The problem with travel is that time just goes by way too quickly.
So, I'm in Philadelphia, just sitting in the terminal at a spot that's not too crowded and just close enough to the gate I'm taking off from. Because I have a million things going on and about an hour to kill, I decide to unzip my laptop bag and finish up the rehearsal schedule for Guys and Dolls.
Before I know it, five minutes have become fifty. And while I've been kind of listening to the annoying announcements, I've been trying to listen more for mentions of Dallas specifically, forgetting that there's a Fort Worth side of things.
That is, until about ten minutes before the plane is about to take off. Then I look up from my work and say to myself, "Oh shit," shove everything into my laptop, and head over to the gate.
"I'm just looking to see if, um..."
The guy behind the counter grabs the ticket in my hands. "You'd better git on that plane right away, son. Get get get!"
Well, okay. I move past him and down the corridor, approaching the plane. Better git, if that's the case, while the gittings good.
Then it hits me. The gate guy's taken my whole ticket, and I have no idea what the hell my seat number was. Shit, now what am I supposed to do?
When it doubt, I always say, open your big mouth. So I move over next to a really harassed looking stewardess whose holding a clipboard in her hand. Never underestimate the power of clipboards. "Hey, the guy at the counter grabbed my ticket and told me to get on the plane, and--"
"And why aren't you getting on the plane?" she asks, irritated.
"Because he grabbed my ticket see, and I can't remember what my seat number is. I mean, I think it's in the twenties, like around 27, but..."
She bites her lip, clearly unhappy with me. "I have to take these suitcases. I'll ask him, okay? Just stay here."
Okay. I'll stay right where I am. I am very good at taking instruction. Very obedient when I want to be.
Three minutes later, one of the stewardesses on the plane approaches me. "Aren't you getting on, sir? We're about to take off."
"Oh! I was just waiting her because this woman said she was going to check...to see what my seat was...so I'm waiting here, but she's..." I look down the corridor, looking to be thrown a life preserver. "Oh! There she is." I smile at the grim looking lady, walking down the corridor. "Oh, hi! So, did you--"
She looks at me as if I'm a naughty little schoolboy. "WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING WAITING OUT HERE???"
Gulp. "Um, you told me to wait here so that you could--"
"YOU NEED TO GET ON THAT PLANE! NOW!!!"
That's when I start to lose it, just a bit. "How can I?" I say, copying her tone. "I don't know what my seat number is, you didn't give that to me!"
"JUST TAKE ANY!" she shouts back. "NOW GO, GO!"
So, I go. Fortunately, there's an empty seat in row 27. I move into it, next to an older man who smells like moth balls. Place my laptop under the seat, turn off my cell phone, drag out the silly book I've been reading.
And about five minutes later, it dawns on me.
What if I'm on the wrong plane? I hadn't really heard anyone for sure say that I'm heading to Dallas-Fort Worth. The guy at the counter barely glanced at my ticket, and didn't give it back to me, so I can't even double check anything. The grouchy lady wasn't in the mood to talk about anything.
I sit there in my seat, increasingly consumed with dread and fear.
What if I am totally on the wrong plane? While I was in the terminal, I kept hearing the loudspeaker announcing a flight to Paris. What if I'm stuck on a flight to Paris? What will I do then?
I look around the plane. The people on it don't really look very Parisian. There isn't a beret to be seen anywhere. I haven't heard any talk of croissants or baguettes being bandied about at all. Maurice Chevalier isn't hanging around. Still, what does that mean? Not much. They might all be secret undercover Parisians, for all I know.
Now I start sweating, because, irrational or not, I'm increasingly convincing myself that I MUST be on the wrong plane. And how am I going to explain that at work? Even worse, how am I going to get where I need to be?
I'm supposed to be landing in Dallas at ten. How am I going to find a flight to Dallas at that time of night? Can I rent a car and drive there? Yeah, that's the ticket, even if it's Paris, and I'll keep the whole thing secret, so no one will know about the fact that I've actually been driving all night long. I'll just show up to work in the morning, looking fresh as a daisy, and no one will know I've actually been driving all night from East Borneo to get to Dallas on time.
Then we start taking off, and my dread and fear only grows. Now it was too late, there was nothing I can do to stop my destiny...and the rental thing, that's just such a stupid fantasy. Everyone's going to know. I'm going to end up being an object of ridicule. I'll be called the "Home Alone 2" kid. I'll be known as the one too stupid to stupid to actually ask for directions...so like a man...
Half an hour later, the pilot comes over the loudspeaker, as I sit there, a sweaty, anxiety-ridden puddle of nerves. "Ladies and gentlemen, we're expected to reach Dallas about fifteen minutes earlier than we expected..."
Just like that, I'm filled with relief. My life, such as it is, can go on again. The long national nightmare has ended. The goblin perched atop the wing of the plane has flown away.
I know, it's irrational, as so many of my fears and anxieties are. Like that fear I have of eating food that's been shoved into the corners of refrigerators. Still, who knows what fears live inside the hearts of men, and why they exist? For thirty horrible minutes I was convinced that my life had just moved into the completely wrong direction. Hearing just three words, "Dallas, Fort Worth" turned everything around.