Saturday, November 8, 2008

Run, Julie, Run

I have never missed a connection in my life.

And after what I went through in the Prague airport, that’s not exactly something to be proud of.

It’s definitely Czech Airlines’ fault. They scheduled a legal connection of only 45 minutes between landing and my JFK flight – and because travel is always full of mishaps, my flight arrived 15 minutes late. And I was in the back of the stupid airplane, so I didn’t disembark until 20 minutes before take-off.

Now at this point, I wasn’t worried. We were late due to weather, so certainly the JFK flight was delayed, too. And there were at least 10 of us on that plane with the same connection – they’d hold it. The little tram bus picked us up to ride over to the international terminal, where all I would have to do is stroll over to A6. After I showed my passport to the guy in the little window, where there was a line of people backed up, that is. I trotted to the end.

“Everyone on the New York flight, please hurry up. It’s final boarding call – you have 10 minutes,” this little guy in a white uniform starts yelling. Well, buddy, that would be nice, but unless you tell the people in front of me in Czech to let me jump line, that hurry up part ain’t happening. He promised to wait for me on the other side, along with another passenger, to escort us to the gate.

Whee! I was getting a little cart ride. Never had that kind of service before.

I still haven’t. He looked at the two of us and said, “Now you run. I will keep up.” And away we flew, my 50 pounds of camera equipment wheeling madly behind me. We even ran on the moving walkways, all but shoving folks out of our way. We ran until my lungs burned and we finally reached Terminal …. B. “Half way there. They are closing the door in three minutes. I’ll call to tell them to hold just a couple more. Keep running,” he encouraged.

When we turned the corner into Terminal A, the other gal wanted to quit. There would be another flight. I wasn't having any of that defeatist talk -- I started out to make that flight and by God, that was how this was going to end. So I kept panting, reaching for that extra something until at last, there was A6 – right behind a freakin’ security screening line. Yah, I had to remove my laptop, pull out my liquids, take off my shoes. My passport flipped into the floor and I nearly left it in the hassle. “Please hurry,” says my escort.

If I’d had a spare millisecond, I would have used it to kill him.

And finally, the agent at the gate is holding out her hand for my boarding pass, which she took instead of the tennis shoes I was also still clutching. “Passport please.” Geez, Louise. I’ve shown it four times to get on this flight: once in Budapest and now three times in Prague, the last time not 100 feet from this checkpoint. “Hurry,” she says after I've successfully proven I’m Julie Sturgeon of the United States of America. “Run that way,” she said, pointing down the gangway. (Those things hurt when you are in just your socks.)

I was the last person on board. They slammed the door behind me – it’s a wonder my camera bag made it in that 2-foot gap between my heels and its wheels.

But there was a beautiful reward for this effort. Apparently passengers from another connecting flight didn’t make it – I had an entire row of the airplane to myself for the next 8 hours. Get out of here – it doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

Thank God they didn’t run.

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