she’s scared. Lady says that won’t do anything.
11:04. I notice there are 30-something people on the standby for this flight. I urge Mom to book tickets for one of the last flights, to be safe and able to attend school the next day. There’s a $70 extra fee.
11:05. Lady asks why we missed our flight. Perhaps we look properly penitent and pitiful, and she books us onto the flight without the fee. She will only print them out if we try the standby first, though.
12:30. We don’t make this standby, either. I text my friend that I’ve decided I might as well just live here and not return.
3:45. Twelve hours after arriving in Miami, we make it out. The plane departs.
3:47. Mom realizes the car keys are in our luggage, which may or may not have been on the 9:15 plane.
3:47. I realize we can’t have nice things.
5:00. Alfajor courses through my veins.
6:15. We race to baggage claim and miraculously find our luggage.
6:17. Mom opens her luggage to find the keys not where she’d left them.
6:17. I decide I didn’t want to go to school anyway.
6:18. Mom finds her keys elsewhere in the luggage. It’d been inspected.
We began driving to Austin and arrived at my apartment close to midnight. Sitting in class the next morning, I felt like nothing—the fluorescent ceiling lights, the campus brick road, the aggressive grackles—seemed real to me anymore. Time no longer held meaning. I felt like I’d just traded in the prison of the Miami International Airport for the confines of my university.
But what’s life, if not escaping from one entrapment to another? At least now my suffering is your pleasure, or if you hated this, your suffering and my pleasure.
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