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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Glad to be home again

© Another Day in the Country

It was time to get home from California. I booked a flight at a decent hour (2:20 p.m.) for a decent price, and I made the decision, after careful calculation, to take the airport shuttle and save Jana a three-hour round trip. One shuttle got me to the airport three hours in advance. A later one got me there just shy of an hour in advance. I figured that since I could check in online and check my bag curbside, it would be fine to go at the later time. I’ve always been a risk-taker.

At the appointed hour, my bus pulled out, turned the corner and pulled back into the transport office as the driver conversed on the phone and sighed. A taxi pulled in front of us. A young guy got out, retrieved his suitcase, watched as another car pulled in and went over to tell his buddy goodbye, patting each other on the back, chatting, shaking hands as if he had all the time in the world.

“I bet he doesn’t even have a ticket,” I said to myself, suddenly concerned about the time.

He didn’t.

We waited as he purchased his ticket, waved at his friend, talked with the driver about his suitcase, got on the bus and smiled at us as he found a seat.

“You might have caused me to miss my flight,” I thought to myself as I took in the carefree smile.

He certainly meant me no harm. He didn’t know me or wish to ruin my schedule; but his lateness might have done just that!

“Be calm,” I said to myself. “Don’t watch the clock. It won’t do you any good to spool up,” but the clock kept ticking, tick-tick-tock.

I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. We’d been on the freeway only a few minutes when traffic slowed to a crawl, four lanes virtually at a standstill.

“This isn’t good,” I said to myself, “breathe … tick-tick-tock.”

After a few minutes, which seemed unending, I could hear a siren coming up behind us and four lanes tried to squeeze closer together to allow a patrol car through. Sure enough, there was a three-car pileup ahead. The cop pulled in front of our bus and stopped, which meant that now our whole lane had to merge right in bumper-to-bumper traffic, which took awhile. Tick-tick-tock. Our bus driver was a miracle man. I watched him take every short cut in the book, circumventing traffic snags and by some miracle we finally approached the airport a minute or two late, amazingly close.

My stop, American Airlines, was terminal two. At the first stop, several people got out. A little girl got back on. Her grandma followed. The bus didn’t move. The driver got on. Tick-tick-tock.

There was a search of the back of the bus, “She’s missing her pink purse,” said the grandma. “Could she have left it back at the office?”

Probably! Now the grandma was concerned that her granddaughter was in tears. Was there something the driver could do? Could he call the company? She had to contact the office, he said. Finally, they disembarked.

My stop was next, and I flew off the bus. There was only one lady in the check-in line. I’d made it! But everyone seemed to be in a flurry. Some man had just checked in his family and his credit card hadn’t gone through. He had to be pulled back to the kiosk by his teenage son to pay the baggage fee in cash. The man was embarrassed and he shook the attendant’s hand for several minutes thanking him profusely, waiting for change.

Tick-tick-tock. The lady was next. They weighed her bag and she was three pounds over the limit.

“You can remove three pounds,” said the attendant as he handed her the suitcase and she opened it on the ground and began rummaging.

Tick-tick-tock. The next kiosk saw the hold-up and motioned me to come on down to their station.

Tick-tick-tock, goes the clock.

“What time does your plane leave?” the man asked, and I told him. “You are three minutes too late to check your bags at the curb — you have to be here 40 minutes in advance of your flight,” he said. “Now, you have to go inside and see if they’ll let you check your bag.”

By the time I got to the inside desk I was now four minutes too late and they assured me that even though I had my boarding pass, they would not check my suitcase and since I couldn’t travel without my bag, they would now book me on stand-by on the next available flight east (Chicago) and stand-by to Wichita whenever and wherever a flight was available.

Just like that, I was sentenced to spend the night watching the cleaning staff in an empty airport terminal. Tick-tick-tock. I had hours to think about all the unknown people that had impacted my life: the guy who was late, the people in the accident, the lost pink purse, the credit card refused, the overloaded suitcase, the grouch at the ticket counter, all oblivious to the fact that they’d caused me a huge problem by their negligence. It was a long night!

“How many times have I done this?” I mused. So, just in case, I’ve done it to you, I apologize, “I’m sorry. I’ve never meant for my boo-boos, shortcuts, lack of experience, or last minute deals to inconvenience anyone, but I’m sure I have — it’s what being human is all about.”

Living in community, we impact each other. We stop too quick, drop our trash, run in last minute at the bank, or bounce a check. We can TRY to be thoughtful on another day in the country, but life’s complexities sometimes do us in and there’s a trickle-down.

Next time, I’ll opt for arriving three hours early. Instead of getting home on Thursday night, I got back on Friday night and it was so good to be home that I was tempted to kiss Kansas soil!

Last modified Aug. 23, 2012

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